Details about Witt’s race e-mail emerge

An e-mail sent by UA President Robert Witt to students Saturday addressing concerns about a racial slur was prompted by a Friday incident in which someone inside the Delta Tau Delta fraternity house verbally harassed a student, according to UA administrators.

Justin Zimmerman, a second-year graduate student in public administration, was walking home from work at the Crossroads Community Center around 4:25 p.m. Friday when someone shouted at him from inside the house, he said.

“I heard ‘nigger,’ so naturally I turned around,” he said. “After he said ‘nigger’ he said ‘Come here, boy.’”

Zimmerman said he walked away and called Brice Miller, assistant director of the Crossroads Community Center, and then called the University of Alabama Police Department and filed a police report.

The individual who shouted the slur was not the only person who witnessed the incident, he said.

“Only one person said anything, but there were other people in the building who didn’t respond, who I assume to be just as guilty as he was,” he said.

Witt e-mailed students around 2 p.m. on Saturday, informing students that these incidents will not be tolerated, University spokesman Bill McDaniel said.

“Witt just wanted to address the incident that happened, so he said what he felt like he needed to say,” McDaniel said.

McDaniel confirmed that the 63-word email came directly from the president. He could not say if Witt would release a follow-up statement.

Mark Nelson, the University vice president for student affairs, said he agreed with Witt’s response in an e-mailed statement.

“In responding quickly, President Witt condemned the behavior and reinforced our community values,” Nelson said. “The University of Alabama is committed to ensuring that everyone in our campus community feels safe and supported.”

Witt’s e-mail stated, “The University of Alabama finds this behavior totally unacceptable, and appropriate disciplinary action will be taken.”

Nelson said the student has been referred to the office of judicial affairs.

Delta Tau Delta President Sean Keeler said the individual involved has been suspended from the fraternity and plans to apologize to Zimmerman.

“This doesn’t have anything to do with the house at this point,” he said. “It’s between the individual and University.”

Keeler said the individual’s views do not represent those of other fraternity members.

“Under any circumstances, language like this and blatant disrespect to others should never be tolerated,” he said. “This was a separate incident involving an individual who used bad judgment in making a remark that is absolutely inexcusable.”

Zimmerman, a Moreno Valley, Calif., native, attended the University as an undergraduate, receiving a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and political science in 2008. He has been active in the Blackburn Institute and is a member of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.

He said this was not the first time a white person has used the word against him.

“Your initial reaction always is shock,” he said. “It might have been different if there was a conflict going on, but it was completely unprovoked. He thought that he could just say it because there was nothing going on.”

Zimmerman said he has noticed more diversity on campus during the six years he has been here, but that diversity has not translated into more cooperation and cohesion.

“I would say that the blatant use of the word…was out of character for UA, but racism itself is not that odd,” he said. “Socially, we don’t deal with each other, and it shows. And that’s why people think they can use the word…out on the street with no repercussions.”

Nelson said this kind of incident works against the administration’s goal of a more unified campus.

“This University is committed to ensuring a welcoming and inclusive campus,” he said. “Individuals who live, work, teach and study within this community are expected to contribute positively to the environment, and to refrain from behaviors that threaten the respect that every member of our community deserves. We are disappointed when isolated actions like this one undermine these values.”

Victor Luckerson, Katherine Martin, Will Tucker and Wesley Vaughn contributed to this report.

  • Anonymous

    This behavior is, indeed, unacceptable; however, this happens every day across campus and across Tuscaloosa county. I am a young, white male, the “typical, undiscriminated-against American,” right? Wrong. At the bank where I work, various African Americans have approached me with skeptical “stank eye,” and one individual who didnt think I overheard her, claimed to the passenger in her car that she “better count [her] money ’cause white boy may have got some.” I go to the Tienda, where Guatemalans and Mexicans have said “gringo” to my face and talked to other people in the store about the “gringo” who is a new shopper, not having the first thought that I may understand what they are saying. My point is this: Discrimination at any point is wrong, whether it is age, body size, body type, color, sexual orientation, or level of education, just to name a few. However, it happens every day, everywhere. Something definitely worthy of filing a police report for, but most likely something that could have been handled internally within The University of Alabama Police Department.

