On October 2nd, former UT student Chas Moore and more than 100 other members of the community marched through West Campus. Their chants echoed through the streets: “No more violence, no more silence” and “Don’t you hate, don’t you fear, people of color are welcome here.” It’s hard to disagree with that.
The protest was in part sparked by four reported incidents of minority students having bleach balloons thrown at them. Occurring between last June and a few weeks ago, the incidents were only reported on Monday, October 1st, after UT campus police reached out to them.
While the victims of the inexcusable crime were minorities, the Huffington Post reported that “bleach-bombing” occurs multiple times a month in West Campus, and has occurred as far back as 2007. The targets are seemingly random, as even white sorority girls have been hit.
As local Philip Graham noted, “I’ve had water balloons, beer, and cups thrown at me in West Campus and I’m white. This isn’t racism.”
It is, of course, impossible to know what the offenders were thinking. Victims present at the rally claimed to have had racial slurs yelled at them, but the police haven’t yet fully investigated the issue.
Joseph Cadena, a Hispanic resident of West Campus, talked to me about racism in West Campus. “Personally, I’ve never had any racism,” Cadena said, “but the Hispanic community in West Campus, from what I’ve seen, is pretty small. Anytime there’s drinking involved, there are people yelling and stuff being thrown off the balconies, but it’s mostly random victims or occasionally it’s part of a fraternity rivalry. But I’ve never experienced racism firsthand in West Campus.”
I spoke with Dr. Richard Reddick, a professor of Africa and African Diaspora Studies, about the incidences. Responding to whether or not the attacks were racist, Dr. Reddick told me, “The motivations behind these individuals’ actions are beyond me. I’ve always maintained, however, the best way to avoid being viewed as a racist is not to engage in behavior that can be construed as racist. Someone who attempts to assault another person surrenders the opportunity to clarify their irresponsible actions.”
He’s exactly right. Whether or not the attacks were racist misses the point. It’s 2012. Racism isn’t acceptable. But we should also be outraged at the pure stupidity of the incidents. (It should be noted, though, that racism is a form of stupidity.)
Regardless of the race of the victims, throwing things off a balcony is complete idiocy and completely unacceptable – plain and simple. Dr. Reddick summed it up: “I think we learn in kindergarten that it’s not appropriate to throw objects at people, no matter what the intent may be. The fact that these actions are possibly being undertaken by adults is shocking – it’s certainly immature, contradictory to the ideals of a community, and has no place at The University of Texas.”
This is a university of adults; pure, immature stupidity should have no place in the land of academics and scholarship. Racism is protested against, as it should be. But where’s the outrage over the overwhelming immaturity? Where’s the march against idiocy? Where’s the protest against stupidity?
As Dr. Reddick explained to me, “The best disinfectant is sunlight. Exposing these ridiculous events will hopefully send a clear message to anyone considering acting in such a manner that the community is watching.”
Sometimes the people who show us exactly what not to be are the best role models. Let’s learn from them. Let’s stop the stupidity.