Of tolerance and community
The events of last month’s LSE Students’ Union-sponsored ski trip have demonstrated that LSE’s reputation for having a cosmopolitan, multicultural and inclusive student body may well be a little exaggerated. Admittedly, only an incredibly small minority are complicit in or responsible for the breaking of a Jewish student’s nose over his opposition to a Nazi-themed drinking game, but nothing happens in a vacuum. These events seem far more likely to indicative of an unseemly undercurrent of the acceptance of casual racism within the student corpus at large, not just confined to us at LSE: we have seen, in the last few year, Oxford Conservatives singing Nazi songs, LSE students blacking up and students at the University of Huddersfield doing much the same as our skiers. There is simply no language strong enough to condemn those who choose to engage in such activities.
Equally abhorrent, however, is the inaction of those who know better: no matter how ‘uncomfortable’ some might claim that the events taking place made them in hindsight, people idly watched on while this was all going on; people filmed this; people took pictures of it. The most distasteful part of this entire saga, though, simply has to be the careless abandon with which the activities and associated documentary evidence were shared with others via Facebook: a careless abandon that seems to border on pride in their involvement.
It is to be expected that much of this will be explained away with remarks to the effect that the actions of those involved are excused by their inebriation: that is simply no excuse. Such excuses would not hold sway if this were any other terrible deed committed in a similar context, and must not be expected to hold here. As LSE Jewish Society President Jay Stoll has stated in his comment piece on the matter, there should be no contextualisation of events in an attempt to justify them: this was plain and simply a racially motivated attack on a student, and there can be no explaining that away. “Laddish banter” cannot be framed as an explanatory and justificatory premise for this sordid state of affairs.
The Penguin has complied with requests that those involved not be named, and has done so willingly: given that the victim of the attack wants nothing more to come of what must have been a terrible ordeal for him, it is only fair that he be allowed to continue on without being defined by a singular event. However, the Penguin also acknowledges that arguments for disclosure of identities: there is a broader student welfare issue at play here – students should be entitled to know the types of people with whom they are in commune at the LSE. Given that social norms, such as that of the unacceptability of racism, are enforced by the approval or admonishment of the rest of a society, disclosure is also the key method through which correction of such abhorrent attitudes could be attained. We commend the Sabbatical Officers, members of the Jewish Society and the Athletics Union President for handling the affair so sensitively and making a principled stand on not releasing details of those involved to the press.
The details that matter here are not those of justification: explanation of why this happened is what must take priority. We must unfortunately accept that our society, whether this be confined to our universities or be construed with a broader base, accepts this undercurrent of race being an issue of division, rather than something to be celebrated. This is something that simply must change. Differences between peoples should be acknowledged in a positive light and celebrated for what they bring to all of us: diversity provides us all with richer, more meaningful contexts of choice to define our own ideas of the good life. Seen in such a light, those such as the perpetrators of this topical attack and their like are not simply morally reprehensible, they are also ignorant.