  • Anonymous

    This behavior is, indeed, unacceptable; however, this happens every day across campus and across Tuscaloosa county. I am a young, white male, the “typical, undiscriminated-against American,” right? Wrong. At the bank where I work, various African Americans have approached me with skeptical “stank eye,” and one individual who didnt think I overheard her, claimed to the passenger in her car that she “better count [her] money ’cause white boy may have got some.” I go to the Tienda, where Guatemalans and Mexicans have said “gringo” to my face and talked to other people in the store about the “gringo” who is a new shopper, not having the first thought that I may understand what they are saying. My point is this: Discrimination at any point is wrong, whether it is age, body size, body type, color, sexual orientation, or level of education, just to name a few. However, it happens every day, everywhere. Something definitely worthy of filing a police report for, but most likely something that could have been handled internally within The University of Alabama Police Department.

    • http://twitter.com/uglytusk uglytusk

      You really can’t be serious with this post, can you? When “young white males” are a minority in this country with a history that is less than three generations removed of being treated in a sub-human manner and sold at auction like cattle, you might be able to make this claim. Based on this comment, that lady seems pretty spot on double checking your math.

      • Anonymous

        You’re wrong if you think that racism is only racism when it is aimed at a minority. Check your math on how many years are in a “generation.” Then read a history book and see if the timeline fits. I’ll save you the trouble. It doesn’t. That offensive word will always be usd as long as people get outraged about it. I dont use that word, but apparently there are some people out there who just cant let it go. The email sent to the University of Alabama student body today in regards to the chalking of racial slurs against both white and black people on campus property, once again, proves my point: Racism is everywhere, and it’s not even worth getting fired up about. We…WE have to let it go.

  • http://twitter.com/reedtwatson Reed Watson

    “Socially, we don’t deal with each other, and it shows. And that’s why people think they can use the word…out on the street with no repercussions.”

    Well said, Mr. Zimmerman. Keep using this platform to speak truth.

    • Anonymous

      but blacks use the word to one another all the time

  • http://www.facebook.com/ajmcphail Andrew McPhail

    And so continues the never ending debate on who has the “rights” to say certain words.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mickey-Johnson/541966615 Mickey Johnson

    This was, in my opinion, a completely unnecessary event, e-mail, and article. There are much more important things to get upset about or direct your attention to.

  • http://www.facebook.com/robert.calhoun3 Robert Calhoun

    peple need to for get yesterday and think about next week just my way of thinking

  • http://www.facebook.com/robert.calhoun3 Robert Calhoun

    peple need to for get yesterday and think about next week just my of thinking

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_Y4U6XEWVCELFHHTZAOWG6LYND4 rubber

    My question is… How many times has Mr. Zimmerman called one of his “homies” the N word? If it is wrong for me to say it, it is wrong for everyone to say it.

    • Anonymous

      Why do you assume he uses the N-word? That seems like stereotyping, my good friend :-)

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=27418142 Brandon Chalmers

      If you knew Justin Zimmerman at all, you would know he’s not the type to refer to his friends as “homies” or as N-words. Besides the whole ” They use it all the time argument” is just lazy at best. When blacks use the word, although perhaps misguided, it is scene as a term of endearment akin to a female jesting with her friends by calling them skanks or b******. Whites have never used the word towards blacks in a positive manner, it has always been a disparaging and demeaning racial slur. When you take that into context you can see how it is two totally different situations. I agree that the word just needs to be removed from everyone’s lexicon.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Dan-Fulton/100000019043153 Dan Fulton

    Much change has taken place at
    the University of Alabama.
    More change is needed!!!
    See:
    http://bit.ly/etKRUQ

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_QSARBS6ILED2KJCQAD2JPZNMAI Peter McCain

    Who cares! Nobody alive today was a slave or have owned one. It is time for people to let go. People will call each other names, end of story. This Zimmerman kid sounds like he is just trying to cause a stur because he likes his name in the paper. You may not like the word but the kid has a god given right to say it if he chooses to. It should be no worse than if the kid shouted some other idiotic insult out of his window. Race relations will not improve until both sides give it up and leave the past alone, that means BOTH sides.

    The fact that this kind of crap got Dr. Witt’s attention seriously calls into question just what exactly he does all day if he has time to draft an email over such pure garbage.

    Zimmerman, grow up kid!
    Kid who yelled out of the window, your an idiot and shut up!

    That is how this should be handled.

    • http://macklyons.wordpress.com Mack Lyons

      Your father, grandfather or even great-grandfather didn’t own slaves, but chances are they did believe in the “inherent inferiority” of Blacks as both individuals and as a group. Such views are still quietly held in most corners of the country. The Deep South just has the distinction of being historically overt in voicing that belief.

      Until such views are firmly and thoroughly abolished, you will continue to see and hear of instances where racial antagonism occur, whether out of pure malice or merely in jest. Perhaps the person who uttered these racial slurs thought it would be funny to get a rise out of a Black person with such slurs.

