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Campus Anti-Semitism, But Not Racism, Focus of Civil Rights Commission Web Site

A new effort by the federal government to crack down on anti-Semitism against Jewish students on U.S. colleges campuses has some questioning why more isn’t being done to also monitor racist activity directed towards African-American, Hispanic and other racial minority college students.

Recently, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights announced a new Web site designed to track and raise awareness about anti-Semitism on college campuses. The move was immediately lauded by Jewish groups like the Anti-Defamation League, who said the effort was long overdue.

“We encourage and welcome any attempt to monitor and to increase reporting of anti-Semitism on the college and university campus,” says Abraham H. Foxman, the ADL’s national director. “This site is an important new tool in the fight against anti-Semitism.”

According to commission staff director Kenneth L. Marcus, the Web site was launched after the release of a November 2005 report that indicated an increase in the number of anti-Semitic incidents on campuses. A new report by the ADL identified 88 anti-Semitic incidents on campuses in 2006. The incidents include swastikas and hate graffiti scribbled on walls where Jewish students congregate.

“We decided that it was important to create a public awareness campaign,” says Marcus. The Web site, located at, includes information explaining what anti-Semitism is and ways to report incidents on campus. The commission also studies and collects information relating to a wide range of discrimination, including for race, color, religion and sexual orientation.

While some scholars say that the commission’s focus on anti-Semitism is important, they wonder why more resources aren’t being directed toward tackling racism.

“It seems that the Civil Rights Commission should be focused on the intractable issue of White supremacy,” says Dr. Raymond A. Winbush, the director of the Institute for Urban Affairs at Morgan State University.

“I think ADL and other groups are very good at separating racism from anti-Semitism,” he says. “The persistence of racism on college and university campuses is decades, if not a century, old.” 

Winbush and others, like Dr. Joe R. Feagin, the Ella C. McFadden Professor of Sociology at Texas A&M University, point to a recent rash of racial incidents, including racially offensive theme parties, as evidence that racism on campus is still alive and well.

Feagin and Dr. Leslie H. Picca, a sociologist at the University of Dayton, recently released a new study that has found widespread racial prejudice among White college students. The data suggests that the pattern of White racism is far more pervasive than college officials at many institutions are willing to admit. The findings also help to explain the disturbing number of racial incidents on college campuses from Clemson to Tufts universities.

In the aftermath of the Virginia Tech shooting, in which student Seung-Hui Cho, killed 32 people and wounded 25 others, Winbush says that Asian Americans have become the new target for attacks.

“We certainly are concerned with all forms of hate bias on campuses,” says Marcus, adding that the Web site may be expanded in the future to include racist incidents as well.

According to the FBI, between 8,000 and 10,000 hate crimes occur on college campuses each year. Heidi Beirich, the deputy director of the Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization that tracks hate crimes, says she believes that the numbers are much higher.

–Jamal Watson


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