Black students at the University of Texas have accused their classmates of attacking them with balloons filled with bleach in a neighborhood off campus. Four students are saying that they were attacked from June through September by students throwing the balloons off of high rise balconies.
“We had heard at UT rumors of incidents that had happened, but no one had ever filed a report,” campus police spokeswoman Cindy Posey told ABC. “Our chief of police did his own research, found some things on Facebook, and heard about a couple of people who were hit by balloons.
“Chief Robert Dahlstrom reached out to the kids and said to them, ‘Why have you not filed a report?’ So [on Monday] four people came forward and filed reports.”
The students have held demonstrations against the violence and it appears that only black students were targeted in the attacks. Another student says that a banana was thrown along with the bleach.
As a person who has taught on college campuses for nearly 20 years, I can say with strong certainty that the behavior of students is a direct product of what they are being taught on campus. If the university is disrespectful of minorities, then the students are going to be disrespectful too. The state of Texas, as well as the University of Texas campus, has a national reputation for racism. Minorities don’t often feel welcome, and at least once a year, an incident like this comes out of either The University of Texas or Texas A&M University.
There are few states that hate Barack Obama more than the state of Texas, and there is no state that shows as much blatant disrespect for the commander-in-chief. It is no coincidence that the man they hate so much just happens to be African American. You can disagree with the president as much as you want to, but there’s a difference between disagreement and egregious disrespect.
This racial hatred translates to how students are treated on the campus in both explicit and subtle ways. It reflects itself in the way The University of Texas led the way in getting rid of Affirmative Action and now has an abysmal record of minority admissions for its law school. Many of these outcomes are a direct reflection of the fact that productive approaches to racial diversity are not valued on campus and are not a strong part of the university’s curriculum.
I once had a friend who was very disrespectful toward his wife. He loved her, but didn’t consider her to be his equal. He didn’t beat her, but he would say things that were just down right mean, like “You’re ugly,” “shut up” or “why do you keep gaining weight?” His wife would cry and explain how his words were abusive, but he never listened. In his mind, as long as he didn’t hit her, he didn’t define himself to be an abuser.
I noticed that the man’s son, observing the disrespect of his mother, took cues from his father’s lead. As the boy got older, he too would say disrespectful things to his mother, and he eventually grew up to be a verbal abuser himself. The boy’s choice of words toward his mother (and other women) were defined in his psyche at an early age by his first professor….his dad. Much of the boy’s personality was shaped by his father’s actions and attitudes.
So, when a 19-year old student at The University of Texas decides that it is funny to toss bananas and bleach bombs at black students walking by, we must realize that this student has been taught at least two things: 1) It is not necessary to respect black people, and 2) It’s OK to abuse and attack people of color. While most students aren’t dumb enough to throw water balloons at black students, many of them show the kind of verbal disrespect and abuse that reminds us of the days when Texans believed that black people were property. All the while, they’ve been implicitly led to believe that it’s OK to behave in such a buffoonish and disgusting way, as long as they don’t physically attack us.
It’s not a coincidence that Texas has one of the largest per capita black prison populations in the nation. Also, the actions and attitudes of students on the University of Texas campus are a direct reflection of the lack of desire of campus administrators to teach them the value of racial respect. The child learns his lessons from the parent and the student is a product of the professor. These shameful incidents won’t stop until the university truly seeks to add meaningful diversity to its curriculum.