      To say that Zimmerman “just wanted to get his name in the papers” strikes me as a conclusion that is tone-deaf and dismissive; it would be what someone who doesn’t have any experience of being racially mistreated and insulated from such mistreatment due to his ethnic background would most likely say.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_QSARBS6ILED2KJCQAD2JPZNMAI Peter McCain

        Sorry but the views of my grandparents have nothing to do with this argument. I thought in this country we judged each other on our own merits? I don’t care what my great grandfather thought, do you?

        You talk about “abolishing” certain views and ideas but ask yourself if that is reasonable? You are suggesting that we control what people think and believe! Look, there are a lot of things I don’t agree with and think the world would be better off without but it isn’t up to me to stamp out those ideas. I don’t think folks should be calling each other the N word all the time but by making such a big deal out of it you further entrench these kinds of thoughts. You reinforce that there is a difference between the races. The message coming from black American to white America today is one of “We are all equal, unless you call us the N word then we can crusify you” and “Who cares if somebody call you a gringo or whatever my great great great grandfather was a slave”. Equal means equal, it is time that people learn that. It is time for black American to ask for equality, not preferential treatment. I mean are we equal or not?

        Why stop at racial slurs? Why don’t we have training courses for “ass holes”, we don’t want to offend something we all have do we?

        Your comment regarding my never having been insulted based on my ethnic background is incorrect. I may be white but I have had racial slurs thrown my way. Do I care? Of course I don’t! Does it do anybody any good that I make others mad and reinforce racial issues by demanding this kid be suspended and demand that people take training courses so that my feeling don’t get hurt?

        I’ll agree with you that this kind of slur shouldn’t be thrown around. However, It should be given no special treatment or attention. Until black America quits worrying about it the word will continue to have meaning. Didn’t they teach this stuff in Kindergarten?

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_GVAAA4D2NFZJMVAZXWFMQD7ZUI StephanieH

          I think he meant that racial issues isn’t just about slavery, but also the discrimination against blacks after slavery (“Your father, grandfather…”) is also apart of the issue. I noticed whenever people start these types of argument they always start and end with slavery (“Slavery ended over 145, get over it”). But people fail to mention other things that disenfranchised black Americans which can only truly have said to have ended late sixties which is more recent and our living relative would have been apart of.

          Anyway, I have to disagree on many things you said. Such as the message should be from black American to white America should be: “We are all equal, so why not respect us enough to not use words that has a history of disrespecting us.” That’s what white America should have gotten out of it, in my opinion. Hopefully that got through to others.

          Now I’m not saying that it’s okay for minorities use slurs toward whites (I’m not, hateful words are always wrong), but that black Americans relationship with the N-word may be more complicated than people on either side make it out to be and should be address better and respected more.

          Also, I hate that defeatist attitude you have. I think it is the responsibility of the individual to make moves to eradicate something that they disagree with, if they care so deeply about it. Yes, it’s probably impossible but ignoring it is not anymore productive, nor is the better solution. It is say that the opposite of love is not hate, but indifference. Silence can be seen as approval. Steps to change can be made if one puts the effort into, its been done before, it can be done again.

          Racial Issues should be addressed in a mature manner, and, I repeat, not ignored, because I believe that it is so important to do so. So may be we all can come to a understanding with one another. I also believe racial differences do exist. (I just don’t think it’s a bad thing.) Especially in regards to this issue: Whites “Slavery ended long ago, why don’t the blacks get over it already”. Blacks: “Why do whites undermine the history of the N-Word and racism towards blacks”.I can see why white people see it is unfair that they are saddle with something that is out of there control because they weren’t even born. But I realize why blacks are sensitive to the issue when the descendant of those who oppressed their ancestors are telling them they are overly sensitive and should “get over it already” because they didn’t do it, but yet, they still have to deal with a discriminatory society that they have no control over where they usually get the short end of the stick. And the the lack of understanding of these views creates this riff. I should state again that this is all my opinion. The preceding isn’t meant to blanket the views or experiences of the races mentioned, just to make my point better. These are complicated questions with complicated answers and should be treated as such. Hundreds of years of racial division that is almost a way of life in this country can’t be easily erased by deciding one day to sweep it all under the rug, brush your hands of it and walk away. Things like this is not that simple and if it was it would have long been a non-issue.

          In Kindergarten, I was taught that certain words and action had has no place in polite society and words can hurt others as words have power. So treat people as you want to be treated and the what not.

