It is an unfortunate occurrence when baseless acts of hatred are perpetrated. Many viewed the video shared on April 25 by Aneesa Janat Rafeek, a rider on the Long Island Rail Road, capturing a racist tirade delivered by an angry white passenger, cursing and aiming racially charged epithets at a black Baruch College student. Soraya Orelien, a senior, rode the train on April 19 and, according to reports, was speaking on the phone while onboard. According to the Daily News, several sources have identified the yelling passenger in Rafeek’s video as Edward Ruggiero, a Long Island resident.
We at The Ticker stand in support of Orelien and condemn the hateful words of the passenger. Among the man’s profanity was his repeated cry of “loudmouth,” as he was complaining that Orelien was speaking too loudly on the phone. Even if she had been on one of the LIRR’s quiet cars or had, as he claimed, been speaking loudly on the phone, there is absolutely no excuse for his behavior. We are grateful that this incident did not go unnoticed and that even during the incident itself, Orelien found support in a fellow passenger who defended her. We cannot undo the harm that was done, but we can speak to the issue at hand.
Bigotry is a shameful reality that Baruch students have had to deal with in the past. No person should be mistreated for their race, religion, gender or any other form of identity. It is distressing that the most prominent Baruch case of alleged racism that comes to mind is of a student who falsely claimed in 2016 that she was harassed by Trump supporters who tried to steal her hijab. Speaking out against bigotry is fine, but falsifying information gets us nowhere. Following the student’s complaint about the alleged incident before it was revealed to have been falsified, Baruch President Mitchel B. Wallerstein used the story as an example of dangerous rhetoric and the harmful effects it could produce at a 2016 lunch event. By the very nature of the story being falsified, it risked calling into question the conversations being had and could have invalidated future progress in subsequent discussions.
While we are distressed at the harassment Orelien went through, we are glad there were multiple eyewitness accounts as well as video documentation, allowing more people to know that something happened and to see and hear for themselves the cruelty of the man’s words. Hopefully, readers will consider how they could stand up and defend their fellow students and humans from virulent hatred. We at The Ticker pledge to do the same.