Tuesday, March 2, 2010

promote hollow forms of diversity, instead of fighting racism (e.g., ucsd)

This is a guest post by Scott Boehm, a Ph.D. student in Literature at UC San Diego. His dissertation considers historical memory, cultural trauma and the Spanish Civil War. He has written for Counterpunch and other publications, and he's the author of an American Quarterly piece, "Privatizing Public Memory: The Price of Patriotic Philanthropy and the Post-9/11 Politics of Display." Scott can be contacted at crossedculture @ yahoo.com

I am a white Ph.D. student in the Literature Department of UC San Diego; I currently live in Spain. From 2004-08, I spent most weekdays on the UCSD campus, including work as a teaching assistant in the Dimensions of Culture Writing Program at UCSD’s Thurgood Marshall College. In 2007, contrary to standard practice for veteran TAs on one-year contracts, I and another TA were not rehired to continue teaching in that program, despite outstanding teaching records, including teaching awards.

The reason?

We were openly critical of how a program and a college that were founded on principles of social justice and the critique of structural inequalities in the United States—particularly those of race, class and gender—had 1) been watered down with meaningless multicultural rhetoric, 2) absorbed much of the racist logic of Proposition 209 (which led the way for the elimination of college admissions policies across the country that included constitutional affirmative action components to redress centuries of discrimination against minorities in higher education), and 3) succumbed to pressure from a conservative watchdog organization that had targeted the program for its supposed liberal “indoctrination” of undergraduate students.

The decision to effectively fire two TAs for being critical of how “diversity” was promoted in ways as hollow as the term itself led to a series of events -- a campus protest, a student walk-out and march to the Chancellor’s office, a teach-in, a “funeral” for academic freedom, a town hall, and extensive press coverage at local (and to some degree national) levels. These events prompted a review of the Dimensions of Culture Program, but very few of the structural changes that a coalition of graduate and undergraduate students, staff, faculty and campus organizations had deemed necessary to improve not only Thurgood Marshall College and its writing program, but also the UCSD campus climate and community as a whole, were adopted.

So, when news of the wave of recent racial incidents on my campus reached me, I was saddened, but far from surprised.

Since information about these incidents is widely available, I will avoid recounting them here. I would, however, like to offer some background on UCSD that might shed some light on the context in which these incidents have occurred.

UCSD celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. From the beginning, the campus was designed as an elite institution driven by scientific research and graduate-level studies, with close ties to the wealthy white La Jolla community that surrounds it, as well as to the U.S. military, which donated the land upon which it sits.

The campus design could be described as “counter-revolutionary,” as it was built in response to widespread campus activism in the 1960sc-- particularly the free speech movement at Berkeley -- and today it is a model for crowd containment and surveillance. The Geisel Library, where a noose was hung on the seventh floor last week, sits at the heart of campus like an all-seeing eye, hovering above students like a Foucauldian panopticon. The library effectively functions as a metaphor for a structure of feeling that’s based on hierarchy and alienation, phenomena that permeate most layers of the institution.

The university has an elite college system that divides undergraduate students (as well as faculty) into six different colleges, via a fairly arbitrary system. This arrangement effectively keeps students alienated from each other, while promoting distinctions among them. Thurgood Marshall College, originally named Third College (and almost called Lumumba-Zapata College due to political pressure by a coalition of students of color -- including Angela Davis -- and a few white radicals -- including Herbert Marcuse -- pushing for an institutional space that served the needs of Black and Chicano students), is without a doubt UCSD’s key multicultural advertisement. This college is highlighted in recruiting materials to market the university as minority-friendly, when in reality, UCSD’s Black population has never exceeded 3% of the student body. Considering the university’s geographical location, the case is not much better for Chicano and Latino students, who make up 13% of the current student body.

UCSD is a rather hostile place for human beings in general, due to a ruthless quarter system designed to promote scientific research and thwart political organizing; extreme pressure to produce, perform and achieve; a lack of social life and amenable campus; and, as I said, an architecture of alienation and surveillance. However, such hostility is magnified for Black, Chicano and Latino students, who since the 1960s have expressed their need for safe campus spaces, as well as the need to increase minority recruitment and retention, and to provide a curriculum that critically examines structural inequalities (the Lumumba-Zapata College movement included “whiteness studies” as a part of such a curriculum component decades before Peggy McIntosh started unpacking her knapsack). The answer of university administrators has almost always been to ignore such requests.

