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Lee: Racism separates at the UI

BY ASHLEY LEE | SEPTEMBER 20, 2013 5:00 AM

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It’s human nature to want to be accepted into a community, but for international students, the University of Iowa can be a downright hostile environment.

Some students choose to create a division between international and American students through ridicule and, occasionally, aggression. The anti-Asian sentiment at the UI is uncomfortable and unsettling.

This behavior is most noticeable on Twitter. Often, non-Asians will turn to Twitter to rant or joke about international students and their behavior, only to have their message retweeted to a broader audience by a popular novelty account.

“It wouldn’t be possible for an Asian to calculate how quickly an Asian pissed me off today,” one such tweet read.

“Not only do I have to go to an 8 a.m. math class, I also have to try to figure out what the h--- my Asian professor is saying,” read another.

The ethnically insensitive tweets are supposedly harmless, but in actuality, they are detrimental to race relations in our society.

It doesn’t matter if the racially insensitive tweets are intentional or not. The point is that UI students have a messed-up idea of what is funny and acceptable. Many consider these tweets a form of entertainment and like-mindedness as other students retweet and favorite the messages.

Some of the racially insensitive tweets read like simple jokes.

“There are 6 too many Asians in this car,” one said. And then: “This lecture is so bad even the Asian kids left.”

To see my peers blatantly support and portray Asians as outsiders of an American culture is disheartening. Clothing is a common subject of ridicule.

“Why the f--- don’t the Asians wear pants they just wear a big shirt?” one user complained.

“Saw an Asian wearing zebra print swim trunks, yellow crocs, and a pink bro-tank #why.”

America takes pride in being a multicultural nation. The University of Iowa takes pride in being an institution that fosters diversity. Unfortunately, this is only a deflector to a larger truth, that is, anyone who is not white is considered “other.”

“What the f--- is with the Asians and the f------ bells on their bags? This isn’t elementary school, take that s--- off.”

The problem of racism among college students isn’t unique to Iowa, of course. Iowa’s tweets are similar to a social media post a Florida State University student made about black students at her school only weeks ago.

The young woman a posted a message that included the hashtag “#monkeyseverywhere” with laughing smiley faces. There was outcry as students perceived her words to be racist and rooted in intolerance.

But here, very few people have shown discontent with tweets making fun of Asians.

One may argue what a user says on social media carries no meaning in the real world. But the reality is that social media is an extension of our everyday lives and a projection of our thoughts.

Therefore, it is quite alarming to know that on the surface, some Iowa students appear to be accepting of racial differences, yet online, they depict Asians as strange and in violation of “the American way.”

Racially insensitive behavior, no matter the degree or platform used to exercise it, instills a stark cultural divide in the student population. Not only does this deny UI of any progress in relation to race and cultural competence, but it also upholds white supremacy — deeming anyone who is not white or a subscriber to Western culture substandard and questionable.

We need to recognize how stereotypes still function in our daily lives and what we must do to correct them. Relying on preconceived notions of a particular group will only prolong racist beliefs to advance from one student population to the next.


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