Last week, members of the Delta Iota chapter of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity and the events hosted by the Paul Robeson Cultural Center and the Center for Social Justice Education and LGBT Communities were the target of a series of Zoom-bombings.
Students were attacked with racial slurs, Ku Klux Klan songs and videos of graphic violence against Black people. What should have been a celebration of Black culture during Black History Month was disrupted by traumatizing acts of violence, committed by people who remain unidentified.
There are a lot of different issues that come to the surface in the wake of these Zoom-bombings. We could discuss systemic racism, growing white supremacist movements, cybersecurity, the dangers of online trolls and more, but what we need to focus on is accountability right here at home.
If you had to pick out this past week's zoom-bombers out in a line-up, could you? Do you know what they look like? Do you know where they are from? What motivated them to terrorize strangers? Perhaps they were not strangers. Maybe they are fellow students.
Whatever is the case, the fact remains that we have no idea who is behind these attacks or what their motivations could have been. It is very difficult to make people take responsibility for their actions when you cannot even begin to imagine who they are.
Rutgers—New Brunswick Chancellor Christopher J. Molloy sent an email update after the attacks, which stated that these attacks were likely part of a larger-scale international activity. The Rutgers University Police Department and the Office of Information Technology are working in tandem with administrators to find the perpetrators and hold them accountable.
That said, they have prefaced this message by saying that it will be difficult to find who is behind these racist attacks. A complicated case like this has the chance to slip through the cracks if the administration does not maintain transparency with students — we cannot let that happen.
We should expect a timely and comprehensive response from the people paid from our tuition money, who are meant to ensure we can pursue our education in a safe and healthy environment.
Both Rutgers administrators as well as students must do more to build a community that not only does not tolerate racism, but is actively working to make Black students and other students of color feel safe. Administrators can start by taking the Zoom-bombing investigation seriously and by being transparent throughout the process.
These violent acts of racism should remind us all to ensure that there is no space on our campus, digitally or otherwise, where acts of hatred can be premeditated and executed.
White students may have been surprised by these attacks, but students of color who have personally faced racism were not. Racism, even in 2021, is not simply unintentional acts of bias, an ingrained sense of superiority or just plain stupidity.
The truth that all students, especially white students, must reckon with is that racism is more ingrained in our society than we would like to think.
Nearly a year of protests against police brutality across America point to that same truth. To pretend like the issues within the police force are relegated to mistakes and poor sensitivity training is to ignore violent abuses of power.
Partaking in sensitivity training online before coming to campus and being told that racism is bad is just a Band-Aid on a much larger wound. People motivated enough to put up images of brutal killings on a Zoom meeting that was meant to be celebratory and educational do not care at all about videos explaining why racism is wrong.
We need structural change that starts with the administration and continues with students holding each other accountable.
The University must address the clear inequity of those applying and being accepted to Rutgers University. As of 2019, only 6.4 percent of Rutgers—New Brunswick students are Black — a stark contrast to the surrounding area, where approximately 14 percent of residents are Black.
Why is there such a disparity between enrollment and the surrounding demographics? That is something the admissions office needs to answer.
Rutgers students also share the responsibility of building a safe and anti-racist community, and non-Black students must amplify the voices of their Black peers. The Black community at Rutgers has a variety of on-campus organizations and programs, and students and administrators alike must work to ensure such programs have the resources to continue safely.
We can all agree that the Zoom-bombings were abhorrent, that they should not have happened and should never happen again. Passive condemnation is not enough. We need to actively work to make our online education as safe as our on-campus education.