In the overwhelming crush of recent events, we have neglected the one problem we may actually be able to influence: Some of our classmates are nervous that they will be on the receiving end of suspicious stares and harrassment.
Most of us assume that the high value HLS places on intellectualism will insulate our community from occassions of discrimination. To call that assumption into question, one need only look to our southern neighbors — the undergrads, an equally well-educated crowd. On Saturday, Sept. 15, the Islamic Society at Harvard University received a “sharply worded email” that blamed all Muslims for the Sept. 11th attacks. In reaction, The New York Times reports, Harvard University has assigned its security officers to monitor Muslim events and provide protection to any student who requests it.
As destructive as incidents like this are, the intangible fears that they engender are even more harmful. Those fears are making some Muslim women afraid to walk outside with their heads covered. They are making the University post police officers at student prayer services and gatherings. They are making some nervous that finding jobs this October may be difficult for Muslim and Arab students.
Harvard Law School must be a haven for all of its students, and, to that end, the administration should be applauded for proactively reaching out to the Islamic Students Association to provide forums for discussion.
The administration is doing its part to address the concerns of nervous students. Now it is up to the student body to extend the most meaningful message: We will not tolerate our friends and classmates living in fear.
While HLS thrives on intense debate and disagreement, it is still (as this past week has shown) a close-knit community. The actions and words of a handful, positive or negative, can define the message of this entire school.
Last week’s tragedy is one that wounded all Americans and most of humanity. Most of us cannot influence the political decisions being made in Washington, D.C., but we can influence the message this community sends to its members and to the outside world.
“The worst thing anyone could do to me would be to question my identity as an American,” one HLS student said last weekend. “It’s the only thing I have.”