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Is offensive package getting due attention?

Updated: August 22, 2013 6:52AM



It’s been nearly two months since a local mail carrier was punked by a racist joke.

The postman delivered shipping supplies that were addressed to a fake resident at the Phi Delta Theta fraternity on the University of Chicago campus.

It wasn’t until after Iran Becton dragged dozens of shipping boxes to the fraternity’s front door that he was told the shipment was bogus.

In fact, according to Becton, it took one of the fraternity members to point out that when read backward, the addressee’s name,“Reggin Toggaf,” spells out racial and homophobic slurs.

Both the fraternity and the University of Chicago claimed that Phi Delta Theta was the target of the prank, not Becton.

“[T]he University remains in close contact with the students who received this offensive mailing, and their fraternity’s national organization,” said Jeremy Manier, the university’s news director, in an email.

“The University of Chicago Police Department has been in weekly contact with the United States Postal Inspection Service since that agency first opened its investigation. If students are found to be responsible for sending the packages, we will begin disciplinary processes,” he added.

But Trish Kahle, who says she’s a graduate student at the University of Chicago, said she is disappointed by how the matter is being handled.

“This is an attack against somebody we consider an ally. We are in the planning stages trying to organize with the National Association of Letter Carriers to make sure the people who did this are held accountable,” she said.

Neither Becton nor Mack Julion, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers, is convinced that the U.S. Postal Inspection Service is aggressively pursuing the culprits.

“The only thing we are asking the postal inspector is who is behind the whole thing,” Julion said. “Postal Inspectors are incredibly effective at doing what they do, but right now they are not trying to protect [Becton’s] interest.”

Julie Kenney, a spokeswoman for the Chicago Division, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, said the agency is still investigating the matter.

“Whoever registered [the order] spoofed their IP address to make it appear that it was being sent from overseas. It is almost impossible to find out who they are because it was made to appear that it was overseas and it does not fall under U.S. jurisdiction,” she said.

Kenney also said the prankster used a temporary email account that disappeared after 60 minutes.

“We don’t know who did this,” she said, adding that the investigation is still open.

“We still believe the fraternity was the intended target. They were the victim,” she said.

At this point, Becton is worried that the incident will eventually be swept under the rug.

On July 3, a couple of postal inspectors and an administrator with the University of Chicago came to Becton’s home to question him about his complaint,” he said.

“I feel like they are trying to tear down my story. They are saying it’s not serious,” said Becton, who has been on a stress leave since filing a complaint about the racist prank.

Jeremy Manier, news director for the University of Chicago, declined to confirm whether someone associated with the university went to Becton’s home.

But given that the mail carrier contends he was the target of racist behavior on the University of Chicago campus, such a visit could be viewed as intimidating.

Besides securing the nation’s mail system, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service is charged with protecting the U.S. Postal Service and its employees.

Frankly, it is surprising that it is taking so long for postal inspectors to figure out who ordered a bunch of priority boxes online and had them shipped to a fraternity on the South Side campus.

A lot of people would argue that Becton should just get over it — that he should put on his uniform, grab a tub of mail and get back on his route.

But no one but Becton knows what he has to put up with every day on his route.

Obviously, being required to cart around racist mail because of a prank was the last straw.

Whoever played this tasteless joke needs to know that Becton is more than a letter carrier.

This is about a black man demanding that he be treated with respect.



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