Racism and Anti-Racist Protests at U. of California, San Diego

To update Joe’s February 17 entry on racial tensions at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), stemming from a “Compton Cookout” party, students from the UCSD Black Student Union have issued a racial “state of emergency.” About 200 students met with UCSD administrators to present 32 points of demand

As a reaction to the outrage of the racially-themed party, a student organization aired a live segment on closed-circuit television, Koala TV, supporting the “ghetto-themed” party:

After Kris Gregorian, editor in chief of humor newspaper the Koala, said that protestors of last week’s controversial “Compton Cookout” party were “ungrateful niggers” on Channel 18, the Black Student Union declared a “State of Emergency” and issued a six-page list of demands to the university.

According to SignOnSanDiego.com:

Brewing tensions were made worse yesterday morning, when students searching for a copy of the videotape found a piece of cardboard in the student-run television studio with the words “Compton lynching” written on it — an apparent reference to the party, which was billed as the “Compton Cookout.” The discovery was publicized in the middle of the emotional meeting between students and administrators. It prompted tears and repeated outcries from black students, who said they do not feel safe or welcome on campus. African-Americans make up less than 2 percent of undergraduates, a level that has been unchanged for a decade, despite recruitment efforts.

Much of the commentary to these events is focused on “Free Speech”:

Sixth College senior Mike Randazzo is hosting a “Compton Cookout Part Deux: Equal Rights” party on March 4. He is requesting that guests come dressed as their favorite stereotype to promote free speech and show that the intentions of the original Compton Cookout were innocent. Currently, 120 people have RSVPed as attending. “I created this event to get people to understand that the creators meant no ill will,” Randazzo said. “It’s wrong that people are getting outraged and I want to help people come together and put an end to the hatred to show tht [sic] UCSD is not a racist place.”

Apparently this student believes that equal opportunity stereotyping is the solution to racial problems; he obviously has no comprehension of the legacy of and contemporary consequences of the racial hierarchy.

One student from the Black Student Union stated:

“I’m not saying that they don’t have the right to freedom of speech, but where’s my right to be protected from that?” …“I am a student in your class, and I have to sit next to these racist kids. What kind of college is this?”

Unfortunately, this is a question that needs to be addressed on many college campuses.

College Racism — Again

Graffiti was discovered warning that on Feb. 2, 2010, the safety of black students here on campus at Hocking College would be in jeopardy

said Hocking College president Dr. Ron Erickson, as reported by the Associated Press. A follow-up note stating “kill the [n-word]” was also found. At least two African American students have permanently withdrawn from the school, and numerous others have moved off-campus.
As reported by the Associated Press, campus spokesperson Judy Sinnott said

Any time that there are young people, you know, there’s going to be tension. Young people will be young people.

Let’s just be clear: Dismissing racial violence (expressed in words or in action) as just “kids being kids” sends a dangerous and clear message of who is protected and, hence, valued at the university, and who is not.

The news coverage (such as here ) reveals striking differences in responses from white students, who thought it was overblown and just a joke, compared to responses from African American students, who reported concern for their safety. In Two-Faced Racism: Whites in the Backstage and Frontstage (Routledge, 2007), Joe Feagin and I discuss the frequency of backstage racist joking among white college students who often dismissed it as “no big deal” as long as they didn’t get caught.

For these students in our research, racist joking was just part of the fun: There were no negative repercussions, and no connections to the larger racial hierarchy. A hostile racial climate could absolutely account for the ambivalent reaction by some white students at Hocking College.

The threats at Hocking College are absolutely a way of instilling fear. Whether or not the threats are carried out, it has already achieved the consequences desired by the person(s) who wrote the threat. The African American students likely did not withdraw simply due to fear of this isolated event, but we can speculate about a hostile racial climate on this campus, and sadly, on many college campuses across the country.American