On Sunday afternoon, I checked my mailbox. There was a 90’s prom invitation, a bill for my mail-box mate, and a note marked “Grace Boehm.” I opened the note, expecting a letter from a friend, but instead it read,“Dear Grace, Go back to China. Love, The entirety of Goshen College.”
I was immediately taken aback by the malice that somebody in the Goshen community could have for me. To send anonymous words of hate through campus mail is an abuse of the system we have in place and should not be tolerated for any purpose. Bullying doesn’t stop after middle school. This note showcases that bullying can happen anywhere and everywhere, through any medium and to any person.
To the person who wrote this letter, or any anonymous letter of hate: It is cowardice. You are hiding behind words of anonymity for the sole purpose of spite and belittlement. We are a small campus, and if you have an issue to raise, you are welcome to engage in dialogue instead acting on your enmities through a forum that campus mail unfortunately allows you to access. I do not expect to be liked by every person, but you, the person behind this pusillanimity, are not my friend. You are someone who puts others down to build himself or herself up and I am very sorry for you.
I am very privileged to live in a loving community and not to experience hate on a regular basis. There are many people of different races, ethnicities, ages, religious affiliations, sexual orientations, gender identities, and other categories who experience hate and discrimination every single day. I cannot understand the degree to which you are marginalized every day, because my own white, thin, cisgender, heterosexual, Mennonite privilege shields me. I am sorry for that. There are women and men who are shamed on our campus for their appearance, friendship groups, athleticism (or non), majors, and sexual decisions. There are “Yik Yak” posts that degrade people and encourage gossip. There is hate polluting the loving community that we hold so closely. Let’s stop it.
I wrote a Facebook status published alongside a photo of the note to make a point that love is stronger and more powerful than hate. I received dozens of encouraging messages and over a hundred and fifty ‘likes’, but the real reason that I posted what I did was to show the person who wrote those words that I am a person of value in this community and nothing that is said or written can depreciate my character or my place in this institution. By publicizing these malevolent words that I received, I made myself vulnerable and took the power away from the abuser, and defeated the pain that he/she intended. I am a confident, valued, and loved person, and I will not allow anyone to degrade my self-worth or my belonging at Goshen College. I stand for all of you when I write these words. The message I received could have been much worse, and it hurts me to think of the people who hear those terrible, defeating things at the hands of others. Gossip and labels with the intent to harm is unacceptable no matter to what degree.
I do not want to know who wrote that note to me, but I hope that whoever it was will read this and think twice about sending malicious words to others again. I hope that you are ashamed of your actions and realize that by sending that note, you dishonored yourself and the community to which you belong. I hope that anyone who reads this (myself included) who has gossiped about, laughed at, exploited or anonymously caused malice to any person on this campus in any way can think about just how much our actions and words weigh and choose to make the right choice the next time around.
And, if you’d like me to go visit China, please, by all means buy my plane ticket.