Racism Has No Place On the UCI Campus

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College campuses were once thought to be safe havens where people could send their sons and daughters without having to fear that they might become victims of hateful crimes.
Unfortunately, on many California campuses, this ideal is no longer held and we can see the growing trends of racism and hate crime on our campuses.
There is a lot that needs to be done by local governments in California and by college administrators to protect students from potential victimization.
A co-worker and friend of mine, who happens to be African-American, was crossing East Peltason when a group of guys drove past in their car and called him derogatory names.
I found it extremely shocking that college students could actually victimize someone like this. Whether it was meant as a joke or not, I feel the racial slurs were inappropriate and uncalled for. But are incidents like this as surprising as we might think?
I am certain that you have all heard your peers crack a joke about Muslims, Jews, blacks, whites, Mexicans, et cetera. These stereotypes eventually perpetuate themselves and can develop into a prejudice you may not realize you possess.
Even something that is considered a joke can be offensive. Muslims do not wear towels on their heads, Mexicans eat other foods besides beans and not all Jews are accountants.
I overheard a student telling his friends that he often makes fun of Asians and Indians, and that he doesn’t think it’s a big deal. Well, it is a big deal.
In California alone, statistics demonstrate the shocking trend of hate crimes on college campuses, a place where people should be more open-minded and less prone to racism. In 2001 there was a reported 23 percent increase in the amount of incidents of a racist nature reported toward Jewish students on college campuses in California.
California is currently the state with the fourth-highest rate of anti-Semitic activity within the United States.
We see forms of this hatred in activities such as the ‘Israel Awareness Week’ put on by Muslim students who feel that they understand what Israeli and Palestinian relations are like, when it is very likely they have never even been to Israel themselves. In these presentations Israel is considered ‘evil’ and must be wiped from the earth.
This is an example of a political view going overboard and becoming frightening.
What is astounding to me is that these students feel it is their duty to educate other students about Jewish people whom they portray to be white and racist.
This notion is intolerable in that it expresses racism against both white individuals and Jewish individuals.
Furthermore, it emphasizes the commonly misconstrued idea that all Jews are European or white with big noses, when in fact the majority of Jews are Sephardic, originally from Middle-Eastern countries. Too often, I have heard a speaker during these presentations who literally attacks the Jewish race.
I myself, being Israeli and Jewish, found it offensive that an entire week was dedicated to belittling my race.
In fact, even my Muslim friends felt offended for me.
By speaking out against a race, by declaring hateful things about a group of students, one is clearly breaching the students’ rights due to the possibility of persecution.
CBS News declares that ‘hate crimes involve intimidation, harassment, physical force or threat of physical force against a person, a family or a property.’
Additionally, hate crimes deal with ‘publicly stirring up or inciting hatred against an identifiable group based on color, race, religion, ethnic origin or sexual orientation.
It is illegal to communicate hatred in a public place by telephone, broadcast or through other audio or visual means.’
While I wholeheartedly support free speech, it is incumbent upon local governments and the administrations of the University of California to exercise moral leadership, to disassociate from and condemn poisonous rhetoric and conduct that threatens the safety of students.
Administrators need to be cognizant of negative behavior in order to ensure the safety of the campus as a whole.

Reut R. Cohen is a second-year English major.

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