In November of 2013, there was an event that took place at San Jose State University. Donald Williams Jr, an African American, was a 17 year old freshman at the university when he was brutally bullied by four white students.The four white students bullied Donald multiple times by abusing him, including wrestling him to the ground, fastening a bike lock around his neck, calling him racially derogatory names, locking him in his room and displaying a Confederate flag in their suite. Donald’s parents came down for the weekend and saw the confederate flag hanging on a bulletin board and immediately filed a report to the university. Once the university got notice about this event, they took immediate action and moved the students into a different living situation starting the investigation. San Jose State made the decision to expel three of the students and one student was put on suspension because he was seen more as a bystander. The state of California was also involved and decided that the three expelled students cannot enroll in any California State University college in the future.
Once the University started investigating this event it was only moments later when it became very popular to outside viewers on social media. Because of the racist actions done to the student and the pending consequences for the four students participating everyone took their stance on this event. This event sparked community outrage within San Jose State University as well as on the internet through news articles, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook. Though social media, many people were able to state what they believed should be done to the students, make comments and even make more racist comments about this whole situation. Based on the social media articles, there is colorblindness demonstrated by online users about the event taken place at San Jose State University.
The events that happened at San Jose State caused many comments and tweets to represent color blindness. One of the comments posted on the San Jose article by Noe Bodee stated that “This is not a ‘hate crime’…barely even a crime… they shouldn’t have put their hands on him, but nothing else they did is technically illegal. This is still a free country…” Bodee demonstrates colorblindness in her post in terms of liberalism and minimization of racism.
Stated by Bonilla-Silva “Colorblindness is how whites have been developing explanations and justifications for racial inequality”. Most whites have been insisting that they are not “racist” and that they don’t see any color, just people. The comment posted represents liberalism, which refers to notions like individualism, universalism, and meritocracy that support equal opportunity (Bonilla-Silva). Bodee’s comment signifies individualism and how everyone has an equal opportunity.
Also, Noe Bodee’s comment about how this is not a ‘hate crime’ is based on minimization of racism. This is the idea by Bonilla-Silva that racism doesn’t affect minorities’ lives and doesn’t exist in our society today. Bodee is stating that the actions by the four students aren’t illegal and the students should not be punished. Bodee is denying the fact that this crime has anything to do with racism.
The comment stated “You can’t legislate morality people, especially if we are to call this a free country…” which represents a liberalism notion that is used as an explanation for racism and colorblindness. This user is ignoring the fact that these bullying actions are based on racism and hate; which is an example of minimization of racism. Bodee is overlooking this and focusing on how there is free speech and the four students aren’t technically committing a crime because it isn’t related to racism at all.
Another comment an online user stated was by Karonck. She demonstrated abstract liberalism. Abstract liberalism uses ideas like “equal opportunity” and “choice” to explain racial matters so that whites can appear “reasonable” and even more “moral” while opposing almost all practical approaches to deal with the de facto racial inequality. Abstract Liberalism allows whites to think that blacks do not have the same power as everyone.
The ABC news article on the San Jose had a comment by Karonck saying, “Really!!!!!! You are reporting this but NOT reporting the KNOCKOUT GAME OR POLAR BEAR HUNTING AS IT IS REFERRED TO!” For everyone, the polar bear hunting was an event in 2013 that took place in Chicago, Hoboken and Lansing, Michigan. There was a bunch of African American boys that would go around and punch white Jewish people in the face. The point of the game was to “knockout” the opponent. The person who wrote this comment was mad about the African American’s and white’s “equal opportunity”. In this case, there was not an equal opportunity. This person was mad because when three white kids discriminated a black kid it got reported on ABC news, but when a bunch of black people knocked out white people, it wasn’t reported like the San Jose bullying story. Karonkc was demonstrating a term used in racism called white supremacy. White supremacy describes how human race history was formed into a social structure (a racial social system) that awarded whites over non-whites. Karonck believes that the whites should be “awarded” for the black’s actions.
Not only was there demonstrations on articles themselves, but the black student union started a #BlackThursday. This was a public demonstration that was all over twitter, facebook and vine. The events at San Jose State University (SJSU) appear to display acts of naturalization, Bonilla-Silva describes naturalization, a form of colorblindness, as a group of like individuals based on biological similarities bonding due to that biological connection. After hearing the news of the racist treatment of a San Jose State University, students began forming a demonstration in support. The Black Student Union at SJSU began using twitter and facebook to spread news of “#BlackThursday” which was to be a demonstration in the public area of the school. Students posted Vines of the event as well. In it you hear cries of “No peace, No Justice” from the supporters. From what I observed, the black community at SJSU banded together in support of the student who was treated poorly. I believe that the use of the hashtag #BlackThursday displays naturalization towards the black community because it’s focused on blacks specifically. It wasn’t about equal treatment for all students at SJSU at the time. I see the hashtag and its results as being a demonstration of naturalization of the black community at SJSU, where they all grouped together based on poor treatment of someone who was biologically similar to them.
