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Hate crime: Event can spark change

"A hate crime occurred here March 15, 1997."

Freshly painted murals on the Memorial Union construction wall are the only markers of a shameful act of vandalism that occurred on campus at the start of finals week.

The defacing of the Delta Lambda Phi and the Young Black Scholars murals are reminders of old, deeply inscribed hatreds that should be erased, on murals meant to showcase our diversity.

The already completed mural by Delta Lambda Phi, the UC Davis gay fraternity, and the one in progress by the Young Black Scholars will constantly remind UCD students of the malicious epitaphs that marred them with inexcusable hate language and swastikas.

A more painful reminder, however, is the deep mental and emotional scar this hate crime etches into our campus consciousness. This crime tops off a year of especially high racial tensions that have recently simmered just under the surface. But the shocking nature of the event brings these tensions to the forefront, forcing us to recognize that racial hatred and homophobia do exist in our community.

With this realization, we must work harder than ever to eliminate such hatred. Chancellor Vanderhoef has advanced toward this goal by condemning the action and expressing his hope that the perpetrators will be caught and punished.

While the responses of Vanderhoef and the two student groups are a step in the right direction, the campus must continue its work to educate students about such hate crimes so they can be prevented.

In the future, campus officials should be sure that students have access to photographs of vandalism that involves their groups. However, administrators made the right decision to paint over the murals as soon as possible. Students need to be aware that the hate crime occurred, but vandals should not have the satisfaction of seeing their work stand untouched.

Just as the two groups have assembled to repaint their murals, the campus community should work together to not only heal the wounds this hate crime opened, but to mend the deeper societal ills that caused them.

Ironically, the new murals lie to the left and right of a mural by the Baha'i club. It reads, "Uniting the world one heart at a time."

The three together serve their purpose, and tell us there is still room for change, if we work for it.

©Copyright 1997, The California Aggie

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