Every student enrolled here at the University of Richmond is well-educated. But, it has come to my attention that academic proficiency is simply not sufficient at the college level, and that there is currently a significant problem with ignorance on the Richmond campus.
I assume that most of us are familiar with these famous words of wisdom: "Ignorance breeds fear. Fear breeds hate. Hate breeds violence." Using deductive reasoning, it appears that violence will be indicative of hate, which will be indicative of fear, which will be indicative of ignorance. It is because the presence of violence ultimately means the presence of ignorance that I say the latter is most definitely a problem at our school.
Richmond has borne witness to various hate crimes throughout the past three and a half years. Some stick out in my mind more than others, as I'm sure the rest of you find as well. The most prominent memory is of the intimidation incident where a black doll was found hanging by a noose in the Modlin Center.
Some students and faculty members valiantly tried to depict this act as "not" a hate crime (but rather, some kind of theatrical display), but we as the student body were unfortunately fully aware of the meaning of the incident underneath such unnecessary debate.
Another incident occurred a few years ago only to be repeated recently, where a student's car was heavily vandalized (smashed, keyed -- whatever was easiest in each respective case given the tools possessed, I suppose) simply because that student was perceived to be homosexual; this reasoning was clearly worded by the criminals either vocally or in writing at the scenes of both crimes.
I'm sure no one has forgotten the blackface costumes three Halloweens ago, either.
And these are the crimes that got significant amounts of publicity on campus, but then there are all the crimes we only hear about through word-of-mouth or brief one-liners in the police report section of The Collegian -- an "assault" outside of the apartments, vandalism bearing racist or discriminatory language, a theft of various objects indicative of something beyond arbitrary victim choice, a beer can being thrown against one or another window -- yet are never really explained.
The reason we don't hear about these "minor" offenses is that the details are unpublicized, or the crime remains unreported.
This weekend, I experienced the truth about hate crimes at Richmond -- that they happen, that they're casually accepted and that reporting them is almost unheard of in the context of the campus drinking scene.
I was with a friend of mine, and both of us were in costume -- his was not a blatant expression of his sexual orientation per se, although it was a costume designed for a female that he wore shamelessly and with what I daresay was impressive enthusiasm.
Although cross-dressing -- particularly on Halloween -- is something I imagine to be a pretty common practice in the U.S., it does happen to be the case that this particular friend of mine is openly homosexual.
The two of us were standing outside our friend's apartment when we were approached by a noticeably intoxicated Richmond student, who was close to drooling as he stumbled over to us.
After making several comments about my friend's attire in reference to his presumed sexual orientation, he shoved my friend against the closed apartment entrance a couple of times.
When my friend stopped yelling back because of sheer intimidation, the kid started stumbling away amidst self-proclamations of pride and victory -- it appeared he thought he had won some sort of fight.
Upon seeing this, I responded with hostility that he had won no such fight and that he should be ashamed of himself for picking on people who have been completely non-confrontational toward him and for saying such hurtful things to a person who has done absolutely nothing to deserve it.
With that, this man threw off his jacket and came storming in what was as close as he could manage to a straight line back toward us.
Seeing the look underneath the layers of glass streaking his shrunken eyeballs, I began to feel a real sense of panic regarding my already stricken friend and stood in front of him. I thought this would stop the guy from attempting to charge at my friend, but it only changed his target.
This was a surprise twist in the plot, as were the series of twists my arm physically received in this man's attempt to knock me to the ground.
Casual passers-by stopped to look at the scene when I continuously yelled at the attacker to "Get away from us," but perhaps no one truly realized the severity of the situation.
There was no way for me to really fight this guy, but I was quicker than him and able to firmly stay standing on both feet while ducking his rough advances. His grand finale, though, was more "successful" than his earlier attempts to inflict physical pain -- he took my friend's hand, which held an unopened beer can, and used both hand and can like a club to strike me across the face.
For the most part, I ducked out of his reach; he did manage to clip my cheek, though, and for that I remain outraged.
We called university police, but the attacker had long strode into the shadows of the parking lot, muttering to himself about how he had put me and my friend into our places and using a variety of curse words and discriminatory language to describe us.
What I found particularly amusing, despite the circumstances was his ending battle-cry, "Call the police and I'll tell them you two assaulted me!" A typical comment by an abuser and a perpetually fat chance -- dream on, kid.
And by the way, if you're reading this: We know exactly who you are and may or may not press charges through the magistrate. You may want to bruise yourself up a bit if you'd like to stick to the claim you threatened.
The whole thing is truthfully so sad to me -- why are college students acting like such ignorant chumps? It's 2010, and we are supposed to be students in the liberal arts. The question should not be how students missed lessons in tolerance, but rather why tolerance needs to be taught to us in the first place!
People are all different from one another, and it is my suspicion that the random categories we label certain differences with are nothing more than systematic ways to distinguish minority from majority groups on their basis, so that size is clear on relative terms (and the lesser in comparison gets picked on, hence the cute little line of defense "Why don't you pick on someone your own size?" and its profound nationwide significance).
But that's America, and this is Richmond. Through all my extensive rants and ravings about this school, I am embarrassed now to admit that the commonality of hate crimes on this campus is something I find both shocking and disappointing. I suppose I expected more.
The student body is composed of such a wonderful group of people for the most part that it's a shame to observe the contingency of hate through the actions of a fearful few.
Its presence on this campus makes me sick and confused, but most of all it makes me angry. I would hope that most of you feel the same.
It's not tolerance we need, but far less of it altogether -- we cannot tolerate racism, we cannot tolerate homophobia, we cannot tolerate sexism or ethnocentrism or classism at all. Hate is unacceptable without exception.
If the majority of the student population both practices and preaches this message, then perhaps the one minority group we truly need to rid ourselves of will be extinguished from our campus altogether.