Facts show racism involved at Virginia Beach
Virginia Beach is not unlike many other cities in the United States. Though the residents of the city may not believe that the actions taken by the town were racist actions, the Virginia Beach incident was one of many increasing incidents of racial violence. The trend toward racist violence coupled with increasing economic inequity in the United States cannot be ignored in analyzing specific events.
Dave Atkins's letter on Virginia Beach ["Cartoon misrepresented Virginia Beach riots," Sept. 19] presented an abbreviated account of the events and a slanted perspective. Patterns of thinking, such as the one displayed by Atkins, develop from a racially prejudiced training in both early education and popular media. Atkins's opinions are not informed by often omitted facts or the sharp increase in racist violence sweeping the country. Let's review the happenings at Virginia Beach.
The town of Virginia Beach had experienced problems with the festival events in 1988 attended by 40,000 mostly African American students. There were some minor incidences which occurred and some damage, but nothing unusual for a beach party. White student groups had used the beach in previous years and had damaged property and experienced the same difficulties with the town.
This year however it was black students reusing the beach. One can decide for oneself based on the collection of facts which follow whether or not a racist policy was adopted by the town to block the access to the public facility by the black students.
Prior to the event the town declared the public facilities closed for the day of the festival and placed a ban on concerts and on gatherings for the weekend. Police forces were beefed up to where there were police on almost every corner and barricades were put up, preventing people from moving about in the streets. The Ku Klax Klan maintained an unchallenged presence. The National Guard was called in. Police initiated arrests of students for loud music, shouting, and jaywalking. Many police referred to the students as "boy" and used other racial slurs.
In addition, hotels required identification for black students registering. Such identification[fl]
was not required of others registering at the hotels. Accesses to the beach from hotels were closed off to the students but were made available to other hotel residents.
By not getting or ignoring many of these facts, Atkins can blame the victims (the students) for the riot while neglecting both the town's actions to halt the party activities and the harassment of students initiated by the police and the Ku Klux Klan.
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People representatives were concerned that the situation might turn violent and tried to talk with town officials to negotiate the situation. The town refused to talk with the NAACP. This is further evidence that the rights and behavior of the town and the police were modified because of the presence of black students.
The rejection of the NAACP by town officials negated any possibility of calming the growing unrest. Faced with a dismantling of rights and continuing racist mistreatment by the police, it was inevitable that matters sparked into violence. The students were pushed to the point of physical violence the following Sunday morning.
In analyzing the violence, Atkins would have you believe that the students were all criminals and the police did a good job restraining their abuse. Unlike in South Africa "no tear gas ... no bullets" were used, Atkins said. What you are not told is that the police used dogs, horses and nightsticks. Many TV accounts show the police mercilessly beating on youth with nightsticks. Photographers were arrested because they were taking pictures of the police atrocities. Many of the hundreds of people arrested were indiscriminately targeted for just being on the street. Is this "commendable" behavior by the police?
In reference to looting stores, Atkins refers to the students as having "fun" and profiting. Although it is not always clear what constitutes appropriate violence in response to state-supported racism, it is not surprising that oppressed people respond as they do. In battling back against businesses and other town authorities, people look for ways of liberating themselves against privileged authority. People of color realize that often those controlling large business[fl]]
interests in the town are responsible for decisions made by towns.
Given what kinds of fun are available to have, isn't it strange that African Americans are singled out for liking riots as "fun." If riots and looting are so much fun why then don't other groups engage in these activities? In any event, the students did not enter the town looking for a riot. The conditions were forced upon them.
Racial violence across the US is on the upsurge. In the last month alone there have been racist killings of African Americans in Bensonhurst, NY; Vineland NJ; and in my home town the Bronx, NY. This September has also seen the racial killing of a Vietnamese American in Raleigh, NC. In Bensonhurst and Chicago there have been violent racist beat-
ings of a Latino and a Black American respectively.
Besides the heightened economic trauma and covert discriminations people of color have been subjected to over the last decade, there have been rising occurrences of overtly racist behavior. Anti-Semitic and anti-black (and anti-everything not white, American, Christian, and heterosexual) by the Ku Klux Klan have recently occurred in Philadelphia, Atlanta, Seattle, Georgia, and other places. No one should have to accept racist actions and it is a credit to the righteous people who take principled stands and fight back.
Native American people in this country face the most severe form of genocidal oppression of any people. During the AIDS crisis, health care facilities and information have been almost non-existant in Native American communities. One in five Native American infants face a form of major sickness or death. The survival of several Native American communities have been threatened by relocation onto barren lands. Water supplies, roads, schools and other community structures are all pitifully substandard on reservations.
Race riots occur because a people are subjected to racist violence and are pushed into a corner where they can tolerate no more. State-supported police terror and other violent acts against people of color have forced people to defend themselves. Virginia Beach is the most recent example of a racism in the United States which is alive and kicking.
Ron Francis G->