UC San Diego fourth-year Jasmine Phillips is one of many black students who have expressed indignation, and she is one of thousands of students — of all racial backgrounds — outraged by the string of hate crimes that occurred at several UC campuses last year.
“We as black students are continuously attacked and made disposable on UC campuses,” Phillips said.
Standing at a podium in a UCLA ballroom, the sociology gave a campaign speech at the African Black Coalition (ABC) conference held at UCLA earlier this year. While running for ABC president, Phillips addressed race relations at her school and how to prevent hate crimes.
After the UC hate crimes in 2010, UC campus community members and people across California voiced their dismay. Students at UC San Diego, UCLA and UC Davis held demonstrations to protest the UCSD “Compton Cookout” and anti-Semitic, racist and homophobic graffiti. The administrations of all of the affected schools denounced racism, sexism and prejudice, and opened investigations.
“As always, the remedy for bad speech is good speech,” UC president Mark Yudof said in a statement about the events at UCSD. “For that reason, we call on all members of the UC community — students, faculty, and staff — to affirm and defend the values of the University of California. We are speaking out and ask that you do the same whenever, wherever, and however you confront the behavior that violates the principles and values of this university.”
Hate crimes continued at UC campuses this year. Students have organized several moves to action. Leaders of the ABC have plans to improve the UC campus racial climate. However, there is still a long way to go before satisfactory conditions are reached, according to a 2010 university-wide report on race relations.
“Because we are physically and emotionally drained, protests can’t be our only form of action,” Phillips said about the UCSD student reactions to the hate crimes.
Some ABC members plan to lobby administration at their UCs to create measures that would improve the campus racial climates.
Last February, the most publicized UC hate crime occurred at UC San Diego when a group of students decided to hold a party called the “Compton Cookout” satirizing Black History Month. Students were asked to dress in baggy clothes, eat fried chicken, drink Kool-Aid and act “ghetto.” Less than a week later, racial slurs, including the n-word, were used on a student-run program called Koala TV. A week after that, a noose was found hanging from the top of one of the school’s libraries.
The same month, students found profanity and derogatory slurs spray-painted all over the entrance to UC Davis’ Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Center. In March, spray-painted swastikas were found on multiple surfaces of the UC Davis campus, including the social sciences and humanities building.
A column questioning the purpose and relevance of Black History Month ran in the UC Irvine school newspaper last February.
That same month at UC Santa Cruz, a group of students were investigated for drawing nooses along with the name Diego Lynch on various locations of the campus, including bathroom stalls. The students in question said that they meant no harm by the drawings and were simply putting a play on words with Lynch’s last name.
“[The Diego Lynch drawing] started several years ago,” said Mitchell Landry*, one of the students who drew the nooses. “It started out as a play on his name, because he’s a buddy. It was just a joke. It was never intended to have any racial connotations.”
The student whose name was featured in the drawings does not take the incidences as lightly.
“Even though [the Diego Lynch drawings] were stupid and inconsequential, it does not mean they weren’t offensive,” fourth-year Diego Lynch said. “I wasn’t stopping them … but I should have.”
The students behind the “Compton Cookout,” as well as the student who hung the noose in a library, were all suspended. After using the offensive expletives on air, UCSD student program Koala TV was taken off the air. However, the author of the UC Irvine newspaper column and the students who drew the “Diego Lynch” nooses were not punished.
Three years ago the UC’s Advisory Council on Campus Climate, Culture and Inclusion compiled a report including surveys analyzing the diversity on UC campuses.
The September 2010 edition of the UC Diversity Annual Accountability Sub-Report contains the results of this endeavor.
One graph in the report shows the results of a survey that asked students at UC campuses to agree or disagree with the statement “Students of my race are respected on this campus.”
The data showed that African-American males and females agreed with this statement the least, with a little over 60 percent of students. Chicano/Latino students agreed slightly less than 80 percent of the time. Asian-American and white students agreed the most, with about 90 percent and 95 percent, respectively.
The next graph shows the results of a survey that focuses on African-American student responses to the statement by UC campuses. African-American students at UC Santa Barbara and UC Santa Cruz agreed with the statement the least, with slightly less than 50 percent.