          The word itself may lose meaning over time, but if tone is there it can still hurt. The word “shit” may becoming meaningless from constant use, but if you were called a piece of it in hateful it will quickly regain that lost meaning. This word wasn’t used out-of-context, the intention was clear. It was meant to have a meaning, and that meaning was humiliation. And for some reason people are ignoring that.

          Despite all that I said, I do think all this attention is a little unwarranted (should have stayed between the people involved and the police), but I think how Zimmerman responded was a reasonable decision. Not being confrontation, but also not letting such actions slide. If Zimmerman just walked it off, the perpetrator would think he could get away with such things. Maybe if it was provoked by Zimmerman my opinion on the issue at hand would be a little different, but he wasn’t. The guy was being a ass.

          Wow…my response was long.

        • http://macklyons.wordpress.com Mack Lyons

          “Until black America quits worrying about it the word will continue to have meaning.”

          No offense, but you’re asking Black Americans to completely ignore instances of the word’s use, in hopes that White Americans eventually grow bored of using it for lack of response? I believe the issue is a bit deeper than that.

          I’m talking about the ingrained, generational bigotry that continues to be passed down and propagated in a variety of ways. Black Americans won’t be able to ignore something that is constantly kept in play from generation to generation. And I’m not just talking about the “N” word — it’s the “inherent inferiority” issue I talked about earlier, the attitudes that are still held by many people. It’s this attitude that is used to justify actions such as the Delta Tau Delta fraternity incident, and when practiced on a large scale, laws that seek to mistreat, disenfranchise and essentially ostracize those individuals deemed as “inherently inferior”.

          Until the word is completely removed from the verbal lexicon, it will continue to have meaning. And not only should the word be taken completely out of the picture, so should the attitudes that bring the word to the minds and lips of many.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_GVAAA4D2NFZJMVAZXWFMQD7ZUI StephanieH

      Sorry, but It’s no one’s god-given right to be hateful to others and make others feel low for no other reason than for his own amusement. It’ll be a dangerous day when people ever find such behavior acceptable.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000335644966 Amelia Webber

    black people rock and frat boys are into touching each others butts. end of story!

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1124910306 Rebecca Katherine Long

      black people and frat boys aren’t mutually exclusive .. comments like this prove the double standard.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000335644966 Amelia Webber

        you just opened my eyes! thanks for being so smart.

  • http://twitter.com/TenorJamesT James Charles Taylor

    I wouldn’t say that the use of said word is out of character for that University. It is a part of the everyday life there. Just going to ball games and sitting in the “scholarship” seats I heard that word thrown around incredibly casually, especially whenever an African American was playing quarterback..

    What would one expect from the university where Wallace “stood in the door?”

  • http://twitter.com/chrispgriffin Chris Griffin

    I’ve got a good idea. How about no one, regardless of race, use the word? The word has never had a positive impact on society, so why use it?

  • Anonymous

    Speaking of math, you say that they are less than 3 generations removed. Slavery was abolished in 1865, which was 145 years ago. Typically, a generation is defined as 20-25 years. This means that they would be 7.25 or 5.8 generations removed respectively. Remember that this would have be from the absolute last slaves freed, with some having been freed earlier. Even if you meant generations as in child, father, grandfather, then it would still be greater than three generations, as no “young black males” grandparents were alive in 1865. Irshmen were enslaved until about 1834, so this “young white male” isn’t too much further removed from being treated as a commodity.
    What was said to Mr. Zimmerman was wrong, but do not for one second believe that African’s are the only one’s that have ever been oppressed, and that racism can only be practiced by whites.

    • http://www.facebook.com/sp.shuler Samantha Shuler

      I completely agree!

    • Anonymous

      First, the word in question was widely used with ire and hate (in common use) in the 1960′s and 70′s. Think Civil Rights Movement. Second, if you’re still referring to Black individuals as “Africans,” this speaks volumes about your lack of understanding/acceptance as well as your obvious xenophobia. Further, this happened on University property. Hate Speech (as defined by law) is not protected by the First Amendment EVER, especially not on STATE University property, where all students enter into a contract to abide by student conduct rules. (See the fine print on your acceptance letter for further details on that.)

      No sort of racism or Hate Speech is acceptable.

      And finally, anyone who makes the argument (which you didn’t here, BigChunky), that “if so-and-so can say it, so can I,” obviously didn’t understand the basic concept of rhetoric from your EN101 class. Ethos, pathos, logos. Think about your audience and the intended message. Context is key, and Hate Speech is never an acceptable context or behavior.

