Paul Kei Matsuda

Minority Students?

According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, "Minority students at the University of New Hampshire at Durham are criticizing its decision not to fire a resident assistant for having uttered racial slurs last month during an appearance on the campus's television station, The Union Leader, a newspaper in Manchester, N.H., reported" (Chronicle of Higher Education: Daily News Blog, 06:23, 10/27/2006).

Did The Union Leader say that it was "minority students" who criticized UNH? The answer is yes. Union Leader Correspondent Clynton Namuo reports that "A University of New Hampshire resident assistant who used racial slurs during an appearance on UNH's television station last month has stirred minority students into action after the school allowed him to keep his job" ("Groups protest UNH's decision not to fire RA who made racial slurs," Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2006).

Are these reports accurate? Well, not really. I find the use of the term "minority students" misleading because, in the same report, Namuo quotes Jonathan Rose, an UNH junior, who participated in last Friday's meeting between students and UNH officials. Here is the quote: "An RA is a parent figure or an older sibling, they're supposed to look out for you in the dorms and when someone does something controversial or flat out derogatory, it makes it seem like this is not the sort of person I can go to when it comes to something related to my race or religion." The article identifies Rose as "White" at the end. Clearly, it wasn't just "minority students" who were concerned.

I find it disturbing how the very act of responding to racism gets racialized in a problematic way. Why do people assume that "minority students" are the only ones who are responding to this incident--even when there is evidence to the contrary?

Or am I simply overinterpreting the term "minority"? Perhaps a more pessimistic reading is possible: Those who are concerned about racism constitute a minority at UNH. But that's not been my experience at UNH.

Related Articles:

"Students speak out against hate crime, administration" by Dean LeMire

"Time for students to come together" by Alexander Plummer, Editor-in-Chief, The New Hampshire

"UNH isn't that homogenous" by Siobhan Senier



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Last update: January 6, 2008