Having grown up on the East Coast in Washington D.C., which is a fairly multi-cultural community, I was shocked to hear about the assaults and beatings on about 30 Asian students at South Philadelphia High School. Fights broke out inside and outside of the school between mainly black and Asian students and many of those students had to seek medical attention for minor injuries. Up to ten students, both Asian and black, have already been suspended with intent to be expelled and prosecuted by the law.
There is commentary from the students about how a Vietnamese student was attacked by up to 14 other teens and about a lunch brawl where any Asian was targeted and punched or kicked for being Asian. Some reveal their unwanted bruises and marks from that day while describing their fear and helplessness to the situation. What surprised me most was a story from the victims of the lunch brawl. They had heard that there might be an attack in the cafeteria and when they asked an adult employee about the situation, the adult said it would be okay. Yet, it resulted in several students being attacked. It is the school’s responsibility to keep their students safe especially when there is concern about violence. The students themselves say that they do not feel safe at school even with the security guards there.
From all the stories, it is obvious that this has been escalating for a while: the school has a student population of 70% black, 18% Asian, 6% white, and 5% Latino and represents the lower socio-economic group. The school district believes that they have been trying their best possible to ease the racial tension and hold true to their claim that violence has decreased 50% from last year; from 480 to 371 reports, which to me would still make for an unsafe school.
As to why these attacks even occurred, it is likely due to the lack of cultural understanding, especially with the language barrier that many of the newly Chinese immigrants have trouble with. Also it is important to note, as another student had pointed out, that the Asian students tend to stay in their own groups and not interact with the other racially different students.
Although there had not been much violence at the high school I went to — I have never met a bully in my life — I can say from experience that Asians do tend to stay in their own cliques. I have always felt uncomfortable in those tight-knit groups and sought instead to expand my cultural horizons to not just one group.
The school district does have high hopes to finally make their school a safe learning center and have since been working with the community to alleviate this issue.
ABOUT JASON: I grew up in the suburbs of Washington D.C., but I have recently moved to L.A., for school and not for fame. I am making my way up in medicine not because I am Asian, but because I want to make a difference.