Gymnasium, University of Virginia, VA. (Photo credit: Boston Public Library)
“Can you please tell me if this had anything to do with the incident on Saturday night” said Dean Laushway sitting next to me on the ER bed I was in. “No!” I said, although I was lying but I had no clue I was lying. I didn’t think that the incident that took place could have driven me to attempt suicide. Once I was released from the hospital, Dean Laushway and Dean Groves both wanted to see me in their offices. “Tell me exactly what happen” dean laushway said, “Julia Roa has told us everything you have told her, but please can you repeat it?” Julia Roa is the Program Coordinator for Multicultural Student Services at UVa and I had previously gone to her to ask what I could do. She suggested I file a report with ODOS and see what happens. In dean Laushwa’s office, I was speechless, being just released from the psychiatric ward at the UVa hospital and have undergone a suicide attempt, I was out of words but I faked a smile and told him what happened. “I was on the dance floor at trinity dancing with a female friend when a brown-skinned man came over and attempted to pull off my headscarf.” “What did you then do?” he asked, “I just stood there. I was frozen; neither my friend or I knew what to do. I then looked around to try and find him and saw him in a group of 5-6 white men, laughing and staring at us.” “ I’m sorry this had to happen to you, but do you know who might have done this?” he asked. Ofcourse I didn’t! If I knew who he was it would be him here filing charges against me not me in here trying to make sense of it all.
Dean laushway suggested I fill a report but he informed me that there was little they can do about it since it happened off school grounds, after dark, in a bar. I was mortified. How can someone commit a hate crime and just get away with it? This wasn’t fair. How can a university built on trust and honor fail me and protect someone who is racist?!
That was not the first time I have encountered racism at The University of Virginia. I have dealt with my share of stares and “ahh’s” for being a veiled Palestinian Muslim female. But there was once where I felt like less than a human because of my religion. It was on a January night** and I was out with a few of my international friends. They wanted to go to a frat party at SERP so I went along. I avoided going to frat parties all of my first semester of college but here I was, going to a fraternity party willingly. At the door one of the brothers stopped us and asked for ID’s. My friends handed over their school ID’s and his response? Only AMERICAN ID’s are accepted here!! I was stunned and no one even noticed that. My friends began to beg to get in and another brother was like “let it go and let them in!” and no I’m not finished. I was last in line and the same brother who let my friends in was standing in front of me and said “where do you think you are going?” Instead of slapping him across the face like I should have, I naively answered “inside with my friends.” Him and his frat Bros began to laugh and eventually let me in. 2 minutes in that hellhole and I wanted out.
See this is perfect example of UVa culture. If you look different, you can’t come. If you are different, you can’t sit with us, mean girls style. However, hate crimes are not confined to a certain race, oh no, this past weekend while at an international party down town, a girl and her boyfriend attempted to pull my headscarf off while I was walking. They both looked international and I’m almost certain they were internationals. As soon as they did this, I pushed the girl with my elbow. If they thought it was their right to physically touch me, then I sure as hell had the right to fight back. Later during the weekend I saw them at trinity, where they both looked at me and smiled, and the guy pointed and winked. What the hell, I know. Here is another story for you, while at trinity I had a French exchange student come up to me and bluntly ask why I was smoking with “that thing” on my head. Now see, I lived in the same residential college as this kid, where I served on its executive council. He knew exactly who I was and how liberal I am and he still felt the need to ask. Later that semester he apologized and blamed it on being drunk. Another story? In front of No3, as my friends and I were walking out, a townie stops me to ask what I was doing out so late without a male gardian. Um excuse me?! Why did he think it was his right to ask me that? Is it because I am a Muslim female? Yeah maybe that is why.
Point is, I can go on for days with stories about how I am discriminated against because I’m different. The recent events at the university, with the spray painting on beta bridge is proof that UVa isn’t this accepting place that we all make it to be. Even if people publicly are not racist, it doesn’t mean that they accept people who aren’t white middle class American. Best proof? Just go to Collegiate ACB and read the threads on Middle Easterners, Asians, Indians, and etc. People hide their racism behind the keys of a message board and the option of being anonymous. It is pretty pathetic if you ask me. And please don’t get me started on the rape victim blaming culture UVa has or the homophobia that exists so clearly on grounds.
See, UVa is my home away from home and I love it more than anything. The people I have met changed my life. So does this mean I should just ignore all these things that have happened and take the good with the bad? Or should I speak up and share my stories so others know they aren’t alone? I think ill go with option two!
** Update: a few months back i was contacted by someone in SERP stating the timing of the events didn’t make sense and they wanted me to remove the blog post. When i looked back to the pictures of the night, i saw that it was actually during March not January, so I must clarify that. I told them they only way i was going to remove it was if i got an official apology from SERP and not an apology by one of their new members. They also comforted me that they are a “diverse” house with many nationalities and religions. However, this doesnt change the events that took place my first year of college at their house.