Shoot the raghead in the face

Around a year ago, it seems that Sukhmani Singh Khalsa, a student and conservative columnist at the University of Tennessee, wrote a column criticising University Issues Committee for being liberal and one sided. (The Issues Committee is the body that invites speakers on to campus)

Upon reading Sukhmani’s column, one of the committee members, Justin Rubenstein, emailed some of the others, saying:

if you see one of those ragheads, shoot him right in the fucking face. [Sukhmani deserves] torture that would put the Spanish Inquisition to shame.

When news of these emails came out, Justin Rubenstein “apologized” saying:

“I was making light of a situation. I didn’t realize how much weight was involved,” he said. “There was no emotion behind the e-mail other than to make light of things. I feel really bad that it’s out in the public and out of context. “I apologize for any offense taken. I don’t plan on stepping down. There are things that the committee needs to go through, and I plan to right my mistake.”

The student activities director said:

“It was a late night fury of e-mails,” he said. “He (Rubenstein) got caught up in the moment.” “He was caught in a weak and dumb moment … and we all have those,”

This is an incident of religious discrimination, but not one of racial discrimination since Sukhmani Singh Khalsa is a Sikh of caucasian origin. In fact, the chair of the committee was a desi named Rashi Joshi. Here’s the only quote of hers I found online:

“E-mail is a good way to discuss issues and opinions,” she said, “but I do feel upset that one or two people’s personal opinions were misconstrued as the opinions of the entire Issues Committee.”

I can’t see how this situation resolved, but as of the intial flurry of posts, the student was neither disciplined nor removed from the committee. There was some attention to this issue amongst conservatives, who took it up as an example of exterme bias against conservatives being tolerated on university campuses (see this film for example, around 35 minutes in)

Now, let’s be honest here. If a white christian had written the same column, do you think people would have reacted the same way? Would somebody have written an email saying “if you see one of those cracker christ lovers … ” Do you think the University would have ignored it?

On the other hand, if Sukhmani had been a liberal on a conservative campus, could you see people reacting similarly to criticism, and the university similarly ignoring it? I can.

This isn’t about Sukhmani being a conservative, it’s about his being a Sikh. The quotes focus on anger against “ragheads”, not anger against conservatives. And Tennesse isn’t exactly a hotbed of liberal activism. The point here is that even if you’re white and you’re a conservative in the south, universities still feel free to ignore such behavior as long as you’re part of a group they don’t care about.

(As several commentors pointed out, Sukhmani was never directly threatened by Justin. These were emails Justin sent to other members of the committee. But these were still beyond the pale, and these emails sent on university servers, so it was worthy of sanction)

11 thoughts on “Shoot the raghead in the face

  1. Would somebody have written an email saying “if you see one of those cracker christ lovers … ” Do you think the University would have ignored it?

    Of course, it’s taught in required classes. Ever sit in on Cornel West or a lecture on “sun people vs. ice people”? Ever hear the LA Riots referred to as the “LA Rebellion”?

    that said, this sounds pretty nasty when taken out of context. it probably was just an email joke that got out of hand. On the other hand…

    Sukhmani was never directly threatened by Justin. These were emails Justin sent to other members of the committee. But these were still beyond the pale, and these emails sent on university servers, so it was worthy of sanction

    Dude, you are a budding totalitarian. You really think there was a credible threat made against this guy? Is every comment monitored? I bet the majority of Americans have made un-PC comments about X or Y group. This idea that every communication – even ostensibly private ones eavesdropped on by a third party, which was the case in this situation – should be treated as if they were official press releases is beyond ludicrous.

  2. i’m confused as to what you’re saying…but my first thought is that if the individual in question was a conservative (offender) he would be tarred and feathered and not given some slack for being a dumb-ass, rather, they’d be shipping him off to sensitivity classes. that’s a bitchy thing to say, but if it was personal email, where does this stop? i say crap about christians & hippies all the time that verges are incitement to violence.

  3. Well, the irony is that there were many conservative groups (and the local republican party) that were up in arms over this issue. Sukhmani himself is a libertarian, and all of those who were objecting were people who oppose speech codes in principle, but who thought this student had gone too far.

    If it wasn’t a direct threat, what was the offense? This was a student who was part of an official body, who was sending emails to others who were part of that body, discussing public criticism. And his response to that criticism was to use language that was both bigoted and violent. Despite all of that, he received no sanction, and excuses were made.

    Secondly, he was using university property in ways that were inappropriate. There is a contract you sign; just like at a company, you can’t use university resources to make remarks that are threatening or bigoted in nature. Razib, do you talk about shooting and torturing all hippies and xtians? Do you describe how they should be killed (not just shot, but shot in the face?)

    Third, gc, what are you smoking? As I recall, it wasn’t Cornell talking about Sun vs. Ice People, it was Leonard Jeffries, and I think he was fired. As for descriptions of the LA riots as the LA uprising, how is that at all the same thing as a direct and targetted remark about an individual?

    [If you look at many major events in US history, they can be described two ways. During the US revolution, Tories were threatened with violence (they would be tarred and feathered) and a large number (100,000) moved to Canada as a result. It's not an unusual trick to employ. He's focussing on anger against the system, we look at violence against local asian groups.]

  4. let me amend that. There were a few conservative bloggers who picked this up, the campus republican party, the county party, and a quick article in Fox without much detail. The film I linked to is by a group that talks about suppression of conservatives on campus.

    Here’s the thing — it’s a blue state. They didn’t even vote for their local son. If this had been an anti-Christian statement, it would have been talked about in the legislature, etc. But since it doesn’t make political sense to condemn somebody who is making anti-”raghead” statements (think of how popular that country song was), it basically got swallowed.

  5. What makes this story newsworthy is that it was the liberal who was not pc. That said, the guy should be fired since he was one of the people on the committee. Although I am not a big fan of political correctness (because I think it hides how people really feel) I am against institutionalized discrimination in any form. Whether it’s conservative establishment that prevents liberal dissent or vice versa. We need all points to view to keep each other in check.

  6. Has anyone considered that sarcasm and politics were at play here? In reading into the issue, it seems Sukhmani knew Justin, and that they had disagreeing viewpoints as to the direction of the Issues Committee. In looking up Justin’s UT info page, he’s studying social justice, political science. In looking up his name in the papers, he appears protesting nuclear weapons and fighting for the rights of unjust prisoners. In viewing all of the evidence, it appears Justin was well enough known by the members of the committee to be free to make sarcastic comments satirizing the opinions of close-minded, hating people (and possibly taking a shot at the stereotype that all Conservatives are rednecks.) Before we place judgement upon the schools disciplinary actions, let’s look at all of the information, because obviously the school has seen the rest of the emails, no one knows what he was responding to or making fun of, only that he has a record as a person of understanding and a strong sense of social justice.

  7. Consider if anyone in any context would have uttered the phrase “if you see one of those faggots, shoot him right in the fucking face”. Would not the Justice Department been called in to investigate Civil Rights violations? Would not the Today show camped out on campus for a week investigating?

  8. Even if the kid had a difference of opinions, that was COMPLETELY uncalled for. I bet Sukhmani didn’t call him names, and surely could have, but had much more tact. I hope this Justin kid got his just desserts for what he did.

  9. Justin and I were both in the University Honors Program. That situation was resolved quickly without any punishment because the email was taken completely out of context. Comment #7 got it completely right. Justin wrote an e-mail and sent it out as if it were from President Bush. He was taking issue with the war we were then beginning in Iraq. He was not threatening Sukhmani or anyone else, however, he did get a bit carried away.

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