Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Nooses even at my old Alma Mater

I realize the story is over a week old, which in blog years makes it ancient history, but still worthy of noting and offering a little commentary since it hits home:
The discovery of several nooses at a tolerance rally has upset the normally tranquil Cal State Fullerton campus.

The nooses were found attached to a T-shirt display denouncing intolerance. In response, hundreds of students and faculty rallied against hate this week.


Sumanah Mithani, a Cal State Fullerton junior who helped organize an anti-hate rally Wednesday at Fullerton's quad, said she was "extremely shocked" to find such a "hateful symbol" on campus.

"It was a smack in the face that something like this could happen in central Orange County," said Mithani, who is chairwoman of the Assn. for Intercultural Awareness. "Incidents like this are not going to be tolerated anymore, and we're going to speak out. This was an attack not just on African Americans, but all ethnic groups on our campus."

Ernie Bridges, a lecturer in the Afro-Ethnic Studies Department who teaches a course on the history of racism, said the noose incident was disturbing but not surprising.
Hat tip to Vox es Machina. I lived in the area for about a decade (between the mid 1980s to the mid 1990s), and attended CSUF. My wife still has family in the area, so we still have a pretty decent idea about the vibe of the community. North and central Orange County has changed quite a bit in those years, from being a predominantly white and conservative suburban backwater to being a diverse urban community in its own right. That said, there is an undercurrent of racism in the OC, as well as the rest of southern California.

In 1986, for example, Tom Metzger (of White Aryan Resistance and KKK notoriety) was using CSUF campus facilities to broadcast his brand of hatred. The back story:
In the spring of 1986, Titan reporter Dollie Ryan learned that Tom Metzger, a television repairman who had been a member of the Ku Klux Klan and a group called White Aryan Resistance, was taping a public access cable show on campus. The show, "Race and Reason," held white supremacist views. After the Titan broke the story, student protests forced him to take his show elsewhere.
It was a pleasant surprise that a relatively small but very persistent crew of people representing the Coalition Against Apartheid, Young Democrats, etc. could sustain a sufficient level of noise to chase the bastard out. The more the university administration tried to ignore the issue, the louder - and eventually larger - those protests became. It took sizeable posse of human rights student activists paying a visit to the office of then-President Jewel Plummer Cobb to seal the deal. As much as I tended to bag on the Daily Titan back in those days, the newspaper actually did a decent job of covering the controversy and telling our side of the story fairly, and of course I will never forget the lampooning of Metzger's show by the comic strip Terry The Mighty Iguana (the "Wheel of Bigotry" strip was a classic).

I can also recall at various times during the remainder of the 1980s seeing decals with the W.A.R logo posted around the CSUF campus. Usually those didn't last too long. Those incidents did serve as a reminder that all was not quite well in the community and that as our corner of Orange County was becoming more diverse there was a subset of white folks who were filled with fear and loathing.

Since the noose meme has sadly gone sufficiently viral over the last few months, I'm not entirely surprised then to see the CSUF campus affected. The current university administration seems to be much more on the ball in dealing with it than the administration I recall from my early undergrad days, which is again a pleasant surprise. As of the writing of that article, it was unclear who the culprit(s) were. Could be an active neo-Nazi, some frat boys thinking they were being "cute", or some local teens getting their kicks while being racist assholes. Hopefully the folks responsible for the nooses will have to face the ire of some understandably pissed off people.

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