Three freshmen at San Jose State University were suspended and charged with hate crimes on Wednesday for tormenting their African-American roommate. The only reason that Joseph Bomgardner, 19, Logan Beaschler, 18, and Colin Warren, 18, haven't been arrested is because campus police have given them the opportunity to turn themselves in.
Their roommate, whose identity remains a secret, said the trio kicked the school year off on a high note by calling the then-17-year-old "Three-fifths," a reference to the ratio assigned to slaves during the 18th and 19th centuries for representation. He asked them to stop, so they dropped the insult in favor of "Fraction." Other antics include placing a Confederate flag in their dorm room, writing "nigger" on their dry-erase board and putting a bike lock around his neck, claiming they lost the key.
The student's father eventually reported these activities to housing authorities after spotting the flag and white board during a visit. The matter was turned over to campus police. After his father talked to the roommates, the student says he received a sarcastic apology note which made references to "the Beloved Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr."
They admitted to teasing the student, claiming their actions were "jokes" and "pranks," not flat-out racist behavior. If convicted, they could all face up to a year in prison.
The victim told the Mercury News that he declined to report the treatment to campus police himself because he hoped it would stop. "I'm still in shock," he said. "I tried not to dwell on this. But my family is upset and I'm upset."
Everyone should be upset. Part of the reason these little pricks think this type of behavior is acceptable is because nobody's checked them before. Soon enough, they'll be blaming their actions on the victim, alleging that they didn't know anything they did was wrong because he didn't speak up. Expulsion and an open-hand slap from the long arm of the law won't suddenly make them decent human beings, but it should knock some much-needed sense into them.