Today, Chancellor Fox is confronted with yet another generation of UCSD students of color who are angry, hurt and terrorized, not only at what has happened on (and off) campus, but also at the administration’s response to those events and its complicity in the construction of a campus atmosphere in which such things have occurred. As usual, the administration’s response has been lackluster, off-key and seemingly motivated by damage/image-control, and not by a genuine understanding of the issues -- a PR campaign that attempts to cover up the daily violence perpetuated by a university built upon disdain for the needs of all of its students. This daily, institutional violence particularly affects those groups who are most vulnerable, because they are the least represented and because their respective cultures are not integrated into the university curriculum or campus life in any meaningful way. (I should also note that the majority of their professors and TAs are overwhelmingly white, providing them with few role models and tenured advocates.)

UCSD’s website, which gives the appearance of addressing the issues that have surfaced over the past weeks, exemplifies such Band-Aid politics. The homepage currently invites people to “Join the Battle Against Hate,” and it features an image of a black and white pin that says “Racism: Not In Our Community.” The first slogan is predictably abstract and vague, an invitation that few could refuse, and one that offers the appearance of an administration that takes these things seriously. The second one is an outright lie, all too reminiscent of the 1980s “Just Say No” campaign against drugs (and we all know how well that one worked out).

Indeed, if UCSD is a community at all, it is -- among other things -- most definitely a racist one. The recent “ungrateful nigger” comments, the “Compton lynching” sign in the campus television studio, and the noose hung in the library provide clear evidence of that. But, these incidents -- as awful as they are -- are merely symptoms of a much larger problem festering at the core of this so-called institution of higher learning. While these racist incidents must be dealt with -- swiftly, unequivocally, and with justice -- they are not exactly what needs to be treated (and not superficially bandaged over).

These incidents are examples of what Freud called “the return of the repressed.” They’re the sudden explosion of painful campus truths that normally don’t see the light of day, but that have been exposed for the entire nation to see. What requires treatment and deep analysis is the fundamental fantasy that UCSD can promote itself as an inclusive, “diverse,” and caring campus community, while perpetuating values and maintaining structures that are in direct conflict with such a virtual image. Just as the primary goal of Lacanian psychoanalysis is for the patient to become conscious of the cause and structure of their desire by exploring personal traumas, so should UCSD administrators examine how the inheritance of the past 50 years of repressive campus policies and politics has contributed to these racist current events. Like any symptom, they do not manifest themselves from nowhere; they have a history.

There is no legitimate reason for administrators to be shocked or to feign indignation at the obvious, which registers with victimized students as being out of touch with campus realities, or simply really bad acting. These racist incidents are -- depressingly -- nothing more or less than the manifestation of the invisible racism that has operated on an everyday basis at UCSD since it was founded in 1960.

The question now is whether the administration is prepared to face a shameful diagnosis and to take concrete steps to reconfigure its desire in ways that better suit the needs of all its students, or whether it will continue the UCSD legacy of posing as one thing -- a university of “excellence” -- and acting like another -- a dehumanized space for the production of human capital in which racism flourishes.


FYI: Herbert's Hippopotamus (1996) is an engaging and informative documentary on the early history of UCSD, including Herbert Marcuse's experience while a professor of philosophy there, the Lumumba-Zapata College movement, and student protest against the Vietnam War. The film includes rare footage of Marcuse, Angela Davis and Ronald Reagan.

Google Video has it for free:
Herbert's Hippopotamus


  1. There was an act that recently occurred at my alma mater. It has some racial tinges to it and involved the campus police department. The first thing the administration did was post the news on the homepage of the website -- I suppose it was their way of suggesting they saw an issue and didn't plan to hide.

    Except, hide has been exactly what they've done. Except for their initial response, the administration has said little publicly and most of the news has been reported by an arguably biased student newspaper.

    I love my alma mater and am currently on pins and needles hoping they readmit me for a Master's degree -- but that doesn't mean I can't see where they falter.

    This race discussion gets really interesting when you frame it in terms of school, especially higher education. Mostly because the question of "who's responsibility" is it is the first question that has to be answered. We're talking about adults here who should (but obviously don't) know better. Is it the IHE's job to teach them basic human principles?

    There's more institutions of higher education (IHEs) can do to foster safe spaces for their minority students, and chief among them is finding ways to encourage students of the majority to not go out of their way to make it uncomfortable.

