The reported “bleach bomb” attack on student Bryan Davis that occurred on Aug. 22 is one chapter in our campus’ long narrative of violence against people of color. Last Wednesday, thousands of new students attended their first day of undergraduate classes. Some, like me, grew up in a predominantly homogeneous, alienating city (In my case, College Station) and made the exodus to Austin hoping that its mythic status as a “blue dot in a sea of red” would provide a more accepting, engaging space. Much of this is folly. Here are three things you should know about your University:
1) UT is not a color-blind, post-racial, or anti-racist oasis.
The university as an institution has always been America’s laboratory of the multicultural project. Our University is no different in its attempts to foster a more “inclusive” environment. There are constant forums, events and presentations dedicated to crafting solidarities, educating students and creating a plural environment. However, these initiatives are lacking as an ameliorative policy. Although The Daily Texan’s coverage of the incident has explained the confusion surrounding whether the attack on Davis was racially motivated, most people of color with experiential knowledge of our University will attest to experiencing either implicit or explicit racism. As a member of a South Asian-Interest fraternity and a student in the African Diaspora studies department, I am able to interact with a multitude of communities on the subject of race and racism. You shouldn’t be surprised if you feel ostracized by the pervasive culture of privilege. The Bryan Davis incident is not isolated; he just chose to report it.
2) West Campus is kind of scary sometimes.
During the day, the neighborhood is a picturesque cloistered college town. At night, as the drinks get poured, the area becomes raucous. This is when and where assaults of all sorts are made. Student Government President Horacio Villarreal released a tactful statement concerning the attack, in which he made the claim that “our campus has become increasingly inclusive since I first stepped onto the 40 Acres.” I appreciate Villarreal’s comments, but I disagree that our school has become holistically more inclusive in the past four years. As The Daily Texan pointed out last month, West Campus is becoming increasingly insulated. Skyrocketing property prices don’t just “strain” students; they filter the students who can afford West Campus’ convenient location and amenities from those who cannot. As a result, the student body is becoming compartmentalized. West Campus, which is home to a saturnalia of Greek houses, is also arguably home to the majority of attacks on students of color. Some strides have been made but Greek institutions of all types need to continue to stamp out racism.
3)There’s reason to be optimistic.
Despite our University’s chronic problems dealing with race, I am optimistic that the hate and bigotry will be reconciled. There are great organizations all over campus and I am sure you will find your niche — perhaps many. If you ever encounter an attack, racially motivated, verbal, physical, whatever it may be, do what Davis did and have the courage to talk about it. You have allies here.
Venkatraj is a government senior from College Station.