Racism, sexism and prejudice and the logical response to them — activism — have a long history at UNM. After the Vietnam era, the ‘90s saw renewed tensions, with many incidences of hate crimes on campus.
In 1995 a report was delivered to the vice president of Student Affairs by the Anti-Defamation League and the Dept. of Campus Affairs/Higher Education. The report compiled from 1992 to 1995 over 20 racist/hate crimes at UNM, mostly dealing with White Nationalist propaganda, graffiti and swastikas targeting Black, Jewish, Gay and Lesbian, feminist, and Hispanic students and campus organizations (UNM Board of Regents Minutes, CSWR). These incidences caused UNM President Peck to immediately denounce such activities at a press conference saying that UNM didn’t tolerate hate speech.
An example of these hate crimes occurred in November of 1995 with a group calling themselves “Students Against the Brown Peril” who inserted racist propaganda flyers into delivered Daily Lobo newspapers. The inserts contained violent verbiage such as “send the greasy no-brainers back to Mexico in body bags.”
A subsequent Daily Lobo issue that disapproved of the inserted flyer also contained on the same page a separate cartoon commentary illustrating a woman being physically attacked and desperately trying to use a campus emergency phone that was inoperable because it was being remodeled to make it more aesthetic (Nov. 10, 1995, Daily Lobo).
Additionally, the 1995 report noted that a large pile of missing library books with feminist content was found on the floor hidden in the basement of the Zimmerman library. These incidences add to a pattern that racism and sexism go hand and hand.
The overall UNM climate of the 1990s is perhaps what mobilized campus activism in 1993 against the controversial “Three Peoples” paintings in the Zimmerman library. The mostly Chicano and Native American student organizations’ concerns that the imagery expressed white supremacy (supposed), sexism and reduced native peoples to stereotypical racial/social roles were never resolved.
Paradoxically, just over a month after the student protest against the Zimmerman paintings, a series of Native Chicano and Native American community-themed and noncontroversial murals in the basement floor the SUB were ordered painted over with three layers of wall paint by UNM departmental officials.
One only needs to look at history to know that hate crimes and injustices and responses to them are nothing new at UNM. One only needs to look at one’s own self to determine how their actions (activism) can best bring about political and social change. UNM as an institution must also determine how much hate will it tolerate.
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