    In the midst of what's happened at UCSD there's also been an incident at Missouri University where someone took the time to spread cotton balls in front of their Black Cultural Center. Why, I always wonder -- why? What point is there to make with this other than that you don't want your campus to be shared with minorities.

  2. This is pretty hardcore/serious, that...I am at a loss for words, except that it's hard to believe it's 2010 in the US. But that last bit says a lot more about my naivete than anything else. It's as though reality has finally set in for me. It's heartbreaking to read this and the letter by Jody Blanco that's addressed to the Filipino students that the OP linked to. The atmosphere of the two writings put together almost feels as solemn as a funeral (not sure how else to describe it). Thank you for posting.

    (Btw, the Asian students who do not have a fluent command of English - are they 'first generation Americans', or are they overseas students on student visas who are there for the short haul?)

  3. Your stereotyping of Asian students at UCSD offends. You generalize across the board ... Asians are apolitical? Have you actually conducted a statistically valid poll? Asians pretty much excel at math and science? Many Asians can't communicate in English? These stereotypes have been used for ages to keep Asians out of elite schools and leadership positions for ages.

    You do know that plenty of Asian Americans at UCSD speak fluent English, right? Gosh, some of them even major in English! You just want to perpetuate the stereotype of all Asians, even those born here, as the perpetual foreigner.

    Sounds like you're throwing up a bunch of your own stereotypes derived from provincial, race-addled viewpoint. You don't seem to like Asian folk much.

    I bet your next retort will be "some of my best friends are Asian." Shame on you.

  4. I don't imagine that the administrators will actually acknowledge anything other than the absolute fact that these incidents occurred. I believe that they will, as most WP do, blame the faceless and distanced (distanced by time or strange upbringings, of course) "racist WP" for being their individually racist selves. It's not going to be acknowledged as something with a legitimate past, nor will it be seen as the actions of a group of students who hold dominance at the school. That would just present a daunting job for the administrators to eradicate, and it's one they don't think they'll personally benefit from.

    It's beyond frustrating and scary to think that something like this could be so obvious yet still be swept under the rug. Yet it's so typical too. "Come on folks, isn't it just easier to pretend this never happened? These students are not the norm here at UCSD and neither are their actions. They'll be punished and it's best to move forward in a positive manner." That's just the general feeling I get, especially with the BS on their website.

  5. re: "There is no legitimate reason for administrators to be shocked or to feign indignation at the obvious, which registers with victimized students as being out of touch with campus realities, or simply really bad acting. These racist incidents are -- depressingly -- nothing more or less than the manifestation of the invisible racism that has operated on an everyday basis at UCSD since it was founded in 1960."

    With some regularity, people who are concerned about issues of racism where I work share articles via email about egregious acts such as those at UCSD, and I always have mixed feelings about the attention that these receive, both here and in the national consciousness. On the one hand, it's probably a good thing that such incidents are not simply covered over and unexamined, but on the other hand, putting focus on them can perpetuate the notion that overt racism is a kind of blight on our otherwise just and moral (if imperfect) society. In fact, racism is part of the very foundation and fabric of our society, and as Scott Boehm suggests, such egregious incidents are not the full extent of the disease itself but a symptom of a deeper and more insidious condition.

  6. Racism begins with our families, parents, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, grandparents, people we admire, respect and love.

    However, as we grow and mature we come to the realization that what we were told by our family when we were children were slanted lies base on their prejudices. We realize that most people are like ourselves and not so different and want the same things, like a home, steady work, a Medicare plan and schools for our children (if you travel you will see this). We realize that most people are of good hearts and goodwill.

    This reminds me of a parable from the good book where a Levite and Priest come upon a man who fell among thieves and they both individually passed by and didn’t stop to help him. Finally a man of another race came by, he got down from his beast, decided not to be compassionate by proxy and got down with the injured man, administered first aid, and helped the man in need. Jesus ended up saying, this was the good man, this was the great man, because he had the capacity to project the “I” into the “thou,” and to be concerned about his fellow man.

    You see, the Levite and the Priest were afraid, they asked themselves, “If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?”

    But then the Good Samaritan came by. And he reversed the question: “If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?”

    That’s the question before us. The question is not, “If I stop to help our fellow man in need, what will happen to me?” The question is, “If I do not stop to help our fellow man, what will happen to him or her?” That’s the question.

