Modern American society values the rights of and respects controversial minority groups more so than it has in previous times. Last week, despite the progressive effort toward tolerance, CSUN took a giant step backwards by instilling an unjust fear of Middle Easterners in our students.
The CSUN community was bombarded last Tuesday by a multitude of phone calls, text messages, and emails about a suspected gunman on campus, who was identified as of potential Middle Eastern decent – a detail The Daily Sundial choose to omit in their version of the story.
According to news editor Samantha Tata, the student publication felt the description of his appearance and outfit was sufficient and his supposed race an unnecessary detail.
CSUN’s emergency notification system provided a detailed description of the suspect, later identified as 22-year-old philosophy major Gahren Moradian.
“A white male 5’8 wearing a white tee-shirt that says, ‘human rights violation,’ of potential Middle Eastern decent with short spiky hair, and short jeans,” the notification read.
Moradian’s supposed race was conveniently sandwiched between the description of his hair and clothing. No matter how intentional or unintentional the inclusion of his race may have been, it created an exaggerated fear on campus by attaching a stigmatized stereotype to the suspect.
American society as a whole is in limbo over whether to accept Middle Easterners as one of several tolerated minority groups, or to reject them entirely out of fear and ignorance of their beliefs, religion and culture.
“People widely perceive that law enforcement routinely and unfairly targets minority citizens,” according to a National poll conducted by the American Academy of Political and Social Science
Such was the case Sept. 27. CSUN jumped to conclusions by identifying Moradian as potentially Middle Eastern without realizing its consequence – racial fear on campus.
The suspect’s dark hair and dark eyes could easily be attributes of a Latino, or someone of mixed race. By prematurely calling him Middle Eastern, CSUN contributed to the ongoing perception that Middle Easterners are dangerous and irrational.
“Anti-Islamic incidents were the second least reported hate crimes prior to 9/11, but following 9/11, they became the second highest reported among religion-bias incidents,” according to the Muslim Public Affairs Council’s (MPAC) website. “From pre-9/11 to post-9/11, a growth of 1600 percent took place.”
CSUN, however, did not appear overly concerned by the alleged armed student who was heard muttering profanities and photographed facing a pillar outside the Oviatt Library.
Despite the large amount of alerts sent to students, classes were not officially canceled – and minus the library – the university remained open.
Referring to Moradian as Middle Eastern, an irrelevant detail, could discourage cultural sensitivity and awareness. Ignorance is a root cause for hate and hate crimes, and as students we should strive to appreciate all cultures, not shy away from them and reject their members out of fear of difference.
MPAC’s site gives several tips to help stop hate crimes and recommends educating family and friends about the underlying reason for hate crimes and how to prevent them.
The time has come to stand up against bigotry and put an end to the false perception that Middle Easterners are dangerous, irrational and pose a threat.
There are extremists in every race and religion under the sun, but the vast majority of people are good and deserve respect and equal treatment from their peers.