Diminutive Penn State student creates a sizable controversy Column in campus paper stirs a racial controversy.

February 05, 1992|By Knight-Ridder

STATE COLLEGE, PA. ... HC — STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Chino Wilson is small, but his arguments pack a punch.

Some people say he hits below the belt, but he doesn't care what they think. He has a combative personality that befits a man raised in Newark, N.J., on Muhammad Ali Avenue.

"I have a fighter's mentality," Mr. Wilson said in an interview Monday. "If you back me up against a wall I come up swinging."

Mr. Wilson, 22, a 5-foot-3, fifth-year senior at Penn State, has embroiled himself in a fight of the figurative variety with a column he wrote for the Jan. 28 edition of the Daily Collegian, Penn State's student newspaper.

In the column, Mr. Wilson, who is black, calls whites "devils" and "irredeemable racists" and urges blacks to form a militia to kill whites who physically threaten them.

He also reiterates a claim from one of his earlier columns that whites created AIDS to exterminate blacks.

The column has drawn national media attention and the stern condemnation of university administrators. University President Joab Thomas called the Collegian's decision to publish it "disappointing and irresponsible."

Mr. Wilson has no second thoughts about the column. If it upsets people, he says, so much the better. Especially if they're white.

"I don't care what white people think about this," he said. "If their feelings are hurt, too bad. Now they know how it feels when they treat black people the way they do."

Colleagues and friends unanimously agree that Mr. Wilson means what he says.

"I think he's expressing firmly held beliefs," said James Stewart, Penn State vice provost for underrepresented groups. "I don't think he says things just to create a controversy."

Diane Davis, 1989-90 editor of the Collegian, agreed.

"He's very serious about it," said Ms. Davis, now a reporter for the Intelligencer Journal in Lancaster, Pa. "He really does care about what he's doing."

Mr. Wilson says he's so serious that he's about to take his own advice and arm himself. His main concern is a self-proclaimed member of the Ku Klux Klan who left a message on his answering machine extending a mandatory invitation as guest of honor at the next rally.It's one of numerous death threats he's received.

"The fact is this -- I intend to secure a firearm as soon as possible. You can quote me on that," he said. "If a Klansman comes after me, you can bet he's going to the grave."

He said he's a law-abiding citizen with no criminal record but intends to get a gun -- legally or illegally.

Penn State police have offered to protect him, but he's not interested.

"Let's be honest -- I do not trust the cops," he said. "I'm secure in the knowledge that I'm a very aware person. I can watch my back, and a number of brothers and sisters have said that they have my back."

A man who answered the phone number left by the "Klansman" said he was the caller's brother-in-law. He said the caller is not with the Klan.

"He wouldn't know the Klan from a bale of hay," said the man, who declined to give his name.

Mr. Wilson, a sports reporter for the Collegian who has won several writing awards, was in Iowa covering two Penn State wrestling matches over the weekend when the furor was at its peak. On Monday, he discussed the column and his views at length during an interview in a fast-food restaurant in the basement of the student union.

He was dressed in his favorite colors, black and gold, from his baseball cap to his high-top sneakers. He was wearing a T-shirt depicting a black Bart Simpson under the title, "Bart X."

He stands at about 5 foot 3 inches, his growth stunted by the chronic kidney failure that struck him at age 11. He wears a hearing aid to offset a related ear problem and uses a blue armband to cover the welts on his left arm resulting from the needles used for his thrice weekly dialysis treatment. The treatments are required to filter his blood.

Mr. Wilson speaks calmly but forcefully. He covers many subjects, but always returns to his role model Malcolm X. He said that he, like the assassinated black radical, has been misinterpreted. He said his column does not call for a race war, just for black self defense.

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