Hello UW-Parkside, Tawana Brawley Calling!
You know those breathless media reports about racial threats at UW-Parkside last week? Well, never mind.
In what should not come as a complete surprise to seasoned observers, it turns out that claims of racially motivated death threats and "hit lists" were completely bogus. Rather than being hate crimes directed against minority students, they were in fact a hoax perpetrated by a minority student!
So far, authorities appear to be in no rush to issue charges. In a press release, the Kenosha DA's Office says "it is more appropriate to have as complete a picture of the case as reasonably possible ... ."
That's great - but what's missing from the "picture"? Student makes phony death threats directed at other minority students, student causes media firestorm and hysteria on campus, student gets caught. It seems pretty clear to me!
Some people appear to be trying to minimize this reprehensible activity by arguing that "the incidents were catalysts that brought to the surface racial overtones that already had been there". Bull!
False claims like this minimize the significance of the real racism that exists in the world and need to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law! Just like false claims of rape make it more difficult for true rape victims to come forward, the same is true for potential victims of hate crimes.
It was pretty clear from the outset that authorities were somewhat skeptical of these claims. Unfortunately that skepticism didn't extend to most media outlets in the area - who jumped in with "house on fire" coverage.
I concede that allegations like this are a news story worthy of being reported. Still, couldn't we have engaged in at least a little bit of critical analysis before terrorizing the campus? The same observation holds true for school officials and some members of the student body.
The next claim of a hate crime may, unfortunately, very well turn out to be true. At the same time, we also need to remember that there are individuals out there who are more than willing to exploit the racial divides in this country for their own purposes.
UW-Parkside had it's Tawana Brawley moment last week. Hopefully we all learned something for the future!