Brianna Brochu, the disgraced former University of Hartford student who bragged on social media about contaminating her ex-roommate’s personal items, received a slap on the wrist in court this week. The Hartford Courant reported that Brochu will receive a special kind of probation that could enable her to skip a criminal record.

Victim Chennel “Jazzy” Rowe did not oppose Brochu’s punishment, but said in court that she was traumatized by her ex-roommate’s actions and described them as “acts of hate.”  Brochu is white. Rowe is Black.

Last fall, Rowe took to social media to share what she endured. The public resoundingly supported Rowe, who explained that she experienced recurring sickness and an inability to sleep. She said medical professionals could not understand the origins of the bad bacteria in her body.

On the other side, Brochu told her Instagram followers in a since-deleted post, “Finally did it yo girl got rid of her roommate!! After 1 1/2 month of spitting in her coconut oil, putting moldy clam dip in her lotions, rubbing used tampons [on] her backpack, putting her toothbrush places where the sun doesn’t shine and so much more I can finally say goodbye Jamaican Barbie.”

Brochu’s supporters believe this case is a hyped-up instance of college roommate dissension. However, the public’s pro-Rowe response conveyed what should be common sense in college and everyday life. People of different backgrounds manage to live together peacefully without accelerating standard arguments, about issues like snoring and the temperature of a shared space, to actions that put people’s health and safety at risk.

Further, in collegiate environments where romance, extracurricular activities, friend groups and looks are often capital, one might wonder if the white woman envied the Black woman’s conformity with conventional beauty norms. Calling Rowe “Jamaican Barbie” in Brochu’s celebratory post about poisoning Rowe reflects sinister intentions. 

Alas, the same society that expects the Black victim to gracefully empathize with her attacker—and the public to forget what happened here—insulates the white woman from lasting effects of her misdeeds.

“By giving her this second chance, I hope she will change her ways and finds love for all mankind no matter what race,” Rowe said.

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