In response to the statement “My race is respected on this campus,” UCSC student body chair Tiffany Loftin said, “Hell no. Why? Because we are black, and racism is still alive. There have been certain events that prove that black people aren’t respected on this campus. There was a racist event at Stevenson [very recently].”
On Jan. 26, someone wrote “F— n——” on a Stevenson college men’s bathroom stall. In response, someone crossed out the n-word and replaced it with “white power” so the graffiti read “F— white power.”
African-American students at UC Riverside had the highest agreement rate, with slightly less than 80 percent of the population agreeing with the statement.
UC Riverside has the highest African-American enrollment of all the UCs as of 2009, according to a chart titled Undergraduate Enrollment by Race/Ethnicity by Campuses. African-American enrollment at UC Riverside is about 10 percent. Every other campus had percentages hovering just above 0 percent. UCSC had an enrollment rate of about 2 percent. UCSD had the lowest African-American enrollment percentage, with about 1 percent.
Felicia McGinty, UCSC vice chancellor of student affairs, is well-aware that African-Americans are a minority on campus, but she said that this minority does not face disrespect.
“Students have not reported to me that they feel disrespected,” McGinty said. “They have reported that they feel isolated. There aren’t many African-American students on campus. They have challenges inherent in being 2.6 percent of the population. It’s harder for them to build a community.”
As a residential assistant (RA) at the Rosa Parks African American Theme House (R.PAATH) of Stevenson College, Shawneshia Hoover, says she has experienced many challenges in her position. The R.PAATH was created last year in reaction to the slew of UC hate crimes.
The R.PAATH housing focuses on multiculturalism and is open to anyone who is interested in African-American culture and history. It is the second African-American themed house to be created at any UC, following UC Berkeley’s Ida L. Jackson house.
“When it comes to some students who don’t know anything about it, they see it as segregation,” Hoover said. “I find myself having to explain the importance of R.PAATH, because so many people don’t understand why black people have their own themed house. The house is not exclusively for blacks being that it only houses seven black residents, including me.”
Executive director of retention Pablo Reguerin said that R.PAATH was created in order to promote tolerance on campus. In light of the racial hate crimes at several campuses, UCSC SUA chair Loftin held a discussion with students asking, “What things could be done to make UCSC a healthier climate for African-Americans?” Themed housing was just one of the ideas the discussion produced.
“Outreach programs, student retention, and the R.PAATH were some of the goals on the list of things produced by this conversation,” Pablo Reguerin said.
Reguerin is also the director of the Educational Opportunities Program (EOP) office at UCSC.
“The R.PAATH was created 100 percent in response to student demands,” he said. “It is inhabited by people who want to be there.”
Reguerin was one of the administrators heavily involved with the realization of R.PAATH.
“The vision of R.PAATH has been lived out,” Reguerin said. “We were really lucky to get very talented RAs who are not afraid to tackle issues of race and discuss them.”
However, not everyone is as optimistic about the accomplishment. Fourth-year Falyn Davis, a black student at UCSC, has doubts about the motives of the creation of R.PAATH.
“The purpose for the campus’s support of [the R.PAATH] had nothing to do with black students, but instead with making [the administrators] look good in a time when students of color are under attack,” Davis said.
McGinty acknowledges that steps need to be taken to improve the campus climate.
“I want everyone to feel welcome and supported on this campus and to know that their presence matters,” McGinty said. “[Their presence] enriches the campus community. We need to work together to build a campus climate that allows everyone to feel welcome, supported and respected.”
Hoover has made two videos on YouTube addressing the ignorance she and her friends have encountered since she became an RA at R.PAATH. In them they talk about educating two white students who ignorantly labeled them with common stereotypes of black people while attempting to make friends with them.
“These issues are so prevalent at our school, UCSC,” Hoover said. “All [one of the students] sees is ‘The Boondocks’ when he watches TV. All he sees is hip-hop when he watches TV. He sees black people associated with those cultures, and so therefore he believes that clearly must be an outlet to get along with all African-American people.”
“We are not ‘them,’ and we are not ‘they,’” one of Hoover’s friends said in the video. “We are individuals.”
The ABC Conference 2011
The eighth annual UC ABC conference of the UCs was held at UCLA and spanned the weekend of Feb. 11 through 13 this year.
Student delegates like Jasmine Phillips met with volunteers to look at possible solutions to issues that arise for minorities on college campuses.
“I’ve e-mailed UC president Mark Yudof, as well as other administrators about the lack of respect African-American students receive on the UCSD campus,” Phillips said.
“Loving each other is a form of resistance because society tells us not to love ourselves,” she said in her campaign speech.
Phillips won the presidency.
During the conference, a UC Davis representative read out the goals of the ABC. One of those goals is to institutionalize diversity programs such as African-American studies UC-wide. These programs would provide students with an important lesson in history that is focused on in a way that the average U.S. history class is not.
The ABC conference also offered UC students a variety of workshops to attend. One of these workshops was called “The Burden of the Black Student: Teaching Moments.” It was held by UCLA third-year Tierra Moore.
In the workshop, Moore taught the students about “microaggressions,” small injustices that add up over time, and how to deal with them.
“During my friend’s first year at UCLA, someone on an elevator said, ‘Oh my God, can I touch you? I’ve never touched a black person before,’” Moore said as an example of a microaggression. “Even though it’s not super awful — she didn’t hang a noose or anything — it was a small thing, but it still made an impact. The idea is that those little things add up, and they create someone’s experience [at a university].”
At the workshop, Moore told a personal anecdote about one of her experiences with microaggression at UCLA. In her political sociology course, Moore said, her teacher showed a clip from the movie “Bulworth,” which depicted black people with negative stereotypes.
Moore was one of the four black students in the class who took offense to the clip.
“I was offended by the fact that the teacher didn’t give any premise to the clip,” Moore said. “It was as if he were presenting it as if it is the truth.”
Another microaggression she experienced also occurred in the classroom. In one of her sections, a classmate made a comment about issues affecting Africa.
Moore said a student claimed that the reason why Africa has problems is because the people there do not listen to their police force. She then said that African-Americans tried to rebel against police enforcement in Los Angeles in the ’90s, but the Los Angeles Police Department and the SWAT team shut them down.
The student’s argument was that black people are inherently unruly and need the police to control them, Moore said.
“I waited for her to be corrected by the TA, who was an older Ph.D student, but she just said, ‘Yes, you have a really good point,’ and moved on to the next person,” Moore said. “I was so stunned, I didn’t know what to do.”
After Moore was done speaking, the students in the workshop got into groups of four and discussed microaggressions that they had experienced. One student told their group about how UC Irvine served chicken and waffles “in honor of” Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Another student told the group about how her roommate joked about how she must like fried chicken. Both are stereotypically African-American dishes.
At the end of the workshop, students suggested immediate confrontation to combat microaggression. The idea is for students to speak up and tell the offending person their objections to the microaggression on the spot.
The statement from Yudof regarding the UC hate crimes at UCSD last year encouraged students and others to “remedy bad speech with good speech.” He suggested they counter the ignorance, racism and hatred by speaking out when needed.
As Moore and the students in her workshop concluded, the best way to deal with the unsavory situations that arise from hate is to confront them head-on and let their voices be heard.
“That is the burden of the black student,” Moore said at the end of the workshop. “A lot of the time black students have to be more equipped to handle things like microaggressions and having to teach [people].”
In response to the e-mail with the n-word and other racist events, the UCSD administration is taking steps to improve the racial climate on campus. Campus officials are developing a class to teach tolerance and working on ways to increase retention of black students.
Cultural Intelligence is a two-credit Stevenson course that was offered for the first time this quarter at UCSC. Led by Diversity and Inclusion program coordinator Donnae Smith, the class trains students to give diversity and inclusion workshops. Based on their performance in the class, some students will be chosen to be part of the Diversity Facilitator team, which will begin leading diversity workshops next quarter.
UCSC’s campus diversity officers are holding discussions with students about the classroom and campus racial climate, according to an e-mail recently sent to students. They are planning to meet with student organizations and are “working to promote an inclusive environment on campus.”