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Allegations of racism unfounded and insulting

Many have been quick to analyze the recent Labor Day riots at the Virginia Beach oceanfront from afar, judging the actions of both the students and the police without understanding the motives of either group. I feel it is time for a third perspective from someone who resides in and knows well the city of Virginia Beach.

As a black student who grew up in (and still lives in) the predominately white city of Virginia Beach, I am offended by any racial judgements made by outsiders about Virginia Beach based on this single incident -- such as the tasteless cartoon published recently in The Tech [Sept. 15]. While no city is free from racial, sexual, and cultural bigotry, Virginia Beach can hardly be considered a racist city. I have been the victim of racial slurs or discrimination in California, Alabama, and New Jersey. But never have I ever been openly discriminated against in Virginia Beach. To suggest that the citizenry or government of Virginia Beach is racist is an insult to me and all of my friends (white and black) that make up our proud resort city.

The black students who participated in the riots invented a number of excuses for the confrontation, all of which place the blame on the city and none of which I believe is of any merit.

Student leaders and others outside the resort community have charged that the government adopted a confrontational attitude. It is true that the city prepared for the inevitable worst, but this was clearly justified by the animalistic behavior of black students during the previous years of the Greekfest.

Many of the black students argued that race played a factor in the treatment they received from the local police, suggesting that white students would have been treated differently. I argue that had 100,000 white students rioted in the streets, breaking windows, looting shops, and vandalizing property, the city's reaction would have been exactly the same.

Those black students who participated in the riots have claimed that the police (and the Virginia National Guard) who responded to the disorder used excessive force. Although "excessive force" is hard to define, escape from it is not. The police provided the students with ample opportunity to return to their hotel rooms, yet the students chose to confront the police instead.

Feeble attempts abound to make even the small businesses of Virginia Beach a scapegoat for these unrestrained students by accusing businesses of overly inflating prices, supposedly to keep the students away. Common sense says that keeping any well-behaved group of patrons away is bad for the bottom line; supply and demand clearly explains why raising prices during peak periods is good for it.

The issue of what happened in Virginia Beach is more complex than can be described in a letter to the editor. Videotape of the incident has shown clips of police brutally striking students who disobeyed police orders intermixed with shots of rioting students kicking in store windows and looting businesses. Neither atrocity can be justified soundly, but I believe both can be explained and prevented in the future.

Virginia Beach neither needs nor wants another riot like the one that happened that Labor Day weekend. But we who live in the city of Virginia Beach neither need nor want a group of people -- black or white -- to destroy our peaceful community and then point the finger of blame at us.

Michael B. Williams G->