Just six months after University of Southern California’s student body president — who is Asian American — was victimized by a racial epithet, another incident of anti-Asian racism has rocked the campus. Yesterday, USC sophomore Ivan Tsang posted to his Facebook describing an ugly incident of racism he endured early Sunday morning. Tsang writes that while he was sitting by the outdoor fireplace of Cardinal Gardens — an on-campus townhouse-style housing complex — someone yelled a racist and homophobic phrase at him from an upper-level balcony, and tried to hit him repeatedly with eggs.
USC has already made headlines for being a potentially unsafe environment for international students from China. Last year, USC graduate student Xinran Ji was targeted for a brutal robbery because he was Chinese, and beaten to death. A year earlier, Chinese graduate students Ming Qu and Ying Wu were shot and killed in their parked car, sparking an outcry from the Chinese community. Against this context, the incident of racism described by Tsang is chilling.
In his Facebook post (which is framed as a snarky response to the residents of Room F552 of Cardinal Gardens from which the eggs were thrown), Tsang writes:
Hi! This is “Ching Chang Chong motherfucker gay”. Although I was quite satisfied sitting quietly in front of the Cardinal Gardens fireplace enjoying my own company and the warmth of the fire, you had to add color to my night by throwing
but 3 eggs aimed clearly at me, while constantly calling my beautiful name, “Ching Chang Chong motherfucker gay” and other assorted words.
In a later interview with the Daily Trojan, Tsang elaborates with details on the incident, saying that between eggs, he heard someone say “the ‘ching chong’ is still there.” He also tells reporters that while this incident was the most overt example of anti-Asian racism he has experienced, Tsang can think of other times he has been subjected to racial slurs while walking on-campus.
In an edit to his post, Tsang also updated readers to let them know that an investigation had revealed that responsibility for the incident largely fell on a single individual, and that many of the residents of the flat were not present at the time of the attack.
USC administrators have already issued a response, calling the assault on Tsang “threatening and unconscionable”, and a “shameful” act that “will not be tolerated”. A residential hall supervisor also emailed the student residents of Cardinal Gardents to say, “we do not tolerate this kind of behavior here in Cardinal Gardens… Car Gar is meant to be a safe and inclusive community for EVERYONE.”
Tsang says in his original Facebook post that when deciding to leave Hong Kong and study abroad in the United States, he had chosen USC specifically for its on-campus diversity. 18% of USC’s undergraduate population is Asian American, 5.4% Black American and 12.5% Hispanic American, with only one-third White American. An additional one-quarter of the student body consists of international students.
USC’s principles of community state that:
Bigotry will not go unchallenged within this community. No one has the right to denigrate another human being on the basis of race, sex, sexual orientation, national origins, and other identities. We will not tolerate verbal or written abuse, threats, harassment, intimidation, or violence against person or property. In this context, we do not accept alcohol or substance abuse as an excuse, reason, or rationale for such abuse, harassment, intimidation or violence. Ignorance or “it was just a joke” is also not an excuse for such behavior.
Reports of a bias incident will be investigated by the USC Bias Assessment Response and Support Team, which will determine appropriate sanctions against the offending student. The Daily Trojan reports that the LAPD is also investigating this incident as a possible crime.
Update: The LA Times reports that late Sunday, the suspect contacted Tsang over Facebook to apologize. In a twist, the suspect reportedly self-identified as also Asian, and that he was drunk at the time of the incident — if true, neither of these facts would alter the racism and homophobia of the alleged assault. LAPD plan to formally question the suspect, and are still considering possible criminal charges.