      • Anonymous

        I am afraid you have taken my argument out of context. It was in reply to uglytusk’s post earlier. Her argument was flawed. I referred to African’s in the same context I referred to Irishmen. The word was quite neutral in the context in which I used it. Perhaps I should have been more PC and said African-American and Irish-American, would that have been ok? I agree completely about Hate speech not being protected, and my post never suggested that I thought otherwise. You, however, were quick to put words in my mouth and call me a racist.

    • Anonymous

      Oh yes, you have it SO HARD being a white Irishman. If you’re going to accuse black people of ‘sitting around and moaning’ then you’re bringing up the whole Irish thing is a bit hypocritical, since they are well known for going on about their hard luck stories and their oppression under the English. Your inane and insensitive view on the matter are what will keep this state racially divided for more years to come.

      • Anonymous

        Again, my argument was in reply to Uglytusk’s post, not the article.
        What will keep this state racially divided is people constantly rubbing the past in the face of all white people, screaming racism anytime they don’t get their way, an entitlement mentality, and people such as yourself that think I should be ashamed about something I had no control over.

        • http://macklyons.wordpress.com Mack Lyons

          “What will keep this state racially divided is people constantly rubbing the past in the face of all white people…”

          I don’t know why you see addressing the issue of racial bigotry as the above. Then again, it’s interesting to see this reflexive defense mechanism in play whenever it is asked of some Whites to simply acknowledge the horrors of the past and work towards not repeating them in the future. A lot of people would rather forget about the past….which leaves the door open to the past repeating itself over and over.

    • http://twitter.com/Oversigning Oversigning

      If you think slavery ended 145 years ago, you should read this book:

      http://www.slaverybyanothername.com/

      It won Douglas Blackmon the 2010 Pulitzer for General Non-Fiction.

    • http://macklyons.wordpress.com Mack Lyons

      Slavery was abolished in 1865, but laws seeking to disenfranchise and restrict the economic and social power of newly freed Blacks were passed by many Southern states shortly after the end of Reconstruction.

      Aside from the Jim Crow laws, you also had an overall climate that served to keep Blacks off to the margins of society as well as essentially sanction their mistreatment by Whites.

      It wasn’t until the early 1950s that the whole idea of legally-sanctioned segregation was addressed with a move towards ending such and the mid 1960s when that was being abolished. The late 1960s fully restored voting rights to Black citizens and finally laid the issue of second-class citizenship to rest.

      About 50 years passed from that point. In the meantime, you still had semi-isolated instances where Blacks were being unfairly mistreated and excluded from many societal and economic opportunities (hence leading to programs like Affirmative Action being put into play).

      So to say Blacks sat around and moaned about all this for 200 years while blissfully ignoring the rampant legal and social mistreatment that went on during that time is disingenuous and quite silly IHMO.

  • Anonymous

    Exactly what good does getting defensive about it do? People who use the ‘but black people call each other that all the time’ or the ‘black and hispanic have been racist to my white self too’ annoy me, because as my mother always told me (and as yours probably told you), two wrongs don’t make a right. What that guy did was WRONG no matter what way you try and slice it, and it is an embarrassment to this University and to the state of Alabama. Why don’t we quit getting defensive and admit it? Being white, I have dealt with reverse racism in the past, there is racial antagonism on both sides, but that does excuse me or any other person to do something so cowardly and disgraceful as to stand in a doorway and yell racial slurs at someone who is minding their own business.

  • Anonymous

    Exactly what good does getting defensive about it do? People who use the ‘but black people call each other that all the time’ or the ‘black and hispanic have been racist to my white self too’ annoy me, because as my mother always told me (and as yours probably told you), two wrongs don’t make a right. What that guy did was WRONG no matter what way you try and slice it, and it is an embarrassment to this University and to the state of Alabama. Why don’t we quit getting defensive and admit it? Being white, I have dealt with reverse racism in the past, there is racial antagonism on both sides, but that does excuse me or any other person to do something so cowardly and disgraceful as to stand in a doorway and yell racial slurs at someone who is minding their own business.

    • Anonymous

      *doesn’t excuse me

  • Anonymous

    enough attention has been done i think. seriously theres alot more worse things going on. im a white female who’s gay. i get called names on campus sometimes and you dont see me calling the school and having that person suspended from whatever association he’s a part of. when someone calls you a name, just blow it off, this whole situation has gotten a little too dramatic

  • http://twitter.com/Oversigning Oversigning
  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Dock-Taylor/100001197945072 Dock Taylor

    Mr. Peter McCain needs to register for a sensitivity course if he believes this is something that people need to move on with. That why racism exist today is because of this same mentality of not wanting to address racist issues. Calling someone names is not freedom of speech, it’s freedom of being a coward.