Political is personal and it affects all of us. “How many people have to get hurt before something gets done? The university won’t move until they see pain, yet pain we hide it so well,” said Uyen Hoang, the director of the Asian Pacific Coalition at UCLA. Last Wednesday, USC’s APASA, USC’s SCAPE and UCLA’s APC teamed up to hold a LA Asian Pacific Islander Town Hall meeting in response to the racist incident that occurred earlier in February. The primary aim of the town hall was not to focus on the flyer but rather, to emphasize three things: context, community, and a call-to-action. It was both exceptionally informative yet awfully painful to hear what people of all different backgrounds had to say about college campuses not being post-racial and the administration’s passivity towards discriminatory acts.
Here are a few snippets of the stories told at the Town Hall. A Native Hawaiian spoke of a Caucasian graduate professor who was outwardly racist and assaulted a student of color, yet is still an educator at UCLA. An American-Indian of Navajo descent spoke about how UCLA was his dream school, yet now, he’s not in love with it as he once was… because of discrimination that still exists. He spoke about fraternity parties themed as “Bros and Navajos” and being asked if he gets free tuition because he is an American Indian. He was ecstatic, as were most other students, that we were talking, acknowledging a serious lack of education and also, a lack of action on the administration’s part. Another student explained how a student wearing a headscarf was both verbally and physically harassed.
A lot of people believe America is colorblind and post-racial, but it’s not. Colleges, like USC and UCLA, which boast about fostering diversity, should be ashamed. Anh Nguyen, the President of VSU at UCLA, could not have said it better when she told students, “Remind the university as a whole that they are responsible for the students… It’s a systemic change [needed] in society… it needs to start from the policymakers.” APASA’s Assistant Director, Alison Chang, also mentioned, “On an individual level, it’s hard to fight back to those micro-aggressions. But, that’s why we do it as a community. Only when we stand together can we truly be heard.”
In order to stand together in solidarity, the Town Hall Meeting closed with various people signing a list of demands addressed to UCLA’s administration. The Town Hall was largely focused on sharing pain rather than speaking about how to respond/act as a community, but healing must come first before action. It also had a significantly larger emphasis on UCLA’s campus climate as opposed to USC’s. However, UCLA has also had a longer history regarding administration’s passivity towards addressing discriminatory acts than USC. A lot of students at USC are still unsure of what specifically to ask from administration or if there is a need to address administration. Is it strictly an education issue? We may have a diversity requirement but is it enough? What else can we do?
Questions may still remain unanswered, but the Town Hall made it clear that discriminatory acts still exist and will continue to persist unless we speak up. Even if these acts are not addressed to you, they are directed towards members of your community and it won’t just stop. As Alex Kanegawa, a member of SCAPE, said, “A lot of people assume that we should just let it go… But then, we’re going to be internalizing our own oppressions… And we shouldn’t let it keep happening.”
It was surprising to see how acts of discrimination could fully alter a person’s college experience. College campuses are meant to be safe and inclusive, but what happens when they are not? It’s disappointing and a clear indication that something must change. Pain in life, should stem from a bad breakup or from breaking your bone, not from the harsh words and hurtful actions by other members of your community.
Updates on these issues show that standing up for what you believe in can lead to change. The Chancellor of UCLA has released a letter addressing the UCLA’s list of demands clearly and he understands it is a university issue and explains how UCLA will go about addressing those demands, setting a timeline and a procedure. USC’s Vice Provost of Student Affairs, Dr. Carry, has also spoken out, with no real plan of action. What do we want on campus for USC? What do students want on USC’s campus?