Early Saturday morning, the Tufts community once again found itself victim of an incident of anti-Semitic graffiti. This time, the vandalism took place behind Theta Delta Chi Fraternity (more commonly known on campus as 123). According to an email sent out by the Tufts University Department of Public and Environmental Safety, the perpetrators painted on several cars, defacing one with a swastika. This act of hatred is deplorable, and it is incredibly frustrating to hear about anti-Semitic graffiti happening on campus over and over again. To put it bluntly, this hate speech is unacceptable anywhere, but especially at a place as open minded as a university. Under no circumstances are actions such as these ever acceptable, and the perpetrators should be brought to justice and punished appropriately.
However, the common reaction of blaming the entire Medford/Somerville community — colloquially referred to as “townies” — is not a productive response. This sort of harmful language ends up producing the same exclusionary attitudes that allow hateful ideologies like anti-Semitism to exist in the first place. We cannot hastily blame an entire community for several individuals’ actions — especially when there has yet to be concrete evidence indicting any perpetrators.
The popularity of terms like “townie” among Tufts students reveals the existence of an unfortunately exclusionary attitude on campus. Many students use the phrase flippantly and do not realize the “us versus them” dichotomy that their diction implicitly creates between Tufts and its surrounding neighborhoods.
Many students fail to realize that many of the residents from the surrounding communities are already inextricably part of the fabric of Tufts. Locals can be found working at the gym, running the register at the dining halls and studying in Tisch — and nearly all of them can be found contributing productively to the Tufts community.
It is disappointing to see, therefore, that even some of the most socially conscious students at Tufts use the term without hesitation. Often, the term is used to construct the image of the “townie” as a racist, sexist and homophobic threat to the well-being of our community — despite the fact that most of our encounters with people from the area have been positive.
In fact, the fear that “townies” will taint our progressive, socially conscious spaces implies that Tufts’ own student body is free from these prejudicial beliefs, which is of course laughably far from the truth. As much as we wish it was not the case, there are racists, sexists, homophobes and anti-Semites who go to this school, too. We are constantly grappling with these issues no differently than the communities of Medford or Somerville.
Belittling our neighbors with terms like “townie,” either as a response to Saturday’s incident and others like it or as casual, everyday expressions, is never acceptable. It is time to realize that Tufts and its surrounding neighborhoods are part of a larger community, and that terms like “townie” only serve to break down that community.