To the students of Vassar College, and the community at large,
Last week, Sylvan Perlmutter ’19 wrote a powerful and heartbreaking account of his experience in the aftermath of the anti-Semitic attack in Pittsburgh (The Miscellany News, “Jews must organize after Pittsburgh attack,” 10.31.2018). In addition, co-President of Access Jesser Horowitz ’19 wrote an account detailing his experience dealing with anti-Semitism at Vassar College (The Miscellany News, “Tiring war against anti-semitism wages on,” 10.31.2018). Access and the Disability Rights Coalition want to send a message to Mr. Perlmutter, Mr. Horowitz and the entirety of the campus that we stand against all forms of bigotry. We want to provide our official response to the events of the past few weeks and contribute to a larger conversation on how we must reshape society in the aftermath of these attacks.
So long as any person suffers from discrimination, violence or bigotry, regardless of the reason, every disabled person’s freedom and human dignity is threatened. For the executive boards of Access and the Disability Rights Coalition, intersectionality is more than a buzzword. It is a core tenet of our philosophy: Every individual is a culmination of various intersecting identities, and it is our responsibility as activists to defend each and every element of a person. Fighting ableism also requires fighting institutional racism, sexism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, homophobia, transmisogyny and any other form of bigotry that holds back progress.
In the past few weeks, the United States has been hit with tragedy after tragedy. In Kentucky, a white nationalist murdered Maurice Stallard and Vickie Lee Jones in a targeted racist act against African-Americans. In Pittsburgh, a Nazi sympathizer fired upon Jewish congregants in the Tree of Life Synagogue, killing 11: Joyce Feinberg, Richard Gottfried, Rose Mallinger, Jerry Rabinowitz, Cecil Rosenthal, David Rosenthal, Bernice Simon, Sylvan Simon, Daniel Stein, Melvin Wax and Irving Younger. In Washington, D.C., the President of the United States announced his intention to end birthright citizenship, in flagrant violation of the United States Constitution and, more importantly, basic human decency. Access and the Disability Rights Coalition strongly condemn the attacks in Kentucky and Pittsburgh and the possible revocation of birthright citizenship. They are antithetical to everything that Access, the Disability Rights Coalition and Vassar College values.
In 2017, when a coalition of neo-Nazis, white nationalists and other staples of the far-right marched on Charlottesville, they chanted, “The Jews will not replace us.” They bought into a conspiracy theory that “Zionist-occupied governments” were importing Muslims and Black people to breed with white women and overtake the Caucasian majority in Europe and the United States. This motivated the gunman in Pittsburgh, who admitted that his act was a strike against the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society. Anti-Semitism is a racial issue, tied closely to anti-immigrant sentiment, anti-Black racism and Islamophobia.
Anti-Semitism, xenophobia, racism, sexism and the rise of fascism are of deep concern to us, and the struggle of Jews, women, POC and the LGBTQ+ community is our struggle. This is not only because of the ableist violence of fascist regimes but also because the violence that arises from white supremacy affects members of our community through various intersecting identities. If any disabled person is suffering, we are all suffering.
White supremacy is evil, and all of its supporters must be opposed by whatever means necessary. This is not a controversial position, but it is a difficult one to stick to. It is easy to condemn evil in the abstract, but often not so easy when it is personal. We must condemn the shooter who kills 11 people in a synagogue, but we must also confront our friends who excuse anti-Semites and Holocaust deniers like Louis Farrakhan or David Irving. We must condemn the police officer who kills an innocent Black man or woman because of the color of the skin, but we must also confront our family members who think that African-Americans are lazy or that they should “get over slavery already.” We must condemn Donald Trump’s sexual violence, but we must also come to terms with abusers in our own life. It is not enough to oppose white supremacist patriarchy in theory; we must apply it to practice.
We must rise up. We must resist. We must storm the polling places and vote, regardless of the election—federal, local or student. We must defy social norms when they keep us silent. We must break the law when it is unjust. We must revolt, however we can, in small ways and in big ways. We must protest. We must remain vigilant. We must center marginalized identities. We must wield our own privilege to help others. We must get angry. We must stay angry. We must demand a better future. We must confront hatred without fear, without remorse, not necessarily because it affects us personally, but because it’s right.
Access and the Disability Rights Coalition are ready to take on this challenge alongside you. While we are shocked by events in Pittsburgh and Kentucky, these are not isolated incidents. This is the culmination of many, many years of American politics and rhetoric. This political language has come with terrible costs: fear, the violation of our most basic human rights, political violence, religious violence, loss of life and domestic terrorism. This cannot continue.
We are not defeated. We have not lost hope. We are not giving up. We are energized. We are angry. We are ready.
This is our call to action. The battle against white supremacy has just begun, and we intend to do our part. We stand with every disabled person, every person of color, every immigrant, every Jew, every Muslim, every woman, every survivor of sexual or domestic violence, every individual that is afraid of their own country. We will join you in this fight, because it is our fight too.
And to those who stand in the way of progress, to neo-Nazis, to reactionaries, to Brett Kavanaugh, to Donald Trump, to Richard Spencer, to the Ku Klux Klan, to the Creativity Movement, to Jared Taylor, to Louis Farrakhan, to every person who stands behind a hateful ideology of white supremacy and anti-Semitism and white nationalism and patriarchy: Your days are numbered. We are the next generation. We are the future of America. We will outlive you. We will outlast you. And we will replace you.
Access and DRC Executive Boards
Carina Cohen, DRC President
Jesser Horowitz, Co-President of Access
Eric Parlin, Co-President of Access
Sarah Garijo-Garde, DRC Vice President
Chris McCann, Co–Vice President of Access
Lauranne Wolfe, Co–Vice President of Access
Nora Culik, DRC Treasurer
Gabrielle Ho, Treasurer of Access Clara Layzer, DRC Secretary
Bronwyn Pappas-Byers, Secretary of Access
Nicole Stern, Freshman Representative of Access