We don’t need to know the names of the vandals who spray-painted symbols of hate and violence around Bennington last month in order to know that their actions are a warning sign: dangerous ideologies are taking hold among young people. All of us — schools, parents, civic groups, law enforcement — should take these incidents as seriously as if the graffiti had been a call for jihad.
“White power,” like the Nazi swastika, is synonymous with violence. Right-wing extremists killed at least 50 people in the U.S. last year. The Pittsburgh white supremacist who murdered 11 Jews at prayer reportedly had been radicalized by right-wing radio and internet sites. Parkland mass murderer Nikolas Cruz spewed rabid right wing hate rhetoric on Instagram, where he had openly announced his intention to kill people.
To paraphrase a public service message from years ago: Do you know where your children are on the internet? To ignore warning signs is dangerous negligence.
Swastikas and other white supremacy symbols now appear with alarming frequency in our culture, including in our local area. If there were ever a teachable moment for U.S. schools, it’s now.
Spray-painting “white power” and swastikas in public is not an act of free speech, and cannot be dismissed as an innocuous prank. Our community has a responsibility to keep talking about what led to this, and how to prevent it from happening again. It didn’t happen in a vacuum.
Robin Vaughan Kolderie
Hoosick, New York