On Campus Racism

by Latoya Peterson

Resist Racism just came out with a great piece on the impact of campus hate speech:

In the ten-year period from 1996-2006, 21 Cornell students committed suicide. Thirteen of them (approximately 62 percent) were of Asian descent. Additionally, there have been suicides at Cornell by non-students.

In at least four cases, people killed themselves by throwing themselves into the gorges.

Good fodder for comedy?

Here’s one Cornell blogger’s (D. Evan Mulvihill) take:

    President David Skorton announced the plans for the construction of an Asian Community Center at a midday press conference today. The building is to be located directly adjacent to Uris Library on the Clocktower Side, and will be designed by the famous architect I. M. Pei.

    “I believe that this building will dramatically reduce the amount of Asian suicides at Cornell,” Skorton announced. “We also plan to fill in the gorges with those chewy bubble tea orbs so that distraught students will have to rely on other methods.”

You can read the rest of the “satire” at Resist Racism or Angry Asian Man.

Obviously, there was a well-deserved backlash over this “lacist” (yes, he did!) piece. So what happens when the author gets called on the carpet? Yet another fake ass apology, followed by this wonderful comment by the post author:

# D. Evan Mulvihill Says:
April 8th, 2008 at 6:06 pm

“you seem to think that asian american suicide rates are caused by unrealistic academic pressure.”

I meant the unrealistic academic pressure was coming from sources such as family and their immediate society, not by the colleges or universities themselves.

Clearly, this is a very emotional subject for a lot of Asian-Americans, and I didn’t realize that. I’m sorry that I played around with stereotypes, and made fun of an ethnic group. Apparently this isn’t enough for you guys–what more do you want? You are reading a lot more into this than is necessary. Please let it go.

I signed the note. Happy?

*sigh* Honestly, I don’t even have the strength to go on this one right now. However, I found this story of interest as I have been seeing a lot of this around lately. Now, I’ve never formally lived on a college campus – what little bit of undergrad I have completed was through commuter schools, where I wasn’t involved in the college culture. But I must admit, reading through Lisa Leong’s piece on the older “If it’s War the Asians want…” controversy illuminated the situation:

Reacting to Racism – Lisa Leong

Karson claims that his exaggerated column is a piece of satire because he wants to say, “Hey, it’s a joke.” But the only person who would find this funny is a white supremacist. Maybe that’s close to who Karson is, considering he was arrested for making threatening comments about being “angry enough to kill people” during a class discussion of Virginia Tech shooter Cho Seung Hui. It seems that Karson takes his own satire quite literally.

Feeling offended is a combination of disgust and outrage. I am disgusted that such an ignorant piece of journalism went to print. I am outraged by the “apology” delivered by the editors of the CU Campus Press. Their apology is half-hearted: “We apologize for any ambiguity of the satire that may have been misconstrued.” I wish the editors would have just taken a bite of humble pie and said, “We made a mistake.” There’s a difference between saying “Sorry to anyone who might have been offended” and “Sorry for being offensive.” The first is phony, the second is genuine. Campus Press offered a fake apology, the same way Karson’s column is fake satire. To read a real apology, see the public statement from G.P. “Bud” Peterson, Chancellor of CU.

Another side of my reaction was a lack of surprise. I’m not surprised that someone declared “War on Asians” because I’m no longer surprised that racism exists. In 2006, there was a similarly anti-Asian “satire” in my own school’s paper The Daily Bruin. The article “A Modest Proposal for an Immodest Proposition” was also controversial and inspired complaint letters. Again at CU’s Campus Press, Lauren E. Geary wrote a racist column against Hispanics called “No Hablo Ingles.” All these racist articles represent more than a recent trend of on-campus racism; they are the present form of a history of racism in America.

Leong goes on to list various other incidents of college press sanctioned racism. The highlights:

The Daily Bruin (UCLA) – A modest proposal for an immodest proposition (Satire, allegedly)

If you’re going to blame anyone, I say we blame the Asians.

I empathize with members of the Black Student Union and MEChA who spoke at the rally. As a fellow underrepresented minority at UCLA, I agree that it’s hard to find other white people I can identify with on a campus that feels more like Taipei than L.A.

Yes, white people are an underrepresented minority here at UCLA; while they make up 44 percent of the California population, white students only constitute 34 percent of UCLA’s student population.

Asian-Americans, on the other hand, make up only 12 percent of the state of California and 38 percent of UCLA students.

That’s 300 percent over-representation: Welcome to UCLAsian.

I agree with the chair of MEChA that the UC Regents are using unfair means to admit UC students. Using grades and test scores as a measure of academic success is clearly just a way to show preference to Asian-American students, who are better at both, and thus promote the status quo.

[...]

Still, we have an excellent opportunity to reform the admissions process to benefit underrepresented minorities without violating Prop. 209 and directly using race.

For example, we could easily decipher potential Asian-American applicants by checking what student groups they are involved in, such as Asian cultural organizations or Key Club.

I hear some liberal arts colleges accept head shots from applicants, and I think a similar program at UCLA would be monumentally successful at helping us weed out the young Maos and Kim Jongs from potential Mandelas, Lincolns and Estefans.

By keeping the Asian-American student numbers under control and more accurate to their representation in California, we can free up 26 percent of the student body for members of underrepresented groups.

The result is a win-win situation: fewer rolling backpacks, more diversity.

Campus Press (Colorado State) – No hablo ingles (Opinion piece)

[...] I did promise myself on that last day of Spanish class that I would never speak that language again, or any other language except English, for that matter. Little did I understand the concept of immigration and how it would affect me years down the road.

I grew up in the metropolitan suburbs of Washington, D.C., surrounded by politics and a multitude of ethnicities. Sure, there are your average brilliant Asians, successful blacks, and of course, millions of Hispanics flooding our area. Please don’t consider me a racist–I am nowhere near that.

And honestly, my problem is not really with the people themselves.

How many times have you walked into McDonald’s and not been able to order easily, or at all, because the person taking your order can’t understand English? Perhaps I’m the only one absolutely frustrated by the fact that we have Mexican grocery stores. And you know, I also think you shouldn’t be able to hold a driver’s license if you need a translator for the test. That thought makes me scared to get on the road. All the street signs are in English, and I know what you’re thinking: we should resign them in Spanish, too. No, we shouldn’t! Just like we shouldn’t allow our government to spend millions of dollars on re-signing all the metro stops in D.C. in English and Spanish. I’m also irritated by the fact that more money was put into ESL classes than art classes. Why are we accommodating?

(An aside – I love how people tend to preface racist statements with some variation of “I’m not racist, but” …I kind of like that though, it works for me. It’s like a little flag pops up, reading “brace yourself for some ignorant shit!” At least I’m prepared.)

Patrick Lee, also of the AZN Network blog, responds to Max Carson’s piece, but I think it applies to all the articles discussed here.

He asks:

Did he write the piece just to get some attention? Or does he really espouse the racist, narrow-minded and alarmingly animalistic ideas in the article? I hesitate even to call it an article, because it is more like the product of pouring one’s vomit into a bag and tying it up with ribbon, in an attempt to cover up the crude contents: it’s vomit-in-bag, in written form.

All this vomit in a bag is stinking up college newspapers. When is someone going to actually notice that these pieces contain nothing but bile?