Richmond Gang Rape Raises Race Issue

By Daisy Hernandez Nov 02, 2009

The gang rape of a 15-year-old at Richmond High School last weekend has shaken many of us. The details have made us shudder. We’ve refused to read the details of the assault or we’ve analyzed more than a dozen people watched and did nothing or we’ve quietly thanked women like Margarita Vargas and Atianna Gibbs who upon hearing about the rape say they called the police. More than two hours had already lapsed. The rape has also raised the issue of race. The young white girl in this CNN video protests that school officials are not providing security at Richmond High School because its student body is made up of kids of color. “We are ostracized [by school officials] because of our race and our minorities,” says Kami Baker, who claims that a high school she previously attended had lots of security guards because its student body was mostly white. It’s hard to figure out what’s most disturbing about this video—Kami stumbling through tears and anger to make her points but ending on an enigmatic reference to Asian students or that a white student immediately jumps to the idea of checking the IDs of Latino men as the only way to feel safe or that CNN made no reference in its written report to Kami’s insistence that school security policies vary according to the skin color of students. The rape took place while the school had its homecoming dance and school officials have acknowledged that two site supervisors left the dance at 9pm. They’ve also admitted that the high school has surveillance cameras that don’t work. Meanwhile, the school has received emails from across the nation comparing its students to animals, forcing young people of color in Richmond to defend themselves, their school and their community—precisely at a time when they are in terrible grief and shock. “It’s stigmatizing an entire people,” say Nicholas James, director of special projects with Youth Together, an organization that develops student leaders at six sites in the Bay Area including Richmond High School. “Why can’t we see this for what it is—violence against women.”t The organization is proposing to have workshops at the high school to talk about the cycles of violence in school and in the larger community. An email circulating on Friday also announced that students are organizing a healing event for next Tuesday, Nov. 3 at 3:30 pm. As of Friday morning, cops had also arrested six people including teenage boys and young men. One of them is a young Black man, whose family insists he was only arrested because he is Black, prompting comments that the family is playing the race card and leaving the rest of us to wonder how much worse this is going to get before it’s over. *t*t* Donations are being taken for the victim. Checks can be sent to: Assault Victim Fund Richmond High School 1250 23rd St. Richmond, CA 94804 The checks should be made out to "Richmond High School Student Fund." On the memo line, write "Assault Victim Fund."