The Importance of Compassion in Healing a Community

By Hui Li ’21
Co-Chief Photographer

As I think back on this unique semester at Holy Cross, I cannot help but be impressed at how our community has managed to stay connected despite shifting to remote learning off-campus. I cannot help but think about how despite the unfortunate public health crisis in the country, we are fortunate enough to have the means to continue our studies and maintain our personal connections through other means. We are fortunate to live in an era where technology keeps us together; we can communicate with each other so easily through the internet.

I check my social media accounts and scroll through my friends’ stories every day. I feel relieved when I see pictures of my classmates; I am glad that people I know are staying safe and well. I love seeing how our community interacts with each other through social media; this is proof of how connected we are as a community, no matter where we may be right now.

Being connected to people the community online has given me the opportunity to share the emotions that others feel. This past weekend, I saw several of my friends expressing their disbelief and outrage at two appalling videos shared on social media. I felt their pain and horror as well. Even though that racist post has since been – and very rightfully so –  taken down, I know that the harm from that dehumanizing rhetoric lingers with those whose painful histories have been reopened by the bigotry.

I do not know the high-school student who created and posted those videos. Nor am I whom he intended to target with his racism. But I do  know people in the community who are badly hurt because of his actions. I grew up as one of the only minorities in the school I went to. I never fit in with the rest of the class because I was “too different.” I was consistently pursued by bullies who hurled racist insults that made me fear for my safety and for the safety of others who were also targeted for being “different.” Even today, over a decade later, that fear still stays with me. It is this fear that came to mind when I saw those horrible videos online. I would never wish that experience of terror on anybody.

It breaks my heart to see a good friend of mine get so upset by this situation. He is in disbelief that this could even happen. Even though the response I got after reaching out to the school about this incident firmly states that “the person in those videos is not a member of the Holy Cross Class of 2024,” neither of us can bear to see so many of our friends still hurt by the disturbing post. He shared his concerns about the “bigger problem” that extends beyond the overt racism in those videos: the lasting presence of discrimination, both subtle and blatant, in our society.

As people of color, we are all too familiar with the unease that racism like this brings to our communities. I do not wish the fear of being targeted and hurt on anyone. No one should feel uncomfortable or unsafe in the community. Even if you do not know us, my friend and I are still your classmates and your neighbors. We could even be your friends, whether right now or in the future.

Would you want any of your friends to get hurt? Would you want anyone in the community to feel like they do not belong? Incidents like this hurt those around you, even if they do not affect you in the same way or if you cannot see them hurting.

“Racism, sexism, homophobia, and any kind of discrimination dehumanizes and denigrates us all,” said Dean Murray in a conversation about the incident. She adds, “Remember that Holy Cross does not exist separate from our mission and values as a Jesuit Catholic institution. Belief in the inherent dignity of all persons, the worth of diversity and inclusion, and mutual respect are part of who we strive to be as a community.”

I have been told that the Office of Multicultural Education has been speaking with the students highly affected by the issues brought up by this post. I am glad that the office will also host a follow-up conversation and check-in later as well. I am grateful for our college staff’s continued compassion for students during what has been a stressful semester for us all. I am thankful for the students who stand in solidarity with and share their support for those hurting. I feel safer knowing that people like my friend and me can be supported by the community.

Seeing our community’s commitment to everyone’s well-being is heartwarming and inspiring. These acts of kindness bring me back to the Hill and prove one of the most important points I heard someone from the Holy Cross staff share on campus: our Director of Student Integrity and Community Standards’ statement at the final on-campus Dean’s Forum that the “expectation that students will exemplify the very characteristics that make Holy Cross such a special place” remains unchanged.

View from O’kane Columns. Photo by Hui Li ’21

Even though this incident is “only the tip of the iceberg” of a larger, systemic issue that is unfortunately embedded in our society, remember that you, as an individual, can make a difference in the community.

Please think twice and be mindful about what you say and post, in person and online. 

Remember that others can see and hear you – you never know who might be hurt. You could affect those close to you, like your own friends, even if the harm was unintentional. 

Listen to what others want to say and try to understand why they are hurting. Please hold each other accountable for your actions – as difficult as conversations around intense topics can be, it is important that you help each other learn and grow through your increased awareness of these issues.       

As the semester comes to a close and many of us look forward to rejoining each other on the Hill, it is important to remember how connected we are as a community. Distance cannot pull apart the bonds we have formed on campus. Remember that no matter where we come from or where we are now, we are all one community of men and women for and with others. That is what makes Holy Cross such a special place.

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