What is interesting about this school is that it prides itself on being one of the most diverse public universities in the country. It’s strange that students who chose to attend this school would act the way they did towards a fellow member of the student body. From what I understand, these boys lived in an eight person suite. There are very few details about the boys who committed the hate crimes. Perhaps these three individuals came from similar backgrounds and grew up in a home where it was taught that people who are “different from us” are inferior. If that is the case, then we see another example of naturalization, where a group of people who are similar both in skin color and background are drawn to each other due to these similarities. Of course, this is only a speculation.
The three students could have been demonstrating naturalization due to how they were brought up as they were younger or even cultural racism. Cultural racism is defined by the idea of using culturally based justifications for discriminations to explain racial inequalities. From the event that took place at San Jose State University, it fueled many comments regarding the news article. Many people just wanted to show their interest and that they don’t agree with what had happened, and others made comments related to race and that only a specific race would commit such a crime. One of the comments posted on the news article made justifications to discriminate African Americans and whites. The commenter basically was saying that violent crimes are committed by only African Americans because they are usually less educated, poor and don’t feel that they don’t hold a stake in society. The commenter also pointed out that whites do commit crimes but not relating them to violent crimes but to extortion, embezzlement and stock fraud. With the commenter saying that only African Americans commit violent crimes because they are less educated, poor and don’t feel they hold a stake in society is making a justification to why they do this whether it be true or not. People can’t make justifications or generalize an entire race because of an event. To this day, some people think racism is not as prevalent as it used to be but with comments on the internet like this only prove that its not getting any better. Society is now making justification as to why a certain race is committing these crimes when other races can be doing the exact same crime. This concept is related to minimization of racism.
Minimization of racism refers to the idea that many whites believe that race and racism no longer affect minorities’ lives today. Minimization of racism allows whites to disregard racial motivations for various actions. (Bonilla Silva, pg. 29) As stated in San Jose Mercury News, an anonymous user commented on this article and stated, “I can’t understand why it is a sign of hatred to hang a Confederate flag on your wall, but it is OK to hang a flag of Che Guervera. I don’t think that calling a roommate in your dorm ‘fraction or 3/5s’ is a hate crime either.” There was a follow up post on this comment from user Maive M. Jackson that stated, “I bet hanging and lynching sound like real fun for you too huh. Kinda like going to the movies.” It is evident that the anonymous guest was most likely white and they did not believe that the event that had occurred at San Jose State University had to do with racism. People do not all agree with what the Confederate flag signifies. Whites can claim that it is only meaning is “pride,” but the war was primarily about slave labor. To African Americans, and some Whites it does represent “slavery.” She is not being sensitive to what the Confederate flag represents to everyone. She also may not have known the history of the three-fifths compromise. This was a debate over how, and if slaves would be counted when determining a state’s total population for constitutional purposes. The three-fifths compromise also represents “slavery” and discrimination to African Americans and Whites as well. These comments go along with the idea of “colorblindess.” This is the idea that whites claim to not be “racist” and explain that they do not see any color, they just see people. It is obvious that discrimination is still an everyday occurrence, but it is not longer the central factor determining minorities lives.
Despite its reputation as an equality driven diverse public university, it appears that San Jose State University still has a few bad apples within the bunch. The social media outcry over the treatment of Donald Williams Jr. shows that colorblindness still exists within our society. On many social media platforms it is demonstrated through the four ideas outlined by Bonilla-Silva: Abstract Liberalism, Cultural Racism, Naturalization, and Minimization of Racism. Although many students supported Williams, there are still people that focus on the idea that it is 2014 and minorities should stop claiming every act against them is a hate crime. Through our research, we have uncovered that these are the people that are perpetuating problems in regards to racism. It is a new era and people have the ability to communicate their opinions on things like this immediately, and the social media platforms are becoming a highway for spreading the tasteless opinions. The following images provided show that on the campus of SJSU pride for the black community stands strong. Unfortunately, the web is still a medium for spreading colorblind ideas which allows racism to continue to exist within society.