    God bless all my brothers and sister that stood side by side with our brothers and sisters in need, when you saw a wrong you tried to correct it, you may argue the methods but not the reasons. I know God will not discriminate by country of origin, our sex, our orientation, color of our skin, or our religion as men do.

  7. Why do "certain people" take the time to do "certain things"?

    Well, in my experience, it's mostly a joke to them. A lot of these kids have had "diversity" pounded into their heads since grade school and by now (or even sooner like in high school), they don't take it seriously. They behave this way because they know it hits minorities where it hurts and that there will be an emotional uproar. It's very entertaining to watch "others" get upset. Sick, but they find it entertaining.

    Either they're tired of hearing about what they should do and are rebelling or they just don't think it's a big deal. Why should they?

    They know exactly what will happen during and after a racially charged event: NOTHING of substance. A LOT of these universities have their Black Student Unions and groups for Latino students, but what does it mean?

    Universities (like mine)often wait until something like this happens before they discuss hate crimes and intolerance. When they do, it's almost always in the form of student panels and "hate marches" (just this Sunday my university hosted a No More Hate: SLU march in response to several black women being threatened with violence and having racial slurs hurled at them as they moved about campus and racial epithets being scribbled on students doors).

    Universities are not serious enough about hate crimes and HARASSMENT. When a student is threatened on your campus, there ought to be SWIFT PUNISHMENT for the offenders. Also, schools ought to MAKE IT PLAIN that NO behavior like this is to be tolerated. Let these people know up front that you take this type of B.S. very seriously and there will be no wrist slapping. Don't wait until after the deed is done, because by then it's too late.

  8. "a large percentage of Asian students at UCSD are apolitical"

    p.s. Are you saying that most students of all other ethnicities in all other US university campuses are politically engaged?

  9. I agree with nearly everything on this post, except you do generalize the Asian population at UCSD. As an Asian American who was involved in social movements during my undergrad at UCSD, I have seen many APIs (Asian Pacific Islanders) who have been politcally active just as much as the African American and Latin@ students. You also do stereotype Asians as 'being good at math and science', perpetuating the model minority myth, which is a dangerous thing to assume. Also, most Asians are fluent in English, so I don't know where you are getting this information on their English skills..

    With that being said, the part of the problem with this whole issue has to do with the campus climate; most students at UCSD can agree that the environment creates isolation and lack of social atmosphere (unless you are involved with organizations). There is hardly any unification due to the split of 6 colleges and school pride is definitely lacking. Even in some of the Ethnic Studies or History classes that I have taken here, most people do not feel comfortable talking about race, gender, class, privilege, and role of power. It creates a hostile environment for under-represented and under-privileged students of color who come from working class backgrounds.

    On the other hand, these student demonstrations are making an impact across the state, as other universities and colleges have shown support in solidarity. I do believe that this is a crucial moment in history where institutional changes can be made.

  10. I would have liked some more info on the violence and exactly what is going on at the campus. It was called systemic, but I would have liked more examples about what's really happening so I could be more informed.

  11. You know, this really could be a good piece, but yet it seems to do another thing "white people do"; namely play off minority ethnicities against one another.

    The generalisations and stereotyping about A/PI's were really jarring, and seemed to serve no other purpose but to set Asians up against Blacks and Latinos/as. There's a mention of the percentage of whites, but I note nothing in terms of characterisations of their political, academic, etc leanings, stereotyped or not. One is thus left wondering as to the reason for the mention of Asians.

    It sounds like UCSD has some huge racism issues, made considerably worse by ignorant and superficial approaches to racism and diversity.

    However, the solution to such is not to engage in yet another form of racist construction by setting up one minority against another ... something whites have a long history of doing (particular by using the model minority myth of Asians against Blacks and Latinos/as). I find it offensive, racist, and devaluing of the anti-racism work the author claims to be doing.

    Intersectionality analysis would behove an investigation of how racisms operate across the entire campus, to the entire student body.

  12. I agree with a lot of other commenters... it's a good article except for the Asian hate. It's like the writer is blaming Asians for not standing up to "The Man" at UCSD while the poor blacks and latinos struggles. WTF? Sounds like the writer is just as racist as the institution he rally against. Another White Male Fail.

    Macon, I'm rather disappointed that you think this piece is good enough as a post in this blog, but it's really just another example of stuff white people do - thinking they are fighting racism when they are really just pitting one minority against another.

