I should have been happy to hear the announcement from a Madison police officer that the assault on two Asian UW-Madison students was not a hate crime.
Instead, I was angered and shocked. I was also very scared.
On Aug. 31, Daniel Cheung and Wai Kit Cheung, unrelated seniors at UW-Madison, suffered an unprovoked attack by two men. Among the blows thrown by the assailants was the word 'nigger.'
It is obvious that the attack was racially motivated. Yet in Thursday's Daily Cardinal, Officer Larry Kamholz said that the 'comments made to the individual were not comments made to his race ('Police: Gilman St. incident not hate crime,' Sep. 6, 2001),' which, in effect, meant that 'it doesn't look like it's going to be a hate crime anymore.'
A simple statement, but it changes everything. It is clear that the beating was motivated by racial hatred. After all, a racial slur, perhaps the most prevalent and notorious, was used. Just because the perpetrators were too inept to use their racial slurs more precisely does not dilute the hatred directed at the two students.
Furthermore, even if the n-word had not been used, the fact remains that two Asian men were walking down the street and were attacked by two white men who then fled. Daniel Cheung and Wa Kit Cheung, who goes by Mike, said they had been speaking loudly in Chinese and laughing up until the attack. Both believe it was racially motivated.
However, it is not the shallowness and ignorance of the officer's comment that bothers me. It is not the police who decide whether the assailants, when caught, will be charged with a hate crime'that is up to the district attorney. The real injustice here is the Madison community's failure to respond immediately to the hate crime.
According to Daniel Cheung and Mike Cheung, the only people who contacted them about the incident (besides myself) were the Capital Times, NBC Channel 15 and UW-Madison's Assistant Dean Suzanne Jones. Jones sent an e-mail detailing the available counseling services on campus.
Of course, many say they didn't know about the incident. On campus, only The Daily Cardinal reported the story. Although the Cardinal could have improved its reporting'it never interviewed Daniel Cheung or Mike Cheung'the paper is still way ahead of The Badger Herald, which never covered the attack at all. For some mystifying reason, the physical assault of two UW-Madison students was not 'newsworthy' enough for the Herald to cover, and as an unfortunate consequence, its readers were left in the dark.
In addition to the media, another segment of the community was disappointingly indifferent'the students of color. Again, a disturbingly large number were oblivious to what had happened. But judging from the inaction after talking to a few students of color about the attack, you'd think I had just addressed The Badger Herald staff, and not potential allies.
To be fair, the week following the attack was a busy one for us. Many students of color were working on a week-long series of multicultural events for new students. We also had to shoulder the same responsibilities all student service organizations face at the beginning of the year'member recruitment, end-of-the year reports, kick-off meetings and setting the year's goals.
Still, what happened to Daniel Cheung and Mike Cheung deserved more attention than it was given. A hate crime committed only a few blocks from campus has serious implications for campus climate. A hate crime committed against Asians has grave effects on all students of color. If the attack had been against a black or Latino student, we would not only have all heard about it, but would have organized around it the day after it happened.
I was also saddened by the administration's silence in the wake of the crisis. No school official has publicly addressed the safety of UW-Madison students of color, even though a hate crime has just been committed against two Asian students. Daniel Cheung and Mike Cheung were attacked on the 400 block of West Gilman'less than a five-minute walking distance from where I live. Although Jones assured me yesterday that the administration is taking action, it has still been more than a week since the incident.
Students of color need to recognize that anti-Asian attacks affect their own communities as well. The administration must react more quickly in order to improve campus climate and ensure UW-Madison students are safe. There should be forums so that the problem of hate crimes can be addressed by all students, faculty and staff. If the community remains unaware of the hate crime because of a lack of administrative action, or if media coverage and discussion does not begin soon, the issue will be forgotten and lost. But Daniel and Mike will always remember what happened to them that night.