The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 40.0°F | Overcast

Gymnasium worker singled out black students in DuPont ID check

I went to DuPont Gymnasium to lift weights with two of my friends, Derek and Philip (not his real name) on Saturday, Nov. 4. We walked in, showed our athletic cards to the desk attendant when he asked to see them, showed them to the weight room attendant when he asked to see them, and then began to lift.

About 15 minutes after we started lifting, the weight room attendant and another guy charged in and asked to see my friends' athletic cards. Derek said that he and Philip had just shown their cards to the attendant. The attendant then acknowledged that he had seen their cards and the two started to leave. Derek then asked if they were going to check everyone's card, but they said that would not be necessary; he said that someone had run past the front desk, and the desk worker thought it might be Derek. Then before any suggestion from Derek that the search may have been racially motivated, the guy said, "Don't make a racial thing out of this."

We then approached the desk worker and asked him why he had singled us out as possible culprits when we had come in only a short time before. He told us that some small black guy went by without showing a card and that he was trying to find him. When we approached him, he said he thought the guy resembled Philip, but he was not sure. Derek is 5' 11", 165 pounds; Philip is 5' 4" 125 pounds. Something is wrong.

"They were just doing their job." If they had approached Philip, they would have been doing their job. Had they checked the cards of all the people in the weight room -- the desk attendant said he did not get a good look at the guy -- they would have been doing their job. Seeking out the blacks in the weight room for whatever bigoted reason was not their job. (I at least hope that MIT doesn't pay any professional racists.) Had the desk worker really been doing his job (checking athletic cards), he would have noticed that Derek was considerably taller, lighter complexioned, and heavier than Philip. Seven inches and 40 pounds are more than enough to help one differentiate between two people.

We cannot tolerate this type of behavior here in the United States. There is no way to justify it; no excuse can mitigate the pain felt when you are singled out like that just because of your race. We should not expect the problems in the West Bank and South Africa to go away or even expect Israel and South Africa to improve if we accept behavior like this here. Set thine own house in order.

If you do not understand my anger, imagine that you are a student at a fine predominately black school which is located in a less than ideal white neighborhood. The general attitude on campus is that any of the "white trash" from the surrounding environs "would rather string you up than give you the time of day." Whenever you walk around campus you are constantly stopped and asked for identification as if you did not belong on campus. From time to time the Greek organizations on campus have parties with themes like "Shake it Like a White Girl," or "The Mighty White Jam." You are an outsider at your own school. Then one day after you have paid $15 to utilize your school's athletic facilities, you are accosted by the workers there who thought they saw some white guy run past the desk without identification even though this person looked nothing like you. Think about it.

Everybody who reads this has a responsibility to work to see that this does not continue to happen. Every time someone ignores an incident like this, he pushes this country back to the days when whites and blacks did not get along. One day, we'll wake up and find that black people have had quite enough.

John Stephens '91->