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Published:March 9th, 2010 14:37 EST
cotton balls

Students Who Scattered Cotton Balls May Be Charged With Felony Hate Crime

By Robert Paul Reyes


"Two students at the University of Missouri-Columbia were suspended Wednesday after their arrests in a case of cotton balls thrown across the lawn of the campus black-culture center.

cotton balls

Campus police on Tuesday evening arrested the students, one of whom is from the St. Louis area, on suspicion of a felony hate crime. The two were released on bond, and charges were pending.

The incident happened early Friday at the Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center, near the middle of campus. Nathan Stephens, the center`s coordinator, said students were offended because of the `symbolic violence` that harkened to days of slavery on cotton plantations." Read More

It`s difficult to imagine how throwing cotton balls on a lawn can constitute a felony. Even if the cotton balls were aimed at an individual, they would travel for only a few feet, and fail to hit their intended target. Needless to say, even if a cotton ball hit a person square in the face, it wouldn`t cause any damage.

Throwing cotton balls at a lawn of a campus black-culture sentence is a racially insensitive prank, but if falls far short of being a felony hate crime. Understandably, African American students aren`t too thrilled about a prank meant to remind them that at one time slaves worked long hours picking cotton for their white overlords. But the black students would be well-advised not to make a mountain out of a molehill, and demand that the cotton ball-throwing students be charged with a felony hate crime.

About 300 people attended a forum at the Black Culture Center to discuss the incident, this reaction borders on the absurd. The students and faculty members who attended the forum to discuss the cotton ball caper should reserve their anger and outrage for real hate crime incidents. Unfortunately, there are real incidents of hate crime that these folks could be protesting like: Crosses set on fire on the lawns of homes owned by blacks, and other similar repugnant acts.

The two white students should be suspended (not expelled), and the police should charge them with misdemeanors and not a felony. Cooler heads need to prevail; loud demonstrations will only serve to incite passions.

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