  13. Thank you to all above who called out the handling of "Asian" students in this post. I recognize the problem (thanks to your explanations); I apologize for the oversight; and I've now redacted that part of the post.

  14. Actually, could you please undo the redaction? I think that it's useful for people to see how easy it is to fall into racism and stereotyping even in the name of fighting racism. It lends context to everyone's subsequent comments. Thank you.

  15. Mugglebane,

    Yes. I'd like new readers to be able to focus on the post's other points without the distraction and/or offense of those two paragraphs, so instead of replacing them, I'll put them here:

    But, at least in terms of demographics, UCSD is not a white campus. “Caucasians” constitute only 26% of the student population. “Asians” and Filipinos together make-up 48%, far outnumbering any other “ethnic” groups on campus.

    Problematic terminology aside, it's important to point out that many there of Asian descent are first- and second-generation Americans. The majority of them excel at math and science, while many struggle to communicate clearly in English in writing courses. Although numerous individuals and several campus organizations that primarily identify as Asian engage in fighting racism on a daily basis at UCSD, a large percentage of Asian students at UCSD are apolitical and -- considering that they are half the campus population -- their relative absence from protests in the wake of the recent racial incidents is noteworthy.

  16. I made a cartoon about the UCSD campus "ghetto-themed" party.

    Overall, this is yet another example of racism surfaceing and the denial and passivity of the (mostly) white administrators, faculty and students.

  17. Will,

    Is your cartoon online? I couldn't find it on your blog.

  18. (1) UCSD: A group of dumb white frat guys hold an event called a "Compton Cookout." This pisses people off as it used Black History Month as a reason to mock black people with racist stereotypes. Also involved is some idiot who tries to use this opportunity for shameless self-promotion, who also happens to be black. To say the least, the guy is basically a wannabe Flavor Flav.

    (2) UCSD: Another dumb white frat guy gets mad that blacks are offended of being relegated to a bigoted stereotype. He tries to hold another racist event.

    (3) UCSD: Meanwhile, a terrible student media publication (which, after viewing their website consists of all white staff, nudity, staff wrestling each other, and well, not much else), pushes their limits calling black students "ungrateful n------" - not just that word, but also that apparently the black students owed them something. They have a reputation of being trashy, and at this point, administration and faculty rush to condemn racism by students of the campus and various protests begin. Funding is also cut from all student media at UCSD, creating an extra bitter controversy.

    (4) UCSD: On Friday of that week, a noose is found in the library. Everything gets worked in a frenzy and - something I'll address later - a large amount of white commenter’s on the internet begin claiming that is was probably a black student who planted it in order to gain more sympathy. In addition, there are rumors of a threatening note sent to the Guardian and a second noose, there was no second noose, and the threat seems to be just a rumor.

    (6) UCSD: Protests basically happen at all schools in support of the students. There are various sit-ins, and teach-ins, and what have you. School administrators become pushed to be more active in fixing what’s going on.

    I have not seen this noose person, but most of you blame her and conveniently forget wear this all originated.

    Instead of an apology there has been steady escalation and now the noose. So, what exactly will the excuses be for this cowardly act that brings up memories of the confederate KKK of the South in their attempts to keep slavery and the non-whites in fear? Is it that are uneducated, is it that their parents planted these seeds of hate, is it that they are live in fear because our President in the white house is not 100% white. In my opinion this is what the republican party of “birthers, baggers and blowhards” have brought you. These kids follow what their dullard leaders say, they listen to Beck, Hedgecock, Hannity, O’Reilly, Rush and Savage and the rest of the Blowhards, they are young and dumb. Are you surprise at what they do when you know what they think?

  19. I'm really confused as to why the stereotypical statements about Asian students were difficult to identify as problematic.

    I am also really unsettled by the pitting of one minority group against another, especially in light of vocal support by Asian-American organizations and students at UCSD for their black classmates (there's even a circulating petition for Asian-American students to show their solidarity). And honestly, even if there hadn't been, the last thing I want to read on this blog is accusations from white people about how non-white people are not doing enough to counter white racism. The redacted paragraph, more than being just a "distraction" makes me question the author's commitment to anti-racism, and therefore, his entire post.

