LINDSBORG – The Lindsborg city council voted unanimously on Monday to adopt Resolution 14-16 in support of the values of diversity and inclusion after a racist and hateful comments were written in chalk on the sidewalks at Bethany College and directed at the school president Will Jones and his family, according to a social media report.
The resolution also supported Bethany College
Mayor Bill Taylor signed the Resolution and Jones was in attendance.
Prior to the meeting, Jones wrote of the incident on social media
“What do you do when a white supremacist writes racist and hateful messages directed at your children and at the students you work to serve? Seriously, what should a person do who desires to follow Christ? What should a college and community do to respond to such hate? These are questions I’ve been wrestling with as a professional and parent for the past two weeks.
Two weekends ago, three to five people claiming to be associated with a hateful organization wrote racially offensive messages with chalk on a few of the Bethany College campus sidewalks. These messages were disgusting and are completely contrary to our core values and intellectual identity. The messages included a chalk outline of a dead body with “rest in peace my friend” and “make Lindsborg white again.”
A few days after the incident a man who is not a student at Bethany and does not even live in Lindsborg (I’m not going to share his name or hateful organization), called my office at the college and stated that he and four other people committed this despicable act. He refused to disclose who his companions were, and no others have admitted to participating. He stated that the chalk messages were written in response to the make-up of my family (I have two adopted, biracial children), to some of the things that have been written and posted online and in the press about my work at the college, and in response to the students of color that Bethany College is recruiting.
That’s right. Think about it. A man called my office to tell me that messages like the outline of a dead body and “make Lindsborg white again” were directed at my family–the love of my life and my sweet children, ages seven to 14 years old. Let it sink into your mind and heart. Dead body outline. Children. Hate. As a parent, how would you feel?
And, the messages were directed at college students who are working to better their lives by getting an education. Bethany students help to produce tens of millions of dollars of economic impact in our community. Students who provide thousands of hours of service in our community, work as student teachers, provide fine arts performances, and they gift us the joy of cheering them on through athletic competition. Our graduates make the world a better place to live. Ponder the messages. Imagine you are the parent of one of our students, working a double shift to help pay for your daughter’s education, and you hear about this. If you were the parent of one of our students of color, what would you think?
This week, this man called again. This time to relish in his “activism,” to threaten to instigate the forces of his “movement” to close our college, and to try and clear the name of his “dear friend.” You see, our college is on probation, primarily for financial issues. This man hopes to gather other bigoted people to keep friends and alumni from supporting our college unless we comply with his demands. He says things to me like “this is what’s going to happen” and “you will” do X and Y during his brief and troubling calls. I am not worried by his threats. His “facts” are wrong. More importantly, I know how much our alumni and friends care for Bethany College.
None of the racist perpetrators of the event on campus know my children. They don’t know my adopted, biracial son, or care how he struggles with a rare, life-threatening kidney disease on a daily basis. Nor do they really care about my youngest daughter who is white. She loves her siblings, all of them (all!), adores pink shirts, and is too scared of flies to hurt one. No, this man doesn’t care about any of those things. He took this deplorable action against my family and me because my family doesn’t have the same skin color.
And the people involved certainly don’t care if their actions have caused fear to creep into my wife’s daily life since this incident. This man doesn’t understand how a parent might feel, especially a mom, when her children are targeted with hate by strangers. He and his small band of troublemakers just write racially offensive and frightening messages in the middle of the night and go on their hateful way.
Even if he reads this, he still will not care. He will think and repeat some of his well-rehearsed, brain-washed lines. You can’t debate such hatred. He and his followers use racist sources like they are scientific studies, or they take bits and pieces and parts of the things we treasure, like holy scripture, as proof of their point of view. They don’t care to look at the overarching message of scripture – God is love, God made all of us from one blood, and Jesus instructed us to love God and each other.
So, who am I writing to? I’m writing to you. What are we (you and I) to do?
As President of Bethany College, I worked with the college’s leadership team and our attorney to ban this man and three others that might have been sympathetic to his cause from our campus. We worked to protect our students. Within 24 hours, we informed our students, faculty, and staff of the incident and our actions. Our campus held a prayer service for a time of reflection. I spoke with our coaches to educate them on the incident and discussed the protection of our students. I met groups of students to discuss the incident. The police are making extra patrols of our area. In addition, we are adding additional layers of security. As President (and as dad of the Jones children), I am working with the authorities.
As a parent, I am writing this to you. Please challenge racism wherever you encounter it. Hurtful, racist actions are not “activism.” Hate language is not blunt talk. Get to know people of other races and cultures. Think about what you post or share online or the jokes you tolerate. Use your imagination to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, kicks, or sandals. Do the simple thing and treat all people the way you want to be treated.
As a Christian, I must turn my anger into love. Jesus wants me to love my enemies (even the ones I didn’t pick, but picked me). Make no mistake, the love I am writing about is not the same affection you feel towards friends or family. Rather, it is the love that allows us to decide to see the people who would seek to hurt us through God’s eyes. It is undeserved love. It is the love that we are taught, as Christians, to show to our fellow human beings. I’m praying that I will find it. And, I’m praying that God will help this man and other racist people to see how sinful they are being and that they will turn away from evil.
As a community member, I hope you will join me. Please pray for my children and wife. Please pray for Bethany College and for protection against those who would hurt us. Please pray that our wonderful town, Lindsborg, doesn’t allow the hate of a couple of people to infect our community. Please pray for emotional and spiritual healing for this man and for anyone who has been corrupted by his hate. Please pray that the organization he has “affiliated” with will fail. And, make time (not excuses) to join with worship services or efforts that promote love, kindness, service, understanding, and community.”
Bethany College, President