Harley Barber's racism does not represent New Jersey

Harley Barber's racism does not represent New Jersey

Last week, a female student at The University of Alabama unleashed a barrage of racist rhetoric on a social media post. Her pathetic fifteen minutes of fame went viral, and by now most people reading this are aware of – and nauseated by -- the incident. The comments were so outlandish that she was banned from her sorority and expelled from the University of Alabama. As if her venomous spew weren’t enough, she has attributed her comfort with such language to her home state of New Jersey!

Well, I have news for her — New Jersey happens to be my home state, too. And for the record -- like my friends back home and those here in Tuscaloosa – I was appalled by the rant. But, implicating the part of the country from which I hail has made this somewhat more personally embarrassing.

Although I can easily dispute many false assumptions about New Jersey, I have been in the company of a few people this past week who have suggested New Jersey students have little business attending school in Alabama because of our “lack of respect for racial sensitivities.” 

Let me state, once and for all, that Haley Barber does not – and never has – represented me or the good people I know and love in my home of Bergen County, New Jersey. Such speech is neither commonplace nor tolerated, and I can honestly say that some of my friends from home did not even know the disrespectful terminology prior to reading “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Even then, with several in my class unfamiliar with the “n-word,” our teacher made a point of forbidding its use – under any circumstances.

That is why I am even more outraged than others may have been over Barber’s outburst. Rather than link such bile to geography, it might more appropriately be attributed to overwhelming selfishness. Her words and tone show not only disrespect for others, but for herself, and because she is a member of a sorority, for her sisters. It is not a condition exclusive to, or rampant in New Jersey.

With African-American friends here and at home – some as close as family – I have felt embarrassed and angered by this incident. While we will all move on, it leaves an unflattering blemish on this wonderful campus. The University of Alabama is comprised of people from all walks of life, brought together by a desire to grow and prepare for what we hope will be productive and successful lives. There is no room for Barber’s brand of intolerance.

I recently saw that the American Civil Liberties Union recommended Barber not be expelled from UA, but rather be permitted to remain and, hopefully, learn and grow from the experience. They went so far as to call this a “teaching moment.” As with many stances by the ACLU, I disagree with this one, too. I am the same age as Haley Barber, and I am fully aware of what is kind and right. If she has truly not learned these finer points of the human experience, then she is hardly ready for college.

Take it from this Jersey Girl. If we are to become productive, thoughtful members of society – as most of us at the University of Alabama aspire to be – we must adhere to basic rules of respect for others, and for ourselves.  It’s not difficult, and it can pay back in the most wonderful ways, with meaningful friendships among people whose differences enrich one another.  And who knows where our paths will lead? Hopefully, New Jersey. 

Samantha Fisher is a sophomore majoring in political science. Her column runs biweekly. 

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