Opinion: Creating a home and empowering diversity on campus


A quote by Golda Meir, former Israeli prime minister, and her portrait, is displayed on the first floor of Bowman Hall on Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2016.  

Yousof Mousa

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s campaign has become a big concern for many people of color and their allies in the United States. Trump has called Mexicans criminals and rapists. He has proposed blocking Latino immigrants by building a wall.

But Trump’s racism is not limited to Latinos; he also targeted Muslims by proposing a ban of Muslims entering the country. In response to the Black Lives Matter movement to eliminate police brutality, Trump champions “All Lives Matter.” His campaign targets the LGBT community by promising to appoint Supreme Court justices who would overturn marriage equality. His recent video scandal suggests that sexual assault against women is also an acceptable fact of life in contemporary America.

Combined together, this campaign has created a toxic national environment that has seeped into our diverse campus.

Fortunately, however, the homecoming incident aimed at Kent State’s Spanish and Latino Student Association (SALSA), for example, resulted in strong anti-racism sentiments and group solidarity. This created an inspiring moment of healing. The recent discriminatory incident that SALSA faced at the Homecoming parade got many of us thinking about racism and our campus at this historical moment.

Racism did not just come to campus. It’s been here for a while. In fact, you pass by discriminatory elements on your walls daily. When walking to class in various buildings, many pass inspiring quotations by great men and women.

Unfortunately for black and Palestinian students, featured on Bowman Hall’s walls is a picture and quotation by Golda Meir, the former prime minister of Israel. While she might be a model for some students, her legacy is more complicated for many of us.

Meir had policies and statements that were expressly racist against Africans. Her policies included deporting several groups of black Israelis from Israel in October 1971.

Her policies produced many hurtful stereotypes, and we hear about people of color today in the racism authorized in the Trump campaign. For Palestinians, it is doubly hurtful — Meir once said that we don’t even exist as a people.

She also participated with her policies in the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians that many Israeli scholars such as Tom Segev, Avi Shlaim and Ilan Pappe have documented in their academic research.

The fact that Meir’s picture and quote decorate our hallways where we take classes saddens us. Kent State should be as much our home as it should be for all students. Yet, this is not what home feels like, and this contributes to a climate that makes us feel like we do not belong here.

Therefore, we would like to request that her picture and quotation be replaced in Bowman Hall. We recommend that the university replace it with someone more fitting of a diverse and inclusive campus environment.

For example, one can easily replace her quotation with one like, “Racism is man’s gravest threat to man — the maximum of hatred for a minimum of reason” by Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, or this quote by the famous academic Hannah Arendt: “The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.”

As members of Students for Justice in Palestine, we recognize many want to silence our support for Palestinian rights by labeling us anti-Semitic.

We are not.

Many of our closest allies in the U.S. and across the world are Jewish and believe deeply in Palestinian rights. We struggle together with them as we do with all other people of color and white allies that believe in eliminating racism, discrimination and systematic violence.

Our campus deserves role models that believe in justice, equality and rights for everyone that want to call Kent State home. Please make the walls in our halls of learning reflect this climate of diversity and equity.

Yousof Mousa is president of Students for Justice in Palestine. Contact him at [email protected]

This letter is supported by the Spanish and Latino Student Association, Ohio Student Association and the Muslim Students Association.