The Gallaudet Incident & Racism in America

by Lauren Anderson
Special to iVoryTowerz

Last week, a racist incident marred the uneasy calm at Gallaudet University. A black student was held against his will while seven other students drew swastikas and KKK symbols all over his body. The incident transpired in the dorms at Gallaudet’s Model Secondary School for the Deaf in Washington, DC. Since then, all eight students have returned home, but the university has not indicated if the students were disciplined. Currently, the District of Columbia police are conducting an investigation to determine if the act can be categorized as a hate crime. Police have identified all of the students. However, so far authorities have not filed any charges.

The malevolence of this event is both shocking and disturbing. Whether the act can be considered a hate crime or not, the use of explicitly racist symbols cannot be denied consideration. Occurring on the heels of the Jena 6 debacle, it raises numerous questions concerning the state of our society’s attitude towards race. More than thirty years ago, the United States was dealing with the concept of separate but equal, Jim Crow laws, and other issues of the Civil Rights Movement. These buzz words that we associate with history suggest that we have moved past those racist times. Still, recent events have indicated that our society has merely outgrown the terms, not the implications behind them. Racism still exists. The laws may have changed but, in many ways, America has not. Our country’s prejudiced past is still embedded in the folds of our culture. An entire generation has been born and raised under equal opportunity laws. Unfortunately, this is the very generation that committed the odious act at Gallaudet. Obviously, there is an aspect of society that must be touched and changed but it is seemingly too deep for our political system to reach. The question lies in defining this issue and acting to make the necessary changes.

However, some good can be seen in the wake last week's incident. The black student who was held against his will contacted the police himself. While he could have declined to report the event out of fear, the student decided to stand up for himself. Gallaudet has also taken a clear and determined stance against any acts of this kind. The school held an assembly to discuss the incident and the broader topics of diversity and race with its students. Seeing these positive signs, our nation needs to find motivation to re-energize the crusade against racism and discrimination to prevent acts like this in the future.

(Political cartoon from radicalgraphics.org, which offers its material for free.)

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