On Friday Feb. 3 I was walking back home with my friends when I came across Willy’s Statue with a swastika and the word “Trump” scrawled along its back. I stood there in shock and disbelief. How had this message made it to Rice? Of all the places in the world, Rice is supposed to be above discrimination, bereft of hatred toward any group of people. Not once have I experienced any form of anti-Semitism on this campus. But on that night, looking at Willy’s Statue, I realized that all of a sudden hate and ignorance towards my heritage, race and religion had arrived in my home of three and a half years.

Many people do not understand why this graffiti is such an important incident. Over and over again I heard, “It’s not permanent, it can be washed off.” To those people, you must realize: The issue was not the vandalism of Willy’s Statue, but that this act was a hate crime. The writing may have been impermanent, but the weight of this symbol cuts deeper than any chalk on stone. A swastika symbolizes blind hatred towards my entire race and religion. It symbolizes the genocide of 6 million of my people. It symbolizes those that murdered so much of my family, forcing my grandmother to crawl out of the darkest parts of hell to find a way to live again. Whether this act was born of true malice or mere ignorance, it shows a gross lack of understanding of this horrible, twisted history and it cuts me in the deepest parts of my soul.

Now, almost two weeks later, I continue to grapple with thoughts of how this happened here and what we can do to prevent it from happening again. Incidents like these prove to us that we are a strong community, we are resilient and we are proud. We will not break down in the face of hate. Rather, we invite everyone to celebrate our culture and every culture on this campus. Rice has always been and will always continue to be a place of open-mindedness and understanding. Although two weeks ago an ugly past reared its head showing us that hateful sentiments have not been totally eradicated, we will continue to live with compassion and peace and hope that one day this type of discrimination ceases to exist.