by James A. Bacon
The University of Richmond is in a state of shock after three alleged acts of racially motivated vandalism. The dormitory door of an African American student was defaced last week by the N-word. Additionally, two students of Middle Eastern descent were targeted with slurs.
UR President Ronald Crutcher described the incidents as “disgusting” and a “cowardly and racist act.” “An act of racism against any of us on this campus is an act that affronts all of us, and everything we are committed to as a University community,” he said. “We will not tolerate members of our community being targeted for harassment based on their identities.”
The incidents occurred as the university is holding dialogues to foster a more inclusive community. The Black Student Alliance, the Multicultural Solidarity Network and even the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) have chimed in. CAIR called for a federal hate crime investigation.
A federal hate crime investigation is a good idea. Federal investigators are likely to be attuned to a possibility that no one on the UR campus appears to be: that a large percentage, perhaps an outright majority, of hate crimes on college campuses in the U.S. are hoaxes perpetrated by activists seeking to raise anti-racism consciousness.
Wilfred Reilly, an African-American political science professor at Kentucky State University, has built a database of hundreds of hate crime hoaxes around the country, and has described more than a dozen of the most infamous campus-based incidents in his book, “Hate Crime Hoax.” As he observes, the politically correct culture on many campuses creates the perfect environment for hate-crime hoaxes to flourish. Typically, the incidents are perpetrated by minority activists in the hope of stimulating outrage against racism.
That’s not to say every hate crime is a hoax. But the incidence of hoaxes is so widespread that one must consider the possibility that the UR vandalism incidents might have been faked. Therefore, until more is known, it would be prudent for the UR administration to be restrained in its response rather than add to the sense of alarm.
The first incident was reported Friday. Gabbie Armon-Wickers, an African-American freshman, found the N-word scrawled on the name tag on her door. She immediately reported the vandalism to campus police, her dean, and the University President. She told WTVR that she was coming back to her room from taking a morning shower.
At first I laughed, I laughed. Because I already knew that it was coming, because I’ve been a very vocal person on campus about issues such as racism, sexism, classism and I’m not one to really back down or be afraid to speak in front of anyone. And so, I already knew that there were people that did not like that about me, but I never thought that they would come in and invade my personal space like that. And so, like I said, I laughed, but then I thought about it and then my heart started pumping. I got angry.
Another student, Ahmed Elnagger, a freshman who is running for class chair of the sophomore class of Whitehurst of Richmond College, said he found a note Saturday morning: “terry = / = chair”. (WWBT described “terry” as a racist slang term for terrorist.”)
“I knew immediately what the abbreviation meant and everything and I knew immediately someone was rejecting the idea of me becoming class chair,” said Elnaggar. “When I saw it, before I ripped it down from the door, it was like, my heart dropped. It didn’t process through my brain… Like, wow. This just happened to me also. I didn’t realize I would be a target, also.”
According to WWBT, Maha Hassan, a sophomore, described how she was notified of graffiti on her door on Saturday. “Around 10 a.m. a police officer knocked on my door and I had no idea what happened. I opened the door and I stepped outside and I turned around and saw an ethnic slur written about the fact I’m from Pakistan. I sort of just fell to the floor in absolute disgust.”
A couple of observations about the UR case to suggest that caution is advisable before jumping to conclusions.
- The vandalism was not a single incident, but a spree of three. And the targets were not of the same ethnic group. One was African-American, and two, apparently, were Middle Eastern Muslims. The occurrence of three acts in two days on a campus where such acts are usually unknown is unlikely to be a coincidence. One might ask if the same person (or persons) committed all three acts, a conjecture that could be confirmed by an examination of the handwriting. Logical questions to ask: Was the vandal a single bigot lashing out against people of color indiscriminately? Do the incidents represent a wave of bigotry by multiple parties? Or could the vandal have been an activist trying to generate a sense of community outrage against racism?
- The vandalism has galvanized minority student organizations — precisely the effect sought in hate crime hoaxes on other campuses described by Reilly. The minority groups are launching a student-led dialogue about race. Declared a joint message from minority student groups: “It is important that we recognize this failure and that we move as a group to address the discrimination that people on our campus deal with.” Frequently, the hoaxers on other campuses were members of a group that gained visibility and influence from the resulting uproar.
Let me repeat: I’m not saying the vandalism incidents were a hoax. It is possible that closet racists lurk at UR. If so, they should be identified and shamed. But the massive body of evidence compiled by Reilly makes it clear that it is irresponsible to presume racism. University administrators and media should not jump to conclusions. Let’s see what the investigation turns up.There are currently no comments highlighted.