2 Chinese-American Students Attacked at Philly School

Student demographics of Edward W. Bok technical high school

Two Chinese-American students were attacked at a Edward W. Bok, a technical high school in Philadelphia late last week. The students were beaten in an attack that was planned by another student (who is African-American) who has since been arrested and charged.

Although the attack is reminscent of the racially-motivated harassment of Asian students in Southern Philadelphia schools last year, police are saying that the attack appears to be a freshman hazing ritual, and may not have been racial.

About 10 bullies kicked and punched two Asian-American students in between classes Friday morning at Edward W. Bok Technical High School, authorities said.

The attack, which left the immigrant students, ages 14 and 15, with cuts and bruises on their faces, was apparently part of a preplanned freshmen hazing ritual, said Fernando Gallard, spokesman for the school district.

But the hallway rumble wasn’t written off as a boys-will-be-boys coming of age tale. Philadelphia police charged one of the bullies, 14, with assault and related offenses, said police spokesman Lt. Frank Vanore. That student has been suspended and could face expulsion, Gallard said.

Although that student is black and both victims are Chinese-Americans, authorities don’t believe the incident was racially motivated, like the violence that plagued Asian students at South Philadelphia High School last year, Gallard said.

While I don’t want to race-bait, I wonder how much race really “didn’t” play a role in this attack. Sure, the students yelled “Freshman! Freshman!” — not “Chink! Chink!” — prior to launching their attack, but could the victims’ races have influenced the bullies’ perception of them as viable targets? Further, if the attack was part of a hazing ritual targeting freshmen, why weren’t other freshmen (of other races) also attacked? Roughly 3 out of 4 students at Edward Bok are African-American); pure probability suggests that if race was not a mitigating factor in the attack, students of other races should have also been targeted.

It’s rarely possible to clearly determine how the complexities of race play a role in day-to-day interactions, and I think this incident may be no exception.

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