On the corner of East 13th Avenue and Alder Street, anti-immigrant graffiti showed up on the concrete base of the Great Blue Heron statue. “Deport them all” was written with chalk on the statue as well as pro-Trump messages.
These anti-immigrant messages have been showing up on and around the University of Oregon since President Trump’s election. Over the past year, there have been anti-refugee stickers and white supremacist messages such as “white pride” on our campus. A 2017 report by The Oregonian/Oregonlive profiled white nationalist activity in Eugene. Our city recorded almost 60 hate crimes in 2017; vandalism and graffiti made up 20 percent of the reported hate crimes between January and October.
As a student of color, it is terrifying and exhausting to see these racist messages on campuses. According to research done by the Jed Foundation and the Steve Fund, black and Hispanic students are more likely to feel overwhelmed and have mental health issues compared to their white counterparts. Having to keep up with the course load as well as worry about whether the person sitting next to you wants to kick you out of the country is too much pressure to carry.
Our administration needs to directly address these messages because they are not simply chalk and stickers, but rather the bubbling of pro-white nationalism and hate crimes against our international students and students of color. According to the University of Oregon, 26.8 percent of the student body identifies as students of color and 12 percent are international students. Though President Michael Schill said he “condemns all forms of hate speech and racism,” as the head figure of our university, he needs to openly take a stand against the white supremacist messages on campus and stand with the students of color and international students.
The rise of hate crimes is not unique to the Eugene area; it has been a rising trend on campuses all over the United States. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, there has been a growing number of hate groups in the US, and 78 percent of recruitment is done on university campuses. The SPLC reported that the largest motivation for hate crimes post-inauguration was due to anti-immigrant ideals.
If our administration can openly state that they are against white supremacists and hate crimes on our campus, then they will show our student body that this is a campus for all students. These students are asking for support and our administration is ignoring the hateful messages these students have to see. We know that the messages will not end here, and without the support from our university, it will not only encourage more hateful messages to appear, but it will also let over a quarter of our student body know that their mental health and well-being is simply not worth supporting. It shouldn’t be hard for our administration to openly denounce white supremacy, and it should be even easier for them to support such a large percentage of their student body.