This week a hand-written flier was taped to a light post adjacent to our building that announced an upcoming “KKK meeting” and gave a local phone number. Several Jewish sorority sisters found the sign and were understandably horrified. They sent us a picture of the flier and then destroyed it.
We are saddened and disturbed by this incident and immediately reported it through FSU’s harassment reporting tool (report.fsu.edu), shared the image with Florida ADL and Hillel International’s security office and met FSU campus PD at the building. Here is what we learned right away that night:
- The flier by our building was not the only offensive message posted around campus and especially in CollegeTown – the social night life hub near campus;
- Other fliers targeted other minority ethnic identity groups and women
We have subsequently been in close communication with our student community, campus leadership, and concerned Jewish parents, communities and stakeholders around the country.
The FSU police have complete their preliminary investigation, but some key facts of the case seem still to be unclear. What we do know is that there is no upcoming KKK meeting or any credible threat to student safety or FSU Hillel. We are in close contact with campus police and other authorities and are gratified that this is being taken seriously. It appears that those responsible for this incident are local teenagers with no connection to FSU. Further, we understand that the phone number on the fliers belongs to a local teenager – a child – with no involvement and who is bewildered at his number being used/targeted.
Unfortunately, after images of the flyer were shared to social media and immediately went viral a local Tallahassee teenager was inundated with threats and harassing messages. By posting and sharing the image without blurring the phone number, countless social media accounts ended up furthering the harassment intended by the students who posted the flier in the first place—giving it much greater distribution and attention than the physical flier ever would have garnered on its own.
Regardless of the identity or the intent of those who posted the flier, the incident raises several larger questions for our community:
- Was the only flier mentioning the KKK posted near our building intentionally because we are a Jewish institution? If so, and even if the primary intent was to harass the phone owner with angry responses, it was also clearly a hateful act designed to upset and threaten campus Jews.
a. Or was it a coincidence, meaning that the poster either was unaware of the history of KKK violence targeting Jews or ignorant of the fact that the Magen David on our outside wall meant that we are a Jewish institution?
- How do we acknowledge the terror that the KKK invokes for many members of our community, who may have seen this sign on campus or social media? As distressed as we are that this sign was placed near Hillel, its existence at all is a potential terrifying event for any BIPOC member of our community. No matter where the sign was placed, it invokes the horrific history of the Ku Klux Klan and white supremacists in America. This is not ancient history – we need only to look to recent events such as the rally in Charlottesville to acknowledge that white supremacy poses a clear and present danger to all those of us who are despised by bigots.
- Even if this was a hoax, why do so many supposedly “random” acts of vandalism target Jews (eg. The carving of swastikas on walls and bathroom stalls)?
- How do we support and comfort our Jewish student community that faced this act on the eve of Simchat Torah, in a trying COVID-infused year, at the end of a very meaningful but exhausting first month of school and High Holiday period?
- How do we as a Jewish community respond meaningfully to this incident to both comfort the Jewish student community and build bridges of understanding and allyship with others who were harmed, and even with the responsible parties themselves?
- Because those responsible are local teenagers unconnected to FSU, this also highlights the connection of our seemingly insular campus to the broader community around us. What does this mean for our connection to Tallahassee, its history, and its future?
In any case, we are so grateful for and gratified by the support of our allies, and we extend the same support to all who have been hurt by this event.
Remember, students, we are here for you. Please reach out to us directly to talk or for support (DM us, call 850-222-5454 or email firstname.lastname@example.org).