    As for the rest of the post, I'd like to know more about the "multicultural rhetoric" the author protested against. Why mention problematic diversity curriculum if you're not going to explain why it was problematic? In fact, the approach of many institutions toward diversity and multiculturalism really sucks, and could be an entire topic of its own, apart from the recent mess at UCSD.

  20. island girl in a land w/o seaMarch 2, 2010 at 9:44 PM

    while reading the first part of the article, i thought to myself, good, maybe we can start a discussion the supposed benefits of institutional diversity policies as they are *currently* implemented. maybe we can begin to examine who gets to define "diversity" in higher ed, what value they assign to it, and who such policies ultimately benefit. needless to say, i was disappointed...

    as for racial climate on college campuses: again, this seems to be an issue of the voices and opinions and observations of POC being disregarded by those in power. a school can post their diversity statement prominently on their website and the dean in charge of recruitment can brag all day about how welcoming the school is -- yet saying it is so isn't the same as it being so.

    POC students tend to be attuned to the more nuanced characteristics of a campus' racial climate. this intelligence is vital to our survival and persistence in school.

    it's sad that whiteness prevents people in charge from listening to our perspectives on campus racial climate. it takes a really egregious event that attracts national media to get the attention of those in charge.

    i'm sure that students of color at UCSD could have told administrators a long time ago about the state of the campus' racial climate. no one seems to have valued their perspectives enough to ask them, or to take them seriously if their opinions had been offered or solicited.

  21. I second thesciencegirl's wish to know more about the author's protest against "multicultural rhetoric". It seems relevant both to the situation at UCSD and to understanding potentially problematic stuff white people are doing.

  22. Thank you for this overview, Scott. It really does help explain where this kind of racism comes from -- how it's fostered and inflamed by this campus's particularly white core and infrastructures (no matter how non-white-majority the student population is).

  23. I am not surprised how some people are trying to pit one minority against another. Especially after the fact that A/PI community has shown support for their fellow black/african american classmates.
    Here's a post that Angry Asian Man did on the noose incident:


  24. [to those (various?) Anonymous commenters currently shouting in all caps that the person who left the noose in the library is not white: I'm not publishing your comments because -- and this seems obvious to me -- this is a blog about stuff white people do.

    For others reading here, I've been wondering -- why is this part of the story SUCH A BIG DEAL to some white people? ~macon]

  25. @macon

    "Anonymous commenters currently shouting in all caps that the person who left the noose in the library is not white: I'm not publishing your comments because -- and this seems obvious to me -- this is a blog about stuff white people do."

    So, when it was assumed that a white person made the noose, it was a Very, Very Important Part of the Story...

    But now that the truth is that a white person didn't do it - that it was all a hoax, like many other noose hoaxes - you suddenly scrub that part of the story like it was so much unimportant garbage tossed down Orwell's Memory Hole. And your rationale is that you don't have to mention it because of your kinda goofy, utterly arbitrary rule that nothing that any other racial group does can ever be mentioned here. LOL!

    I don't like to be negative because I think your heart is in the right place, but this is the sort of example of why so many people find Politically Correct stuff like this site so dishonest and a mockery of the sense of justice that you say is so important to you.

  26. Just want to let everyone close to the UCSD events - and especially everyone living these events - that you've got support up here in Vancouver, BC. I see you, and I feel your pain as a POC myself. I read this blog and I have been following the UCSD events closely. I know it's a far cry from the REAL PAIN that you are going through but I want to let you know that I am there with you for the REAL ACTION and am SO proud to see those around you - like Dr. Jody Blanco and fellow Asians/API's - support your courageous protests and join your voices for long overdue change and REAL safety. Being sheltered in the middle class of Canada, myself, I was ignorant to the fact or possibility that these racist events could have transpired - I thought it was "history." But you are living history. The eyes of your peers, college, state, country, and one pissed Chinese-Canadian are open and watching, and our ears, hearts, hands, feet are all in your direction. STAY STRONG! LOVE and SOLIDARITY from above!!! But really, love and solidarity from around because I am there beside you.

  27. Macon, I have an issue with how you're handling this. Why are you apologizing for the content of the post and even edit it to make it "less racist?" Isn't this a guest post by Scott Boehm? Why isn't Mr.Boehm making these "edits"? Does he still stand behind what he wrote? I'm really not interested in your editing skills as much I'd like to understand what is the true rationale of the original writer? Why doesn't he come here and tell us how he feels? Maybe he's going to act white and make this all about him and complaint about how minorities are making life hard for "righteous whites" like him?

