January 25, 2007
Written by C.N.
You might remember that back in November 2006, an Iranian American student at UCLA was tazered by campus police for refusing to show his student ID. On the heels of that, this past week three Palestinian college students were called racial slurs, terrorists, and physically attacked by 15 football players from Guilford College, a small Quaker college in Greensboro NC:
Police have described the assault against several Palestinian students — two from Guilford, one an N.C. State student — as racially motivated. Three Guilford football players are charged in connection with the incident that happened early Saturday outside a dormitory on campus. . . .
The three athletes who were charged, as well as the two Palestinian students involved, are not living on campus at the school’s request while the incident is investigated, college officials said Wednesday. Those who could not find a place to stay were offered hotel rooms at the school’s expense. . . .
That the injured Palestinian students had been asked to leave campus did not sit well with many at the forum, which was held at the New Garden Friends Meeting near campus. During the hour long meeting, students accused the school’s administration of dragging its feet in dealing with the accused. . . . Friends and classmates of the Palestinian students spoke on their behalf , describing an unprovoked attack and injuries that include a broken jaw, a broken nose and concussions.
According to court documents, up to 15 members of the football team were involved in the assault, during which the Palestinian students were beaten with fists, feet and brass knuckles while being subjected to racial slurs and called “terrorists.” Some students said they were offended the college shied away from calling the incident a “hate crime,” which they said implied the accusers were lying.
Obviously, in the wake of the rape allegations leveled at the Duke University lacrosse players that have since been retracted, we need to be diligent about adhering to the principle that an accused person is presumed innocent until proven guilty. On the other hand, having seen too many of these kinds of documented hate crimes against people of color and other minority groups in general, but particularly against Arab- and Muslim-Americans in particular since 9/11, perhaps you’ll excuse me if I will go ahead and presume that they are guilty as charged.
In that context, the crime itself of being physically attacked and suffering concussions and broken bones is bad enough by itself. But as I’ve I’ve written about earlier when it comes to students being physically attacked out of racial hatred, what makes the situation even worse is when school administrators drag their feet in addressing not just the incident at hand, but also the root causes of the problem that have been allowed to go unchecked on their campus for too long. Apparently, this is exactly what has happened at Guilford.
This is especially ironic and hurtful since the Quaker religion is historically known for being very tolerant and respectful of racial, ethnic, and religious minorities. It’s really a shame that university leaders have apparently lost touch with not just that particular tradition but also with the heightened state of tensions unfairly directed at Arab and Muslim students around the country.
In terms of living up to that tradition of being at the forefront of fighting for racial tolerance and justice, Guilford leaders get an F so far.
Update: On Wed. 3/14, the Guilford Country District Attorney announced that all charges against the football players have been dropped. As a Guilford professor in the the linked article says, “Just because the legal issue has been resolved from the perspective of the legal system doesn’t mean the issues we’re dealing with campus are resolved.” That’s exactly right — the underlying prejudices and tensions against Arab students on campus still needs to be addressed for the college to genuinely move beyond this incident.
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Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "Another Anti-Arab Student Attack" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2007/01/another-anti-arab-student-attack/> ().
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