White college students who believe their black counterparts receive better treatment have ignited recent incidents of campus racism, according to a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.
Mary Frances Berry told the Pittsburgh Press on Sunday that racial incidents at Penn State, Stanford and the University of Michigan may have been caused by students who believed they have suffered reverse discrimination.
"(White students) think they are the victims of reverse discrimination," said Berry, also a University of Pennsylvania history professor in Philadelphia.
"I've heard students say several times: 'If the black students weren't there, more of my friends from high school would be,' " Berry said.
But Berry said the opposite is true in many situations. The number of black students on campus is decreasing and cutbacks in government aid to education have hit members of minority groups especially hard, she said.
Berry said college students today are generally too young to remember how the civil rights movement began and why change was needed.
"Students on campus right now have an awareness of civil rights that goes only back 10 years," Berry said.
Vincent Franklin, history professor at Arizona State, said minority students are not displacing white students on campus.
"People who are playing on that attitude have very little statistical evidence to support them," said Franklin, who will study recent racial incidents at Penn State.