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Onward, Violent Hatred

Atif Z. Qadir

The University of Virginia had spring break last week, but everything isn’t as quiet as you’d expect at the campus of one of the nation’s elite public schools. Surely many recently returned from the typical beach/ booze vacation haunts of the college set, but the university is still reeling from a possible hate crime that “insults and offends the community’s core values,” according to UVA President John T. Casteen III. The sole public reaction at MIT to this disturbing event was a large message written in the snow on a tennis court visible only from the higher floors of Baker House, declaring that “UVA Sux.” Even more unbelievable is the scant attention this story received in the national press. This says too much about the sad state of race relations among Americans, who were only recently wrested from the comfortable grip of apathy and quiet consent by the University of Michigan affirmative action case.

The victim of this unofficial hate crime was Daisy Lundy, a 19-year-old UVA sophomore of Korean and black heritage. She reported that while walking towards her parked car near the university’s historic lawn on Feb. 26, an unidentified white male grabbed her by the hair and slammed her head against the steering wheel. She subsequently fell to the ground, where a friend found her, setting into action a number of high-profile responses from the administration, and student groups, notably at the UVA Law School. Besides that this happened on a college campus, what makes it different than hate crimes that occur around our often intolerant and racist nation is that Lundy was running for the position of Student Council President, possibly explaining the attack and the racial epithet that the assailant uttered: “No one wants a nigger to be president.”

The attack occurred during the 36-hour voting period, forcing university officials to postpone the remainder of the allotted time until after Spring Break, delaying its conclusion to at least this week. It may not be hard to speculate as to who the winner will be, as Lundy won a runoff election two weeks ago.

The attack is even more unusual in light of the fact that she would not have been the first African-American to be elected to such a prominent student government position at the university. In fact, since 1990, five student council presidents have been black. The attack is indicative of lingering racial problems at UVA, as well as at other campuses beyond the South.

MIT could be one of those universities. Our most recent failure in this regard has been the shameful controversy involving at least two members of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity who yelled a racial epithet at the hip-hop band The Roots, who were on campus for the Spring Weekend 2001 concert. Racial insensitivity can be more insidious, as well. From being told that “all brown people look the same” to being called “exotic” by an Institute employee, to being personally labeled an “anti-American Islamicist” I, as well as many other students of color, face similar comments. However, the opening of the Latino Cultural Center this past Sunday was one welcome development.

Our own student council elections, which end today, have had little attention to race relations, besides lip-service statements of getting “everyone in the community involved,” forming “a campus coalition focused on integrating culture but maintaining unity,” or a “cultural group coalition.” Looking beyond our own campus, it is ironic that the possible hate crime at UVA happened as President Bush and many average people rally for an invasion of Iraq, invoking the American ideals of liberty, freedom, and justice. This highlights the fact that for minorities and immigrants in this nation, these ideals are as real as the white American Dream.

Atif Z. Qadir is a member of the Class of 2004.