Throughout the last month, California Lutheran University students have been dealing with the aftermath of two racially charged incidents that led to accusations of blackface and the use of a racial slur.
One of these incidents involved a video of a student athlete sending a Snapchat video saying a racial slur to another student, which was then shared on Twitter.
As a student of color at a predominantly white institution, I cannot say I did not anticipate something like this happening. However, I did expect that Cal Lutheran’s administration would have done a much better job in a situation like this.
It is troubling to know that incidents like these can happen on a campus that takes pride in its diversity. What is even worse is seeing how the university has handled this from the beginning.
For one, they put out many statements that asking students to please remain calm and peaceful while the repercussions of these hate incidents continue.
In an email sent by President Chris Kimball, students were asked to, “treat each other with kindness and take extra steps to preserve the well-being and safety of those in our community,” in regard to this situation.
There are issues in asking students of color to remain calm during circumstances like this. The first is that people of color are usually antagonized and vilified for being rightfully angry in certain situations, and this request feels like there is an assumption of anger and violence from us. The second is that we have absolutely every right to be angry because this directly impacts our communities and personal lives.
Myself, like other students of color on this campus, will remain angry, but we will not be violent. That assumption is harmful, and it stings.
One of the biggest issues students are most frustrated about is transparency. There have been many mixed answers about what consequences there will be for the students responsible. All that we as students of color are asking for are straightforward answers and a promise that there will be justice.
“I really feel like the school is waiting for us to just die down and waiting for us to just stop and give up, but I hope that they know that we’re not going to do that,” sophomore psychology major Destiny Moody said.
The thing is, this has been going on for much longer than a week. Students of color, but more frequently black students, experience microaggressions and discrimination way too often on this campus, but it is largely ignored. From this moment on, however, we will not let it continue to be ignored.
We want to be given the opportunity to change things on this campus. All it takes is for someone to just listen to us.
Junior philosophy and political science double major Lindy Ortiz said she feels like there are many people who are part of the Cal Lutheran community that care about these issues and want something to be done.
“We’re trying to be heard, but we don’t know who actually needs to be hearing us to make change, and it’s annoying that it’s so difficult,” Ortiz said.
One of the ways that students have begun to try and grab people’s attention is with a video series on Instagram called #IHateItHere. Cal Lutheran students Karyme Lara Chagoya, Ariana Gamble and Maria Reyes have been working with BSU to create these videos and spread the voices and concerns of students of color on campus.
Reyes said this hashtag describes the racist environment that exists at Cal Lutheran, and that it does not directly refer to the school itself.
“#IHateItHere is not like I literally hate Cal Lutheran, but I hate the fact that there’s racism here and you are letting it happen,” Reyes said.
First-year student Gamble agreed with this sentiment and said that this movement is not about the school itself.
“We don’t hate Cal Lutheran, we hate the environment that we are forced to live in currently,” Gamble said.
Gamble also said there has to be some type of change institutionally in the case that hate incidents like these happen again.
“[The consequences] seem to change with every case when it’s something that involves racism or racial incidents, and that shouldn’t be the case. It should always be zero tolerance,” Gamble said.
Many students of color say that they came to Cal Lutheran on the promise of diversity. I am among those students. I believed that as a Hispanic Serving Institution that had such a strong passion for sharing different perspectives would be safe for me as a Latinx student. As of now, I do not feel safe here.
However, none of that is on me or any other student of color to fix. That is the job of the administration. They need to take our voices into account, take responsibility and take the necessary actions to correct it.
As a student of color, I need to believe that Cal Lutheran cares about me.
The university’s student handbook currently has no clear-cut consequences for hate incidents by students on campus, so that is one change that can surely be made as soon as possible.
There are so many ways that our administration could have handled this, but instead it all has felt more like damage control than the university stepping up to protect it’s students.
Additionally, they need to go a step further and take preventative measures to make sure incidents like this do not happen again. We have a right to feel safe and comfortable at our own school.
“Everyone should feel safe and they should feel like they can walk to their classes, sit in their classes and learn without the fear of someone coming up to them and saying something racist to them,” Chagoya said.
Overall, forums and conversations about race are important and necessary, but they do not absolve you from having to accept the fact that there needs to be an institutional change here.
We need administration to stop being so worried about the image they are portraying and focus on the students and actually listen to their concerns to make this the safe learning environment it should be.
As a student of color, I need to believe that Cal Lutheran cares about me. I do not want to feel like another number. All I want is to be proud to say I am a student at Cal Lutheran, but now I am ashamed to be associated with this image.
What I ask for is this university’s promise to please change things around here and prove to me that I matter to you. This is your opportunity to be better, so for the sake of every single student of color on this campus, please take it.