Dara and the Green Jump Rope   Leave a comment


Note: Two years to the date of her unjust suspension, this is a story about the moral courage of one UCSD student.

Imagine that you’ve absentmindedly left a newspaper or soda can at a park, or on a bus, or another public place. It wasn’t expensive, surely has no personal value, and can’t be traced back to you. There might be some guilt, but people are paid to clean those spaces anyway, and it wasn’t on purpose. Now imagine that thing you left was misinterpreted as offensive and stirred up an angry mob calling for its leaver’s blood. Can you honestly say you’d admit to it?

Tensions were high on the UCSD campus in February 2010, depending on who you were. If you were an average student more worried about midterms and internships than private off-campus frat parties and changing the university’s non-discriminatory admissions policies, it was business as usual. But there were a couple hundred very vocal students demanding the expulsion of some other students for racial insensitivity, the banishment of a student publication that exists to offend, and rectification for unspecified “institutional racism” working in place of actual racism. Campus and local media outlets amplified this voice and emboldened its shriller elements, reinforcing what they reported.

On a Tuesday afternoon, a student was playing jump rope earlier in the day and went off to the library to study. “Noose Girl” isn’t a name and “the student who hung the noose in the library” is a mouthful, so I’m going to call her Dara, meaning courage. Dara isn’t white, or a man, or any of those things UCSD GEs will tell you are threatening. Unaware that “campus climate” had not to do with a sunny February, Dara took her jump rope, which a friend has fashioned into a coiled loop, and put it on a bookshelf tab above a desk where she studied, overlooking a campus as quiet as ever from seven stories up. Consumed in her studies and tired after hours of work, she forgot her jump rope, left above where it could be seen without looking upward, and went on her way, probably to eat some junky OVT food. Poor Dara’s stomach.


Dara’s jump rope, on an 8-ft bookshelf. Assuming her height to be between 5’2 and 5’5, out of sight, out of mind applies.

Three days later, Dara was mortified to discover that her jump rope was found, looped in its noose form, and construed as an act of racism or some sort of green threat in an obscure corner of a labyrinthine library. The Black Student Union used its media megaphone to demand action and generate a band of angry protesters, completely incurious as to the context, determined to be offended and scream that they felt unsafe. Because Dara studied too hard and forgot her jump rope. Students and other non-students occupied the Chancellor’s office all day as news vans violated all of UCSD’s strict parking permit requirements.

Upon learning that hundreds of angry people had gathered on campus with news crews shouting slogans that melt away individual identity, demanding action in response to her green jump rope that was in the library for days until someone personally decided it was a big deal, Dara had options. No one knew it was hers. No one knew she’d left it there. In Dara’s own words, it was “a mindless act and stupid mistake.” But not one she had to take responsibility for. Dara could have easily reasoned, these people are using any excuse to form a mob and be offended, and they want my head. I don’t want to and don’t have to claim responsibility. And no one would have known. 

On Friday morning, Dara awoke to a campus-wide UCSD Police email blast declaring “Crime: Hanging a noose with intent to terrorize,” clueless but asking for help “identifying witnesses and those responsible for this criminal act” (emphasis mine). Dara certainly had no intent to terrorize anything but her midterm exams and the police were calling her a criminal with no “alleged” or “due process” modifiers. Imagine being Dara here. I’m reluctant to admit to my roommate that I ate his leftover pizza. Dara had the police declaring her a criminal terrorist, not to mention what the angry mob who took over the chancellor’s office wanted to do to her. What would you do?

Let’s let Dara tell us what she did:

I felt so ashamed and embarrassed, and the first thing I did was call the campus police and confess. I was hoping to clarify that this was not an act of racism before the incident got a full reaction from the campus.

