Our view: Lesson learned
February 21, 2017
Community members are voicing their concerns over swastikas that defaced lockers and car hoods at Steamboat Springs High School.
This incident should be taken seriously and used as a teachable moment for our students and the Steamboat community as a whole.
Over the past week, the Steamboat Pilot & Today has published letters to the editor from readers speaking out against the incident at Steamboat Springs High School that involved three swastikas that were written on a locker, drawn in the snow on the hood of a car and carved into the hood of another car. In all three instances, the student targeted was Jewish.
Some of those letters to the editors were aimed at the newspaper itself, and its decision to make the swastika story a question on the Steamboat Today's weekly news quiz last week. It was not the newspaper's intention to offend but rather to draw attention to an important news story, but there is no doubt it appeared as if the newspaper was attempting to make the swastika story into a game, which was insensitive and showed a serious lapse in judgment.
Bigotry, hatred and racial intolerance should never be marginalized or minimized on any level, and we are glad that community members of all faiths and backgrounds have responded by coming together to speak out about the issue, especially during this time in U.S. history when anti-Semitic acts are on the rise.
On Monday, CNN reported that 48 Jewish community centers in 26 states and one Canadian province have received nearly 70 bomb threats this year, and Tuesday, it was reported that 100 headstones were damaged and defaced in an historic Jewish cemetery in St. Louis.
In response, the U.S. Justice Department's Civil Rights Division is investigating possible civil rights violations in connections with the threats, and the FBI is looking into these calls and the cemetery vandalism as "hate crimes."
Here locally, the teachers and staff of Steamboat Springs High School submitted a letter to the editor to the Steamboat Today on Feb. 17 that referred to the campus swastika incident as a hate crime and reassured the community that the administration was investigating every lead possible in the case in collaboration with the Steamboat Springs Police Department.
High school American Studies teachers also wrote a letter that outlined in detail aspects of the Steamboat Springs High School curriculum that reinforce "a constant message of inclusion." We were heartened to learn there are numerous opportunities for students to learn about issues of social justice in a variety of different classes.
Students engage in a intensive three-week study of the Holocaust and also read "Night," an unforgettable memoir written by Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel. There have even been instances when students have had the opportunity to hear stories directly from Holocaust survivors who come into the classroom to speak about their experiences.
As deeply troubling as this situation is we are hopeful that it can serve as a teachable moment for our young people, and a point in time, when the Steamboat community, as a whole, comes together to stand strongly against bigotry and hate and unite behind the tenets of inclusion and religious tolerance. Diversity is a source of strength for any society, and it should be celebrated.
As Kofi Annan said, "Ignorance and prejudice are the handmaidens of propaganda. Our mission, therefore, is to confront ignorance with knowledge, bigotry with tolerance, and isolation with the outstretched hand of generosity Racism can, will and must be defeated."
In closing, the Steamboat Pilot & Today regrets the role it played in seeming to lessen the seriousness of this incident, and we stand with the community against anti-Semitism and intolerance of any kind.
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