Campus police are investigating reports that minority students are being attacked with bleach-filled balloons on their way to campus. In a protest at the university, students claimed that only people of color have been the targets of the attacks. One student said balloons had been thrown at him from a highrise barely missing him and a roomate.

The protesting students understood the attacks to symbolize “white washing” the university. They point out that several predominantly white fraternities have had recent parties where members wore clothing stereotypical of minority groups, and came labels as “illegal” and “border patrol.”

Police have been unable to prove the charges, but sometimes racism is most effective when the targets do not really know if they are just being paranoid. Sometimes prejudice is most frightening when a person can’t tell if they are being attacked by individuals, or by the culture itself. It is like a Kafka novel where attackers emerge from the inorganic world and then melt back in.

It is easy to say these attacks are the work of a few bad apples. But after the young black and brown students have scanned the roofs of buildings to avoid attack on their way to campus, they will be greeted by the rows of statues of confederate heroes at the University itself. Then, at some level, they will realize it isn’t that simple.