A group of Vietnamese American students at the University of Pennsylvania say they are the victims of a hate crime after being the target of death threats and racial slurs in an altercation with another group of students.
Alleged hate crime during Fling prompts students to launch police investigation
According to The Daily Pennsylvanian, members of the Vietnamese Students' Association were hosting a barbecue at a house earlier this month, during the school's "Spring Fling," when several groups of people walking by made racial gestures or rude comments directed toward them.
The incident apparently started when a student walking by approached the barbecue and asked for a burger. When he was told it was a members-only event, and was asked to leave, attendees say he became combative, saying "Is it because I don't look like you? I eat rice and watch anime, too."
Things escalated when the student left and returned with a larger group of other students.
After the student left, the group claimed that they resumed their event. What they estimated to be 20-25 minutes later, the original student returned with a large group of other students.
The members then said the confrontation devolved into a "heated argument" involving racial slurs and threats.
"People were saying things like 'f**k you chinks' and other really horrible things," College senior Bethany Cam said. She recalled that some students tried to climb onto their porch, and that people attending the barbecue formed a blockade to try to prevent non-members from entering the property. She said that a mob of people formed outside the house, all yelling and screaming at them.
She also recalled death threats. "People were saying, 'We'll kill you -- you don't belong here.' There were maybe two or three guys chanting it," Cam said. One of the other people there, she said, threw a cup of alcohol at them.
They remembered that the original student who approached them, noticeably more intoxicated, instigated the second confrontation, approaching the house and saying, "Remember me?"
The student who allegedly instigated the altercation was identified as a member of the underground fraternity OZ. To absolutely no one's surprise, he has different account of the events. While he admits to making the "anime" comment, he denies being a part of the second confrontation. And of course, some of his memory is conveniently fuzzy because he was drinking.
However, pressured by his fraternity's leadership, the student issued a formal apology for his part in the incident, sent via email to the VSA students who hosted the event:
"What occurred was not acceptable on my part or the other members of my house, and you did not deserve any form of harassment or degradation. I, and the members of our house who were involved in the exchange, are fundamentally at fault, and we realize that our behavior was unacceptable, unjust, and offensive"
The Vietnamese Students Association says it's not going to pursue the matter further as a campus group, but individual members are looking into pressing charges. They have opened an investigation with Special Services at the Division of Public Safety.
Personally, I think this would be a good opportunity to open some kind of community dialogue. Because if you dare read the comments section of the Daily Pennsylvanian article, you'll see that shit is sorely needed.