District officials told NBC Philadelphia they do not believe the attacks were racially motivated.
— when considering the reasons why 26 Asian and primarily immigrant students were attacked throughout a single day.
Can you imagine denying racism if this were a situation in which 26 White students were attacked throughout a single day and beaten up by a group of students “looking for white people” to attack.
Chao Fei Zheng, 19, one of the victims, said that he was among eight Chinese students who were beaten in the cafeteria.
“A lot” of students, both male and female, began hitting them, Zheng said, speaking in Chinese.
Zheng, whose left eye was bruised from being punched, said he did not know who hit him, as he was covering his face with his hands. He said he did not know why he was hit.
Jia Rong Lin, 16, another student, chimed in, contending that the African-American students were “looking for Asian people” to attack. He said he had been hit in the back of the head.
Racism, according to school district officials, is in the eye of the beholder.
As is the school climate according to this second little sound bite from the district:
“Despite what happened this week, that positive learning environment prevails.”
—according to James Golden, the school district’s chief safety executive.
It is understandable that district officials are struggling to control the image of school district following these events. But denying the dangerous and hateful reality of the very students they serve is an unconscionable continuation of the racist marginalization these students are experiencing.
And I am left wondering, just who does the district use as the gauge when considering the ‘learning environment’? Because for me, I think going to school in a place where, “dozens of Asian students were attacked and beaten in the hallways of South Philadelphia High School by a gang of other students Thursday,” would significantly impact my learning. Being terrified does have that effect on me. And no, I am not an Asian immigrant – so maybe my terror would be more real to the district – or would it be less real? I suppose there is a way to explain away the ‘feelings’ of whomever does not find this school to have a positive learning environment.
And of course when the don’t blame me flags start flying can the it was only a few bad apples games not be far behind. You can bet the district is already attempting to ferret out a few token trouble makers to sweep this mess under the carpet. Shoot they already suspended 10 black and Asian students for fighting during this barrage of attacks on Asian students. Because remember race was not a factor, the learning environment had nothing to do with this, and a few bad apples were just fighting.
I am not going much further down this rabbit hole this morning. Angry Asian Man has posted all of the relevant district contacts. And Helen Gym at Young Philly Politics has posted more about the Asian communities struggle for safety at South Philly. She has also taken issue with individualistic zero tolerance, anti-bullying and expulsion hearing solutions.
When a district tries to get in front of a situation like this by claiming that the learning environment is positive and that there was no racism or biased motivation for these crimes I can be pretty sure there is going to be a whole lot more of the same going on in that community. Fortunately for the students, there is a strong and growing community movement working to represent these victims.