By Stephen Neukam
Members of the Rider community packed the Cavalla Room in the Bart Luedeke Center on Oct. 29 to hear Attorney General of New Jersey Gurbir S. Grewal speak about diversity.
The event, which was hosted by The Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics, was centered around this year’s shared read for Rider, “How Does It Feel To Be A Problem?” by Moustafa Bayoumi.
The book, a story that follows seven young Muslims throughout their life in Brooklyn and chronicles their struggles and successes, was something that Grewal, a Sikh, identified with.
“Growing up in New Jersey at a time when there were not many kids who looked like me, that sort of makes you stronger,” said Grewal. “[I dealt with a lot] at a very young age. Whether it was teasing, bullying, people grabbing at your turban. You’ve heard everything by the time you get through high school.”
However, as Grewal explained, he found college to be incredibly tolerant for those of different faiths and backgrounds. He encouraged educators to further transform schools and universities into places of acceptance rather than tolerance.
“We are not here to tolerate each other,” said Grewal. “We are here to build a culture of acceptance, regardless of whether we’re talking about diversity in government or diversity here at Rider.”
Grewal expressed deep concern about the current political state of America. In light of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting that left 11 dead and six injured on Oct. 27, Grewal lamented his office’s efforts to curtail the spread of divisiveness from the highest levels of government.
“I didn’t come into this job anticipating that I would be suing the federal government at every turn,” said Grewal. “We have stepped in on everything from their attempts to withhold federal grant funding from us based on [our refusal] to sign on to enforce several federal immigration laws [to fighting] efforts to ban folks from military service because of their gender identity.”
Grewal did not focus solely on the issue of diversity and the state’s factions with the federal government. He touched on his domestic plan in New Jersey as well.
“I came [into office] to fight the opioid crisis,” said Grewal. “[I came] to fight violent crime and to improve police and community relations.”
Grewal outlined multiple initiatives that the state has taken on these fronts. He praised the program that offers drug offenders the option of treatment in possible exchange for a lighter sentence. However, he acknowledged that the policies are not perfect and that his office is learning how to make strides toward progress.
“I was very glad to hear how Attorney General Grewal is fighting for justice,” said senior arts administration major Michelle Belain. “I totally agree with him saying that the more we can understand our communities, the better we will serve them.”
When several members of the audience aired their grievances with public officials who are currently in power, Grewal offered a simple resolution — voting in the upcoming midterm elections.
“One way certainly [to hold these people accountable] would be next Tuesday,” said Grewal. “We have seen a groundswell of activism around [popular] issues.”
Midterm voting will be held on Nov. 6.