Two 13-year-old boys in Boulder, Colorado have been arrested (police plan a to arrest a third boy, 10) for calling a 12-year-old girl’s cell phone and threatening to rape and kill her because she’s Asian. Here’s the story from the Boulder Daily Camera. It’s more evidence that race in America is still an unsettled issue, lying just below the placid surface of even politically-correct communities.
According to Boulder police spokesperson Sarah Huntley, the three boys dialed the girl’s phone and described a violent sexual attack using explicit language:
The girl hung up, Huntley said, and they called back and left two messages telling her that she would die because of what they were going to do to her.
“The girl answered the first call, but her parents intercepted the other messages,” Huntley said. “They didn’t pick up the phone, but they listened to the messages and shielded their daughter from hearing them.”
The messages included details about damaging the girl’s female organs, Huntley said.
“In the messages, they indicated that they wanted to have sex with her because she was Asian,” Huntley said. “That is the basis for charging them with a bias-motivated crime.”
Boulder may be liberal politically and environmentally, but not always racially. In recent years, the University of Colorado — where most of the city’s Asians and other people of color can be found — has suffered a series of embarrassing racial incidents that range from vioelnce against minorities to a campus news website columnist satirically declaring “war against Asians.”
According to Wikipedia, Boulder’s demographics break down like this: The racial makeup of the city is 88.33% White, 1.22% Black or African American, 0.48% Native American, 4.02% Asian, 0.05% Pacific Islander, 3.50% from other races, and 2.40% from two or more races. 8.9% of the population are Hispanic or Latino/Latina of any race.
What’s going on, when kids this young can get such horrible ideas in their heads? I’m not a proponent of pop culture shaping behavior — I believe that pop culture reflects the prevailing zeitgeist of a time and place. But Boulder in 2009 isn’t where I would have expected this kind of hatred to bubble up from youngsters.
For me, this is a reflection of how deep stereotyped images of Asians are buried within the American psyche.
Unfortunately, decades of civil rights efforts, Asian and ethnic studies courses in our schools, and even the increasing visibility of Asians and Asian Americans in U.S. mainstream pop culture and the ubiquitous presence of lousy sushi and knocked-off Americanized versions of Asian food still haven’t erased or replaced the “hot Asian babe” archetype, or the fact that Asian Americans are still best known for our traditional affectations — geishas, kimonos, traditional dances and costumes, accents, foreign languages, exotic food — and cultural values that hold us back in America — submissiveness, staying quiet, humility, avoidance of conflict, respect for authority.
I feel terrible for this young girl and her family, although I’m relieved that the threats these boys made weren’t carried out.
The police haven’t identified the middle school that these children attend, and are working with Boulder Valley School District officials on the investigation.
The police want to get the two older boys some therapy. I hope that does the trick. I’m worried that even if they realize what they did was wrong, the thoughts those threats betrayed will remain under the surface of whatever civilized, Boulderized facade the boys put on from now on. And they could let those thoughts loose again sometime in the future.
If it can happen in Boulder, Colorado, it can happen anywhere.
(Thanks to Leland Rucker for the tip about the story.)