Race and Ethnic Conflict: Contending Views on Prejudice, Discrimination, and Ethnoviolence

By Fred L. Pincus; Howard J. Ehrlich | Go to book overview
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Campus Ethnoviolence


The front page headline of the weekly Chronicle of Higher Education read: "New Outbreak of Cross-Burnings and Racial Slurs Worries Colleges." The dateline was January 12, 1981. The story reported ethnoviolent incidents at Harvard, Purdue, Williams, Wesleyan, Cornell, Iowa State, Wisconsin, and Massachusetts. You could easily mistake this story--in terms of the incidents described and the rhetoric of the college administrators quoted--for a story that had been written today.

The major news media were not ready to put campus ethnoviolence on their agenda, and the story did not break in the major news media until the last half of the 1985-1986 academic year. Three dramatic incidents received slight national coverage: the destruction of anti-apartheid shanties at Dartmouth, an attempt by white University of Texas students (wearing Ronald Reagan masks) to throw a black student out of a dormitory window, and a cross-burning in the yard of a black sorority house at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. But it was not until the start of the following school year, 1986-1987, that an incident at the Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina, became the starting point for the news media's expanded coverage of campus ethnoviolence. The incident was a perfect scenario for a media morality play: a cross-burning and harassment of a black student at a southern military school with residues of Civil War regalia, a history of intergroup conflict, and a student victim who dropped out presumably because of his harassment.

Today, on college campuses across the United States--regardless of size, prestige, type of school, or region of the country--intergroup hostilities are being played out in traditional as well as newer patterns. Racist posters, signs, and fliers, spray-painted graffiti, and even T-shirts bearing group slurs are common. Minority students, as well as staff and faculty, have received intimidating and threatening mail, e-mail, and telephone calls. Physical assaults and property damage, although less common, have done serious harm.

This report addresses the multifaceted dimensions of ethnoviolence on campus. Reviewing systematic studies that have been done on thirty-two campuses since the National Institute Against Prejudice and Violence (now The Prejudice Institute) initiated this research in 1986, I will cover the following: the extent of ethnoviolent behaviors on campuses and the differences by ethnicity, race, religion, gender, and sexual orientation; the extent of revictimization, that is, how


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Race and Ethnic Conflict: Contending Views on Prejudice, Discrimination, and Ethnoviolence
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