What Must Be Done In The Wake Of Escalating Hate Crimes

By Oset Babur

It seems that the rapidly escalating reports of hate crimes since Tuesday’s presidential election hadn’t sufficiently lanced the psychological hate-blisters for the students of Babson College, whose campus is located just a few minutes down the road from Hillary Clinton’s alma mater of Wellesley.

On Wednesday, two Babson students — Edward Tomasso and Parker Rand-Ricciardi — drove through Wellesley’s campus in a pick-up truck, brandishing a Trump flag. They hurled insults at students, screamed and jeered, and finally parked in front of Harambee House, a space for students of African descent. When a student bravely asked them to leave, the two men spit at her and shouted, “Make America Great Again!”

The news first broke when Sydney Robertson, Wellesley class of 2017, posted a Facebook status with a Snapchat video of the two students boasting about how they had been banned from campus for harassing, humiliating, and intimidating women of color. “This is not my America,” Robertson’s status read. “This is Trump’s America filled with hate and bigotry. This is what he has provoked . . . they cannot get away with this.”

But it seems they might. Babson College’s administration has yet to take action to hold these men responsible and set a precedent we desperately need in the wake of Trump’s election.

According to Babson’s official apology letter regarding next steps in holding Tomasso and Rand-Ricciardi accountable:

“While the investigation is ongoing, we ask members of the Babson and the Wellesley College community to please understand that federal law prohibits us from discussing specific disciplinary actions or outcomes.”

That statement comes as a heavy blow for the students of Wellesley College. The knowledge that two outsiders can invade their campus and harass their peers — only to be met with unknown consequences — erodes any semblance of safety and recourse when that’s precisely what we need most in the face of escalating bigotry.

And the more time that passes, the less likely it seems that the two are actually going to be punished for their actions. Is the administration waiting for “all this” to blow over? For Wellesley students to simply forget about an openly racist attack on a space they hold dear? A space literally predicated on the Swahili word for “working together?

The delay in swift and decisive action is more than just administrative incompetence — it’s dangerous bystanderism. Failing to expel two students who had the audacity to boast about their jingoistic behavior over Snapchat deprioritizes the well-being of Wellesley students and reminds them that while Babson cares enough to pen a lukewarm letter of apology under duress, they don’t care enough to make it right.

It’s a stark reminder of the sanctioned violence and racist rhetoric that has accompanied this entire election; every day it crystallizes more clearly in our country’s consciousness.

Many of Wellesley’s students have already deduced that one of the young men responsible has an academic building on Babson’s campus that bears his last name. I’d like to end this tale with hope and retribution — rather than another story of a wealthy white male getting away with terrorizing women and people of color — but sadly, it seems history shall repeat itself. In fact, the fraternity to which the two boys belonged has currently taken more decisive action than Babson College’s administration; the two are, at least, no longer members of Sigma Phi Epsilon.

Babson’s Community Standards clearly state that the college has the right to take disciplinary action for students who violate their commitment to Babson’s core values, among which are respect both on and off-campus. In the absence of such disciplinary measures, members of both Wellesley and Babson’s communities are craving consequences for those two young men.

Kai Haskins, a member of Babson’s class of 2018, remarked, “It is incredibly heartbreaking to me that members of my community would commit such an atrocious act of hatred and bigotry . . . this has served as a really terrible reminder of how much bigotry, racism, and sexism still exists within our communities.”

Babson College is offering support and safe spaces for students to reflect after the incident, which is a poor — if not downright disrespectful — substitute for punitive action.

Robertson — who first posted about the incident — is dead-right in her assessment. We need concrete consequences for the earliest instances of hate-fueled crimes, whether focused on gender, race, identity, or class. We must hold up these incidents and their subsequent punishment as proof that no one gets a free pass to harass and harm in Trump’s America. In the absence of consequence we relegate women, people of color — anyone who doesn’t conform to the GOP’s vision for America — to a sphere where they’ll never feel safe again.

And this creeping sensation of ubiquitous fear — a feeling that these marginalized communities have already contended with for decades — has already dug its roots deeper.

Anne Meyers, Wellesley class of 2017, says, “To have random guys on campus waving a Trump flag and spitting on our students felt like the realization of the fears we all had the night before as soon as they called the election.”

This paradigm lies at the crux of the problem; in the midst of (perhaps naive, but decidedly hopeful) claims that Donald Trump might be a different president than his candidacy behavior celebrated, there are people everywhere keen to prove that hope wrong. There are men and women — exemplified by these two Babson students — who sincerely want a Trump administration to mirror the hate-filled Trump campaign. And in turn they’d like to mirror it as well, refracting hate and fear in a seemingly endless kaleidoscope.

The absence of shame regarding one’s own racism, misogyny, and cruelty is particularly chilling; it means no amount of public shaming will achieve its desired goal. One would like to think that the thought of having their names made synonymous with a hate crime — forever echoing across the annals of time — might serve as a deterrent, but instead they boasted about their bigotry themselves, blighting the internet and their own names with delight.

And yet. In the face of this open hatred, we send a warning to every Trump supporter in every city and state and on every campus: You don’t have a blank check (no matter how big the check a family member wrote to your campus) to spread your vitriol. You don’t get to wreak havoc on the same people who are suffering and learning to cope with the reality you’ve saddled them with.

We will continue with compassion, with empathy, with anger, and with organizing; you may be without shame, but we will never stop reminding you of why you should hang your head. You will endure repercussions from communities like Wellesley’s that are far from broken by this election; communities that are closer-knit than ever before.

And to the administration of Babson College: The ball is very much in your court to set a precedent you can be proud of.

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Lead Image: Modified from Flickr / carlos

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