Opinion | Two Wrongs Do Not Make a Right

"Racist" graffiti discovered on the front of Cornell fraternity house

"RACIST" as seen spray-painted on the front of Zeta Psi's house, 10/31/17

As I write this, Cornell University finds itself in the midst of a semester ravaged by unforeseen hatred and tension. Early in the semester, the Zeta Psi fraternity came under fire after a brother was reported to have shouted “let’s build a wall” in the direction of the adjacent Latino Living Center. Several weeks later, Psi Upsilon managed to secure permanent suspension after an incident near their annex house involving a racially-charged physical confrontation with a Kappa Sigma brother. More recently, posters were found around campus advertising the “Solar Cross Society” and encouraging readers to “Just say no to Jewish lies.”

Every single one of these incidents is thoroughly putrid and unacceptable, especially coming from Ivy League students, who are supposed to be the brightest and most well-educated that exist. The most recent incident of hatred, however, comes not from the “racists,” but instead from the side claiming to have the moral high-ground. As of Tuesday morning, the word “RACIST” was found spray-painted on the front of Zeta Psi’s house, with the “A” stylized in the form of the “anarchy” symbol. Furthermore, both the Cornell Daily Sun and the University administration have yet to publish a timely reaction proscribing this vandalism.

To me, this reveals that we are failing to address the issue of hatred from both sides of the fight. While racially-charged verbal and physical attacks should have no place in our society, let alone on diverse college campuses, neither should destructive vandalism characterizing a large group of students as “racists.” Since we already have proven our prowess in rightfully shooting down rhetoric denouncing large groups of students, why aren’t we doing so in this case? It is simply foolish to assume that a fraternity is comprised solely of “racists,” and to characterize the actions of one brother as representative of an entire house is far from fair, especially since Zeta Psi has no proven a record of this sort of trouble in recent history. The other side will claim that the graffiti is rightful retribution to the “oppressors,” to which I pose the question: if we want to build a Cornell community free of animosity, shouldn’t we be shooting down both radical right and radical left rhetoric that is harmful and divisive to the student body? Two wrongs certainly do not make a right, especially from the side that is supposed to be taking the moral high ground.

As President Pollack recently concluded in her statement addressing the string of recent atrocities, “Ours must be a community grounded in mutual respect and kindness.” I take this statement to further encourage civility in addressing our recent string of racially-charged confrontations; to this end, the President has even established a Task Force. While I encourage the University to fight “bigotry and intolerance” diligently, we all must do so from the most productive and mature platform possible. Spray-painting “racist” and being too cowardly to accept responsibility is about as far from this platform as one can get. To sum up, while I proscribe every single incident of hatred this semester, I also condemn the thoughtless vandalism done as retribution. I hope and pray that going forward, we can shed our campus’ existence as a microcosm of the larger social unrest and hatred that plagues our society.