Four San Jose State University students have been charged with misdemeanor hate-crime and battery for committing hate crimes against their 17 year-old black roommate.
The harassment and crimes started when the victim’s three roommates and an unnamed student started calling the victim “three fifths,” referring to a time when slaves were considered three fifths of a person during census counts. From there the harassment increased. The roommates wrote racial epithets on a dry erase board in their shared living space, displayed pictures of Hitler and other Nazi related images, and put up a confederate flag. They physically harassed him by barricading him in his room and piling furniture against his door, as well as physically restraining him and locking a U-shaped bike lock around his neck. The roommates also tried to get him to enter a closet, knowing that he was claustrophobic, where they had removed the inside doorknob.
“He told university police he always locked his door at night because he was scared of most of the other students living in the four-bedroom suite,” the San Jose Mercury News reports about the victim. “He also didn’t feel safe studying in his own room and believes his grades weren’t as good as they could be as a result.”
In October, the parents of the hazed roommate reported the harassment to campus police, who then reported it to the District Attorney’s Office. The accused roommates claim that the hazing was all in jest and was not racist. If convicted of the misdemeanor hate-crime and battery charges, the students could face up to a year in prison.
Fellow students have held rallies on campus in support of the victim, and the NAACP has called for felony hate-crime charges against the students in question.
Media Resources: Huffington Post 11/24/13; San Jose Mercury News 11/20/13; ABC 11/21/13