Editor’s Note: UT Government senior Bryan Davis was targeted by a balloon outside of University Towers in West Campus on Aug. 22. He believes he was targeted because of the color of his skin and has sought to increase awareness of racial tensions at UT since the incident.
Despite this publication’s statement that I was assaulted with a balloon filled with water instead of bleach, I would like to clarify that, as last week’s story later mentioned, there has been no public statement from APD regarding the possibility that what I was attacked with was a water balloon. This mistake was later corrected, but what has bothered me most is not the misinformation but some of the responses the case has gotten from others in the community.
Although many students and faculty members have reached out with words of encouragement and support, I was shocked not by the fact that the story had gotten backlash, but by what it was getting backlash for. I knew after the story erroneously called the assault a “water balloon attack” that people would assume the entire situation was a misinterpretation of my assault on my part. However, what I didn’t anticipate was the degree of indignation, rejection and denial the issue would receive from various students and commentators.
There seems to be a consensus among some students who are aware of my case that my assault isn’t really indicative of any issue at all. The most common response from these individuals is, “I’m white, this has happened to me before, therefore it’s no big deal.”
Although many of these people are individuals who have not taken the time to carefully and thoroughly understand the details of my case and whose uninformed comments usually wouldn’t merit any attention, they make for a great example as to why these assaults are indeed more significant than they believe them to be.
These commenters’ ignorance of and insensitivity to the social experiences and histories of minorities locally and nationally mirror the same insensitivities that led to myself and other students of color being assaulted in West Campus recently. When you’ve been insulted and denigrated because of the color of your skin and are aware of the heightened racial tensions reflected in controversies such as the Trayvon Martin and Larry Jackson shootings, trust me, you don’t want to be anyone’s target — no matter the situation.
It is not, however, the individuals targeting minorities who should be faulted for this kind of unawareness.
The blame instead lies with the educational institutions that let such ignorance go unchecked. For so long, we’ve been told that cultural diversity is simply a matter of getting students of color into institutions of higher learning, but cultural diversity is not only about fostering a socially and ethnically balanced student body. Genuine diversity is about making sure all students acknowledge, understand and appreciate the various cultural backgrounds and histories of their peers.
Consequently, it is not until we are forced to sit down and learn about the issues that concern all of our fellow students, not just those with similar cultural backgrounds, that we will begin not only to learn but also to practice cultural diversity.
Why expect someone to know something they haven’t even been told about? Recently, I discovered that two friends of mine didn’t know who Trayvon Martin, the black teenager who was shot by George Zimmerman last year, was, or how his case affected other black males such as myself. Unbelievably, they thought he was a comedian from a TV show.
But we reach that level of unawareness where there is no forum for students to discuss and comprehend each other’s complex and different cultural backgrounds. Because of UT’s refusal to more effectively address the issue, students are led to become ignorant and/or simply indifferent to these kinds of community problems. I wouldn’t be surprised if another assault happens because of it.