Flemish student’s death in hazing on New York Times front page

The New York Times brought the story of the 20-year-old Flemish student Sanda Dia, who died during a hazing, on its front page last weekend. The paper links his death to racism and says his death is a symbol of growing intolerance.

Sanda Dia, whose father hailed from Senegal, was in his third year at Leuven University studying engineering when he died during a two-day hazing ceremony organised by the Reuzegom fraternity.

In its article the New York Times reports on the death and the subsequent court case arguing that racism is growing in Flanders with an elite that seems untouchable. The paper claims that student campuses and fraternities reflect and encourage conservative values in a Flanders where a nationalist movement that is openly racist is growing.

The paper notes that here are no indications that Sanda was killed on purpose, but of the three students that underwent the ritual he was the only black and the only one that died.

Sanda Dia’s father is quoted as saying that the suspects thought he was just “some Black guy and that they felt powerful and nothing could happen to them”.

The paper also met a student from Zimbabwe, who explains one of the mantras in Flanders is that if you learn the language and work hard you can succeed.  Research, however, shows that black Belgians are far more likely to be unemployed or work in low skilled jobs, despite having high levels of education.  Nozizwe Dube immigrated to Belgium as a teenager and points out that fraternities can seem to be an entrance ticket to a successful career.

In its article the New York Times also focuses in on the brutal history of the Belgians in Congo.

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