Scapegoated for “Racist” Picture that Wasn’t Racist: Update
- A Marquette University student was recently expelled after coming forward to explain the context of a photo that had sparked fears of racism on campus.
- Alex Ruiz said he took responsibility for accidentally sharing the photo with a classmate in hopes of mollifying the outrage on campus by explaining that there was no racist intent.
- Instead, Marquette subjected him to a disciplinary hearing that led to his expulsion for “discriminatory harassment,” a verdict that was upheld on appeal.
One night, according to a campus police “Incident Report” obtained by Campus Reform, Alex and friends were playing a “game” in which they would randomly scroll through their phones while the “Apple Airdrop” function was on, which allows photos to be sent to all nearby devices without specifying a recipient, resulting in the photo being unintentionally shared with a classmate.Sending photos to random people who happen to be connected to the same Wi-Fi hotspot is pretty dumb. But undergraduates do dumb things. Intentions matter. There was no intention to send the photo to a black female student, and the photo was not racist — unless you really, badly want it to be racist.
According to the university, “sending [photos] to another person is harassment.” Ruiz and his father both told Campus Reform that they are deeply “apologetic” about what occurred, but feel that the university was not fair in its handling of the matter.
Ruiz’s father asserted that he had made “multiple attempts” to contact university officials, even calling President Michael Lovell, but said Lovell ignored “multiple requests” to speak to the family even after they flew from Colorado to Marquette to meet with school administrators.Note that Ruiz would be a “person of color” and entitled to special treatment in other circumstances. But when it’s convenient for Marquette officials, he’s just another privileged white male.
Ruiz’s family originally immigrated to the United States three years ago from Mexico, and continues to struggle with English fluency. The father claims that the university summarily “dismissed” his outreach, and was looking to “out a student” to calm the outrage on campus.
Another PhotoIn addition to the widely circulated photo of four guys pretending to be gangsta rappers, there was another photo of “an edited image of a black male’s face on a gorilla.” That certainly sounds racist. But in fact, it’s probably largely irrelevant.
In the first place, nobody seems to have the image. While the gangsta rapper image is all over Twitter, and posted with news articles on the incident, we have been unable to find the other one. It appears that all the fuss has been over the benign image, and not this second one.
Secondly, Ruiz explained this image to the campus cops:
RUIZ stated that the photos were not racially motivated other than some friends taking random pictures for fun. RUIZ stated the second photo of a gorilla with a M/B, face attached to the body of the gorilla, is a cropped photo of his high school. RUIZ identified the M/B as HS Friend. RUIZ stated the circumstances surrounding this photo was just more friends having fun and sending out funny pictures among each other via group massaging.Given that Ruiz was a teenager, and migrated to the U.S. from Mexico only three years ago, it’s unlikely he would know how toxic the meme of associating black people with simians has been.
The campus cops, who had both photos and had talked to Ruiz, explained:
I contacted Milwaukee County District Attorney Kelly HEDGE and informed her of the incident and due to the lack of intent by RUIZ no criminal charges for harassment would be issued.
I then spoke with [the complainant] at MUPD and informed her that the investigation was wrapping up and informed that the individual that sent the photos had no intent to harass her and was not targeting her.
What Did He do Wrong?Marquette outlined his supposed crime in a letter expelling him. It says the images he sent were “discriminatory and racist,” but doesn’t explain how.
Why not? Because any such explanation (especially when addressed to the image everybody saw) would be unconvincing, and the university is committed to the view that anything that anybody calls “racist” must actually be. Doing otherwise would be to admit that some students have a racial chip on their shoulder, and may claim racism falsely.
The letter then goes on to outline the uproar on campus that resulted when black students widely distributed the rapper image.
The clear implication is that Ruiz was punished for the reaction of black students, rather than for what he actually did.
This constitutes a kind of “heckler’s veto” where people can shut up expression merely by taking offense. Admittedly, this expression was pretty trivial, but campus leftists have used the heckler’s veto to shut up important discussions of real issues.
Perhaps some punishment was merited, simply because of the sheer recklessness of sending random photos to random people. But again, intention matters, and Ruiz had no evil intention.
Marquette StonewallsLovell’s bull-headed refusal to talk to the Ruiz family was of a piece with his disastrous attempt to fire this blogger, which was slapped down by the Wisconsin Supreme Court last Friday.
We have always wondered about Lovell. Is he simply a bureaucrat pandering to the forces of political correctness on campus, such as the leftist faculty who wanted us fired? Or is he a rigid fanatic, who fully believes in his own righteousness?
This case has us leaning toward “fanatic.”
Updated 7/13 to discuss the “second photo.”