In the past two years, anti-Semitic hate crimes have been on the rise in the U.S.—and even more so after the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh this past October. According to the Anti-Defamation League, anti-Semitic incidents across the nation’s college campuses increased by 89 percent from 2016 to 2017. The ADL defines such anti-Semitic incidents as “harassment, vandalism or assault against Jewish students” and reported 204 qualifying incidents in 2017. Recent incidents include drawings of swastikas and, on one campus, a menorah vandalized and stolen. Advocacy groups are calling on college leaders to take a stronger stance when they respond to these incidents, arguing that weak responses from leaders send an encouraging message to the perpetrators of such hate crimes. Yael Rabin, an analyst with the Center on Extremism, explains why a strong response from leadership is so important: “By not calling out anti-Semitism, when anti-Semitism or anti-Jewish animus is clear…you are minimizing the effect it has on the Jewish community.”
Casey Gerald, author of There Will Be No Miracles Here, reflects on the recent exposé of the T.M. Landry school, a program once known for sending Black students to Ivy League schools and now known for abusing students and committing fraud in order to achieve its goals. Gerald was a student like those at T.M. Landry, where a “chosen few…[were] randomly picked off and celebrated,” then set on a track toward the Ivies. He says programs like T.M. Landry send the message that “all it takes to succeed is grit and resilience and willpower” while ignoring the systemic poverty and racism that put children in underfunded schools to begin with. These programs reinforce the myth of the meritocracy and the denial of “structural cruelty advanced by neoliberals and conservatives, not to mention the centuries of white supremacy on which the nation was founded.” Gerald reminds us that just because a select few Black students get to go to Ivy League schools does not mean the system works. Remembering a friend who took his own life because of the pressures of such a program, Gerald explains that these students are forced to give up parts of themselves in order to assimilate to the life they’ve been invited into.
Sheryl Sandberg’s highly scrutinized “Lean In” approach to breaking the glass ceiling has gained a new critic: former First Lady Michelle Obama. During a book tour appearance for her new book, Becoming, Obama spoke candidly about the persistence of marriage inequality and continued on to say, “And it’s not always enough to lean in, because that shit doesn’t work all the time.” Sandberg’s 2013 book Lean In has been heavily criticized in recent years for its ignorance of how the intersection of race and gender impact women of color in the workplace, and for Sandberg’s implication that women should “first adapt and learn to succeed within admittedly sexist work environments and cultures.” Obama’s public rejection of the “Lean In” ethos during a live event was described as a “liberating moment for many,” especially since she has often been perceived as the embodiment of “Lean In:” “…both strong and gracious, both progressive and traditional, both independent and non-threatening.”