Injustice Anywhere Is Threat Everywhere

by Jennifer J. Chon | 1/31/96 6:00am

One of the most memorable experiences that I've had since I started my Dartmouth career in September was fairly recent. It wasn't the bonfire, or the football games; it was rather a personal realization (the proverbial lightbulb above my head, if you will) that overwhelmed me as I sat in Spaulding Auditorium on the night of Dr. Martin Luther King's birthday.

John Barros '96 spoke of the relevance of Dr. King's teachings to the Dartmouth community.

The words of Dr. King were "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere," and the pervasive attitude at Dartmouth is one of social apathy. Running around the bonfire 99 times is considered a spiritual experience, but a hate crime committed against a woman because she is a "faggot" elicits a meek titter (if even that). Priorities, anyone?

This passivity is what enrages me more than anything. It is not a matter of being "politically active;" it's a matter of being a human being and reacting accordingly to behavior that falls short of being humane.

As I listened to Barros' words, watching clips of the throng of people approach the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to hear Dr. King speak, I thought of how amazing it would have been to be a face among those devoted to such a cause.

And then I remembered that I was at Dartmouth.

What a sad thing to realize that people look out for themselves and only for themselves; that unless something directly affects them, they are privy to turn their heads.

The recent racist attack directed at two Asian Americans living in the Choates is a demoralizing incident among what seems like many others.

At the Film Society's showing of "Kids," in September, a scene in which a young girl gets raped provoked hysterical laughter from a portion of the audience. Obviously the intent of the movie had escaped them; the mere sight of (ooh!) breasts elicited snickering throughout the movie. Shock value? More like childish titillation. I left the theater feeling incredibly unsafe, as a woman.

Later in the term, a woman in Lord Hall was attacked because of her sexual preference. God forbid some of us show any modicum of respect for those "different." This is not a matter of being "conservative" or "liberal." This is a matter of self control -- of respecting a human being enough not to interfere with her right to life, liberty, or her pursuit of happiness. Human rights? What's that?

Again, I felt incredibly unsafe.

Ironically enough, my fears were affirmed months later. The words of Dr. King echo in my mind; "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

I assumed, apparently incorrectly, that a student in college (a prestigious one at that) would have gotten over the kindergarten-mentality of, "I don't like you because you're different, and therefore I am going to throw sand in your face." College is supposed to be a symbol of a certain degree of maturity, and maturity is a basic understanding of and respect for inherent differences. The key word here is respect.

Thus I take particular issue with Dean Pelton's suggestion that the vandal was exercising his right to free speech via ethnic slurs. The Dartmouth reported, "Although Dean of the College Lee Pelton would not comment on whether the student will receive discipline from the College, he said free speech is always protected."

I am paying a whopping $30,000 (count 'em, four zeros) a year to attend this "institute of academia" under the assumption that each and every one of my peers will respect me enough not to resort to racial epithets to exercise his or her "freedom of speech." The words "chink" and "bastard" are not complete sentences. They express no intelligent or coherent opinion, and quite frankly, they are pathetic attempts at release of aggression.

If the student who committed this deed would like to say to me directly, instead of shrinking under his obvious cowardice, "You are Asian; therefore I hate you," I will, as angered as I would be, respect his "freedom" of expression. If he wants to insult both his integrity and mine by writing unintelligible, disgusting words anonymously, then he deserves no such respect from me.

I understand not everyone comes to Dartmouth with the same diverse background as I, yet I do not think I am unreasonable in requesting that other students show this respect to me, as I would to them, by expressing themselves with maturity. And I do not think I am asking too much in urging the entire Dartmouth community, as an intellectual entity and as members of the upper echelons of society, to react to this and other hate crimes by treating them as direct affronts to the human race.

Advertise your student group in The Dartmouth for free!