[News] Cornell racist hate crime
News at freedomarchives.org
Tue Feb 28 14:15:59 EST 2006
Article about recent racist hate crime and response at Cornell with
good quotes from Tony Marks-Block.
20 student groups issue joint 'statement of demands' to Interim Pres.
By Suzy Gustafson
Sun Staff Writer
Yesterday on Ho Plaza at a rally protesting "violence and
institutional racism at Cornell," Interim President Hunter Rawlings
III stepped through the crowd of over 200 to receive a "statement of
demands" signed by 20 student organizations.
The demands were made in the wake of the alleged recent stabbing of a
visiting African-American Union College student by a white Cornell
student on West Campus. They include the incorporation of Student
Assembly resolution number 11 - which calls for a zero-tolerance
policy towards bias-related violent crimes and sexual assault - into
the Campus Code of Conduct, an improvement in the University's
communications and emergency response procedure following violent
crimes and the addition of a new required course on issues of race,
power and gender.
Organizers expect a response by Friday.
A series of student leaders and activists, Cornell and Ithaca College
faculty and staff and two members of the Ithaca Common Council spoke
at the rally. One of the organizers, Stacy King '06, kicked off the
rally by addressing the audience. "Thank you for seeing the absolute
necessity of being here today," she said. "What happened to [stabbing
victim] Charles Holiday is merely a microcosm of the problems that
exist here on our campus."
Multiple speakers challenged or directly denied the notion that the
West Campus stabbing was an isolated event. Prof. James Turner, one
of the founders of the Africana Studies department, was among several
who addressed the shock and disbelief on campus.
"I am here to share your concerns," he said. "What took place was
horrible. It took place here at Cornell, here in Ithaca, where it is
'not supposed to happen.' Although this was a terrible incident, it
was not incidental. It causes us to ask whether [alleged attacker]
Nathan Poffenbarger '08 is an anomaly." Turner proceeded to give
examples of bias-related incidents that have occurred at Cornell in
the past few years.
Prof. Ken Reardon, director of City and Regional Planning, spoke
early in the rally.
"So many have expressed shock," he said. "The question is, 'Should we
Reardon, a self-proclaimed "white guy from the Bronx," tried to
illustrate modern racism by impersonating comedian Chris Rock saying,
"Ain't no white man in this room who'd trade places with me. And I'm rich?"
Reardon also addressed his "white colleagues," stressing the
importance that white faculty, students and staff show their outrage
over racism and violence on campus. In support of the proposal for a
new course requirement, he asked, "If we can't imagine sending our
graduates out into the world without a literacy in math, sciences and
the humanities, how can we imagine sending them out fundamentally
unprepared and illiterate in issues of race and prejudice?"
Others challenged the reality of Cornell's "Open Doors, Open Hearts,
and Open Minds" motto and the campus presence of the conservative
publication The Cornell American. Speakers critiqued the perceived
apathy within the student body and called for serious campus
discourse and immediate student engagement in pursuing change at Cornell.
Rev. Ken Clark, director of Cornell University Religious Works, said
"Somnambulism - the denial of bias such as racism - does not make
[these issues] less real ? Now is not the time for cynicism about the
present or romanticism about the past. Now is not the time for passivity."
Among the more pointed critics speaking at the rally were student
activists, including Tony Marks-Block '07, of the Farm Workers
Advocacy Coalition and Student Advocates for Palestine, and Justin
Davis '07, president of Black Students United. Marks-Block noted that
"in this country, there are more people of color in prison than in
institutions of higher learning like Cornell." He elicited strong
audience applause following his remark that "it is profitable to be
racist in this country."
Speaking with The Sun before the rally, Davis said, "Let it be known
that this is a rally to kick off a whole campaign of events. First we
want to raise awareness ? Most students are not immediately affected,
[so] it's easy to brush it off your shoulders. Secondly, we want to
create tangible, thorough solutions to a problem that encompasses
much more than basic racism."
The event drew a diverse crowd from both the Cornell and Ithaca
community, some carrying signs that read, "I'm prejudiced, I
discriminate, but I'm working on it," or "Face it, Racism is Here."
In addition to the planned speakers, the rally incorporated a
"speak-out" period, during which members of the rally's audience
could express themselves at the podium, as well as a reading of
student testimonials about personal experiences involving bias on campus.
One testimonial was from a female student working at a library
security desk who, after telling a man he could not come behind the
desk, was told, "nigra girls don't tell white folks what to do."
Anasstassia Baichorova '05, second year fellow at the Cornell
Institute for Public Affairs and one of the rally's main organizers,
spoke afterwards to The Sun about "what comes next." She said that
although the turnout was good and more diverse than other forums held
so far on campus, she would like to have seen a greater presence from
powerful student communities like the Interfraternity Council and the
Panhellenic Association. She said, "We have a large student
population here that feels like outsiders, like Cornell is not their
home. As a student body, we have to volunteer to change that."
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