A courageous person doesn’t label herself so. A courageous person doesn’t even think in terms of courage, only considering what must be done to do right. Personal consequence becomes immaterial compared to the good being done. Moral courage takes personal responsibility, even when given the opportunity to flee or blame others. To do what Dara did requires a well-developed conscience and willingness to accept punishment. She could have easily walked away. Dara was suspended from school for being a bit forgetful and then being honest about it. I’m outraged by a public university with such ability to arbitrarily punish a student due to mob pressure, and not any codified violation. I recommend legal action if necessary to obtain justice for Dara.

While serving her suspension, Dara was savaged in the press, on internet blogs, and by the protesting groups. Her sincere apology in a campus newspaper was verified and ran in the school paper. And it went mostly ignored except to claim someone was caught and punished, or had even been taken into custody. The search for the truth was shallow and insincere. Outrage won the day. No one came to her defense. Hell, I didn’t and I was there at every event, writing about it in this blog. This was a turning point for me, unsettled by the BSU’s increasingly radical demands after supporting them for weeks and shocked that no one wanted to accept an apology and forgive. After Dara personally gave up so much to try and quell the rage of those who decided to be outraged, for the good of the university.

And her name was never cleared. Not by public opinion. People call Dara “noose girl” and still see her green jump rope as a symbol of racism and hate. The legacy of the Compton Cookout seems to portray Dara as some sort of racist or symbol of hate. UCLA’s Daily Bruin editorial board called Dara’s green jump rope “racist” and said Alexandra Wallace of “Asians in the Library” infamy wasn’t as bad. UCSD’s own literature professor Jorge Mariscal recently wrote in a Guardian editorial that “Who made the noose and who decided to place it at the edge of a bookshelf matters little now.”

I disagree.

Dara matters now. As a decided non-racist portrayed as one by agenda drivers and media hysteria, when the truth was available. As a reminder to listen, and avoid mob-like passions. The hateful made Dara into a symbol of hate, spinning her story to suit their goals. Let this no longer be.

Dara is a symbol of courage. Of someone who took responsibility for her own mistake, even when it was blown out of proportion and twisted into something horrible. Of, knowing consequences are forthcoming and that simply by doing nothing they could be avoided, doing the honest thing anyway. Dara matters. Not just to clear her name, but to inspire us to show the same courage.

Thank you, Dara. For showing that courage and being an inspiration.

Read Dara’s full apology below:

I have a story that needs to be heard. I am the girl you’ve read about, the one who hung the noose in Geisel Library.

Firstly, I’m writing to apologize. I don’t have an excuse for what I did, and I deeply regret it.

Secondly, I’m writing to hopefully put a little bit of faith back into the UCSD campus by clarifying that it was not an act of racism. This is what happened.

I found a small piece of rope on the ground earlier in the day. While I was hanging out with my friends a bit later, we tried jump- roping with it and making it into a lasso. My friend then took the rope and tied it into a noose. I innocently marveled at his ability to tie a noose, without thinking of any of its connotations or the current racial climate at UCSD. I left soon after with one of my friends for Geisel to study, still carrying the rope. After a bit of studying I picked up the rope to play with, and ended up hanging it by my desk. It was a mindless act and stupid mistake. When I got up to leave, a couple hours later, I simply forgot about it. This was Tuesday night. Three days later, on Friday morning, I found out that the noose had been found and construed as another racist act on campus. I felt so ashamed and embarrassed, and the first thing I did was call the campus police and confess. I was hoping to clarify that this was not an act of racism before the incident got a full reaction from the campus. I gave my statement around 9 a.m. They thanked me for coming forward and for trying to clear up the issue. Later, I received a campuswide e-mail saying that I confessed and had been taken into custody, which simply wasn’t true. One thing that is true is that I have been suspended. I know what I did was offensive — regardless of my intentions — I am just trying to say I’m sorry. As a minority student who sympathizes with the students that have been affected by the recent issues on campus, I am distraught to know that I have unintentionally added to their pain.

Advertisements

Posted February 27, 2012 by Wada in Compton Cookout, Geisel noose, UCSD, UCSD noose

Tagged with , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: