Tag Archives: campus-racism

We Are Oberlin…And Here’s Our Dirty Laundry

*TRIGGER WARNING: Racist and homophobic language*

By Kendra James

The Klu Klux Klan isn’t new to Ohio, but they were certainly a new addition to the Oberlin College Campus. At some time around midnight on Monday, March 4, a person dressed in Klan regalia was spotted on Oberlin College’s South Campus near the Afrikan-Heritage house and the Edmonia Lewis Center for Women and Transgendered People. Soon after the sighting–only the latest in a string of racist events on campus during the month of February–the college made the decision to cancel classes for the day.

Early this morning, there was a report of a person wearing a hood and robe resembling a KKK outfit between South and the Edmonia Lewis Center and in the vicinity of Afrikan Heritage House. This report is being investigated by both Safety and Security and the Oberlin Police Department. This event, in addition to the series of other hate-related incidents on campus, has precipitated our decision to suspend formal classes and all non-essential activities for today, Monday, March 4, 2013, and gather for a series of discussions of the challenging issues that have faced our community in recent weeks.

As people slowly woke up on Monday, rumors about what had happened were already flying around Facebook and Tumblr. Oddly enough, I didn’t find out from a student or a fellow alum, but from a friend on Twitter who’d heard about it through her friend who’s a resident assistant. This was all before Gawker picked up the story later in the morning, along with a timeline of what’s been going on throughout the month.

Feb. 9: Vandalism in the Science Center included the replacement of “Black” with “N*gger” on Black History Month posters, drawings of swastikas, damage to the “Year of the Queer” posters and reported destruction of the Chinese calendar.

Feb. 12: LGBTQ Community Coordinator Lorena Espinoza found a note in the Multicultural Resource Center that read “N*gger + F*ggot Center.”

Feb. 16: Students found a number of offensive notes written around Burton Hall. “Whites Only” was written above a water fountain, “N*gger Oven” was written inside the elevator and “No N*ggers” was written on a bathroom door.

Feb. 17: The Office of Safety and Security released a Special Alert of a strong-arm robbery of a student near West College Street and Cedar Street. The student reported that he was approached by an individual who made a derogatory remark about his perceived ethnicity and then physically knocked him to the ground.

Feb. 26: Posters were defaced in [The King Building]  including those advertising “Year of the Queer” and the Affirmative Action panel, at least one of which had a swastika drawn on it.

Feb. 27: A swastika drawn onto the outside window of West Lecture Hall in the Science Center was seen being removed by custodial staff.

For a depressingly detailed account of Oberlin’s racial divide, one can also check out the Oberlin Microagressions Tumblr, which has a record of these events and more.

To put this all in context, let’s remember this is Oberlin College, the supposed bastion of liberal progressiveness. The first college in the country to educate both men and women together and equally (1841). The first college to accept African-American students (1835). The final stop on the Underground Railroad. The college of same sex dorms, dorm rooms and bathrooms, and the famed Drag Ball and Safer Sex Night. A college founded on “religious utopian principles” that boasts a Kosher-Halal food co-op. We read about the above behavior from larger universities like Duke and scoff and insist that it would never happen or be tolerated at Oberlin.

In 2009, a “Mexican Party” was thrown on campus where some attendees dressed as undocumented immigrants (whatever that entails) and drug dealers. During my senior year (‘09-’10), I was asked by a white girl one Saturday (in my own house, of all places) if my afro that day was in honor of the “Pimps and Hoes” party that evening. Both of these parties prompted campus-wide talks, solidarity meetings, discussions with the student senate and a forum or two. In 2011, someone spray painted “n*ggerf*ggot” on a dorm wall, and earlier this year, I saw a few posts on Facebook and Tumblr about someone scrawling “n*gger” on posters (different from the documented incidents above) along with a call to action, but there didn’t seem to be an overwhelming outpouring of student anger or responsiveness from the administration. In the end, incidents like these seemed to always blow over.

These actions may not be tolerated, but they certainly happen. It was happening when I was a student at Oberlin, and it’s happening now. What’s changed this time–I hope for the better–is the response.

Continue reading

Cal’s “Affirmative Action Bake Sale”: I want my free cookies.

by Guest Contributor Adrienne Keene, originally published at Native Appropriations

AA Bakesale

[Last week,] UC Berkeley’s College Republicans Chapter decided to have an “Affirmative Action Bakesale” to protest a new bill that has been introduced into the CA legistlature that would reverse parts of Prop 209, which in 1996 banned the use of race as a factor in admissions decisions in the UC system.

The premise of the bake sale is not new, and has definitely been used on other college campuses. The basic idea is that there is different pricing for different racial groups, as follows:

    White: $2.00
    Asian: $1.50
    Latino: $1.00
    Black: $.75
    Native American: $.25
    $.25 discount for women

Screenshot from TV news

The pricing implies that standards are lower for non-whites and women, and that the (poor, innocent!) White males are just royally screwed by the whole system. But you know what I see from that pricing? I GET FREE SNACKS. (I joke, I joke) Continue reading

Racism 101: Race and the College Freshman

by Guest Contributor Alana M. Mohamed

Experiencing Racism CoverMaybe I’m naïve, but when I stepped on the campus of my New England public university, I was dumbstruck by the whiteness of it all. I was literally the only person of color in a sea of white people. This had never happened to me before. I grew up in New York City and had never been to a school that was predominantly white. As such, I was partial to the color-blind politics of the day. This is not to say that I never experienced racism, but I was lucky enough to discount the few times I had encountered racism as the statistical outliers of my life. However, I was surprised to learn that my peers at university had rarely come in contact with people of color and often times lacked any sort of tact when dealing with people of color. After revealing that my last name is Mohamed, the questions and comments that followed without fail went something like: A) “You don’t look Muslim! Are you religious?” B) “Is your family…y’know, religious?” C) (A look of relief when I revealed that, no, they aren’t that religious) “Oh! Good, cause I know how crazy they can be.” My friends at other universities felt the same alienation and we started to really pay attention to the racism surrounding us.

Most of my class and dorm mates were white, middle class kids who lived in small, predominantly white towns. As a light skinned Guyanese-American woman, they found me hard to peg and I was privy to my share of racist “jokes.” Once, during Black History Month, our dining hall happened to be serving fried chicken and watermelon, in addition to numerous other options. A girl on my floor dim wittedly cracked, “What a way to celebrate Black History Month!” Half the room shared an uneasy silence, while the other erupted into laughter. I was shocked into silence and, looking back, I wish I could have said something. Since then, I’ve found that dealing with racist jokes is best handled by playing dumb. A simple, “I don’t get it,” and a couple of leading questions will encourage them to try and explain their joke and help them realize that relying on tired and racist stereotypes isn’t funny or clever in the least.

I’ve also encountered a very common situation: People saying racist things, but not realizing, or refusing to acknowledge that they’re racist. The most bizarre example of this occurred as a group of friends and I were walking back from a party. Shortly after chastising someone for using the word “Jiggaboo” to describe his black friends back home, my roommate and another girl began to discuss the physical differences between white people and black people. A snippet of the conversation? “And why does their hair do that? Like, why is it like that? It’s like they’re a whole different species! They kind of,” here she lowered her voice, “look like animals a little.” I shared a look with another friend and simply said, “Whoa, I’m not even gonna participate in this conversation.” However, my roommate and the girl she was talking to still didn’t understand why what they said was offensive. Continue reading

Riverdale Christian Academy celebrates graduation with a blackface party mocking slavery

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

Wow. Now it’s not only college students playing with blackface, faculty and staff members are getting in on the act too. This Fresno, CA Christian school even played a game of “catch the runaway slave!” From Fresnobee.com:

Members of Fresno’s black community said they were stunned this week to see pictures of adults in blackface poking fun at slavery during a recent graduation celebration for Riverdale Christian Academy.

The photos, which were posted on the Internet shortly after the June 1 event, show staff and faculty of the small private Christian school dressed as slaves with captions describing activities at the party in Hanford.

“The slaves served lemonade — it was a riot,” read one caption beneath a photo of five women and a man at a lemonade stand. Each had dark face makeup and wore 19th century clothing.

“Someday we gonna be leavin’ when a workin’ day is done,” read another caption posted with a photo of three women holding gardening tools.

A third picture showed a white man in a Yankees jersey and top hat escorting another in blackface with the caption, “bringing home the runaway slave in the Senior skit.”

By now you know the drill with these blackface parties.

Step 1: Declare that you did not mean to offend anyone.

Step 2: Point to the fact that black people were at the party too, so obviously it wasn’t that racist!

Nice to see that Doug Spencer, the school’s principal, has been taking notes:

Spencer, who said he was sorry for the controversy, said his school, with a student body of 150, has “three or four” black students. One of those students attended the party. Spencer said that while he is willing to apologize to anyone offended by the skits, he has not apologized to the unnamed student.

“It was not offensive,” Spencer said. “And she hasn’t asked for an apology.”

Hat tip to Tate Hill at Urban Knowledge and Resist Racism

Harvard students call cops upon seeing black people

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

Wow. This is priceless. Thanks Wayne for the tip! From Gawker:

—–

This weekend, on the bucolic Quad at Harvard University—typically, the site of a casual game of Ultimate, or perhaps an afternoon reading of some Shakespearean sonnets before English class—an unusual and, to some, frightening scene was played out. There were people throwing things! And running! And jumping! And most scary of all, every single one of them was black. So the Harvard students watching from their dormitory windows, growing increasingly agitated at the sights below, did what any normal, white Harvard student would do when they saw a large, seemingly unruly group of black people: They called the cops!

Except, well, oops—turns out it was just the Harvard Black Men’s Forum and Association of Black Harvard Women:

As members of the groups played games of dodgeball and capture-the-flag in the Quad as part of the annual “BMF-ABHW Challenge,” Cabot House residents fired off a string of impassioned e-mails questioning students’ presence on the public lawn—and whether they were students at all. Eventually, the Harvard University Police Department was called about the commotion, and officers asked the students to “keep the noise down,” according to police spokesman Steven G. Catalano.

Perhaps croquet would have been more appropriate?

Santa Clara University students mock Latinos with “South of the Border Party”

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

The latest racist campus party comes to us from California’s Santa Clara University, where students decided to um, honor their Latino brothers and sisters by throwing a”South of the Border Party.” Students dressed up as janitors, female gangsters and pregnant women. (Hat tip to Rachel and thanks to Susan too!.) From the Contra Costa Times:

Photographs taken at the private, off-campus party and splashed on Internet sites reveal a crude and narrow portrayal of Latino life. One student hammed it up before the camera with a stuffed balloon on her belly, under her blouse. Another posed for a close-up shot of her puckered mouth, thickly lipsticked and lined in black. One student wore a janitorial costume complete with the long, rubber gloves commonly used to clean bathrooms.

Students have already begun organizing responses to this party. From The Santa Clara, the school’s student paper:

MEChA and La Communidad Latina both held special meetings to address the issue, while the MCC organized a silent march to Locatelli’s State of the University speech.

At least 250 students, faculty members and administrators of many ethnicities gathered in support and walked through campus behind a banner that read, “In unity there is strength.”

Supporters wore orange armbands and orange ribbons. Aguas said in her e-mail advertising for the march that orange symbolizes anti-racism.

“It’s not a particular party, nor a particular person, but addressing the whole issue of having theme parties that reinforce negative stereotypes,” Aguas said.

She cited other parties, including one in November 2006 with a “Fresh off the Boat” theme in which attendees were encouraged to dress as a new immigrant. At publication, pictures from that party were still on Facebook.

University of Arizona students celebrate MLK day with blackface party

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

It seems like college students across America were really busy on January 15th coming up with ways to mock the memory of Martin Luther King. Not only did students at Tarleton State University, University of Connecticut School of Law, and Clemson University throw “ghetto parties” on MLK Day, now comes word that students at the University of Arizona did the same (thanks for the tip, Kynn).

Only this party didn’t even go with the vague “ghetto” theme. They actually asked attendees to dress up as their “favorite black person.” From The Wildcat Online:

An image posted on the social networking Web site Facebook shows partygoers dressed in do-rags and fur coats with black-painted faces.

After being invited, pre-business freshman Brianna Tarleton and a friend inquired as to the meaning of a “black” party.

“My friend asked, ‘How would you do that?’ (Kuechel) said, ‘You know, dress up like gangsters, pimps and hos,’” Tarleton said.

You gotta love the justification given by Kuechel, the kid who threw the party:

While many UA students condemned the party, the UA student who threw the party, agricultural education sophomore Kyle Kuechel, said the party was not intended to be offensive.

“In order to come, you had to dress as your favorite black person,” Kuechel said. “Two people were dressed as lawyers, and two from ‘Family Matters.’”…

Kuechel said four of the 15 partygoers were black and were not offended by the party.

Oh, my bad! If those 15 four black people (thanks, Colin) thought it was all good, then I guess it was.