    If the edits you've made isn't his own, then I feel that you're just here to cover his butt while in the mean time Scott Boehm maybe woefully unaware that he has pitted one minority against another and ignored UCSD Asian student's solidarity with the other minorities. What's Scott Boehm take on our complaints about his post, Macon? Why are you editing his writings and think it will somehow "pass"?

  28. RainyDaySmiles wrote,

    And your rationale is that you don't have to mention it because of your kinda goofy, utterly arbitrary rule that nothing that any other racial group does can ever be mentioned here. LOL!

    You're demonstrating your inability to read writings on this blog while keeping their main point in mind. Objection to the "Arab Trader Argument" is not goofy and utterly arbitrary; it's a well-reasoned objection to a common form of derailment by those who don't like what they're hearing about white racism. As for recent news about the noose -- as I understand it, those who do want to discuss white racism in a serious and hopefully anti-racist manner here don't consider a noose left by an anonymous "minority" as big a deal as a noose left by a white one because the former isn't as significant a manifestation of the larger target here -- systemic, entrenched racism -- as the latter is when it happens. And that's the target here, which you'd see if you'd read this post carefully -- the institutional racism that fostered the white racism running rampant at UCSD these days.

    Tivome, I'm not going to try to speak for Scott, but I will address the actions of mine that you're questioning. I edited the post on my own after not hearing from Scott when I wrote to him about the racist paragraphs. I didn't do that to "cover his ass"; I did it in response to comments here that identified and objected to a racist feature of an otherwise helpful post. (And when Mugglebane requested above that I preserve them in order to show "how easy it is to fall into racism and stereotyping even in the name of fighting racism," I did so by putting them in a comment here for that purpose -- were I interested in "covering Scott's ass," I wouldn't have done that.) I often edit posts here in response to reader corrections, and I sometimes write whole new posts in response, explaining what I did and what I learned -- I'm trained to be "white," and thus bound to mess up sometimes in discussions of racism. I appreciate having my mistakes pointed out, and if I can see why and how I should correct mistakes on this blog, whether mine or others, I take action to do so.

  29. CuppyCakeGumDropsMarch 4, 2010 at 6:28 AM


    why is this part of the story SUCH A BIG DEAL

    I think the pseudo-naivete you're affecting here is hardly conducive to constructive debate. It's obvious why this is a big deal: white people interpret this as a cynical hoax designed to depict them as potentially-murderous thugs in dire need of anti-racist re-education. And you know that the if the student who confessed to hanging the noose had been white, the discussion here would not have ignored that fact -- it would be, SWPD: threaten to lynch their classmates! I think anyone would be defensive about being portrayed in such a manner.

  30. CuppyCakeGumDrops,

    Stop claiming you can read my mind. I'm not "affecting" anything. As for those white people who suddenly care about the identity of this noose-leaver, why weren't they (and, presumably, you) up in arms when that person was still suspected to be white? And why aren't they, and you, up in arms when other noose-leavers around the country prove to be white? White students DO sometimes terrorize their classmates this way, don't they?

    As for bringing up the supposedly, totally overshadowing-of-everything-else importance of the apparent non-white identity of this noose-leaver within a discussion of the broader, incendiary context of institutional racism/white supremacy -- do you know what "derailment" means?

  31. @Cuppycake:

    The fact that white people are completely ignoring EVERYTHING else to only focus on this one fact to prove that they are not racist, all the while condoning all the other racist issues, is what is complete and utter bs.

    I can barely even breathe after a week of discussing this issue with white people and them taking that point as a mean to completely absolve those students of any wrong doing (race baiting, ignorance, etc)

  32. Macon,

    Sorry, perhaps I was just giving you too much credit. I assumed it would be obvious to you (and indeed obvious to any thinking person) why the race of the noose-leaver might matter, and that your asking why it was SUCH A BIG DEAL was just a clumsy rhetorical tactic. But maybe you really didn't know. Oops?

    I can't speak for other white people, but I was indeed up in arms when a noose was hung at my university (not UCSD). Like most people, I initially permitted myself to presume only that the perpetrator must be white and that this was a heinous, terroristic threat. I joined a rally protesting the noose and urging the university to turn over evidence that would enable the police to investigate and prosecute this hate crime to the fullest extent of the law. In the context of my posts here, I'm sure you can guess how this story ends. I cheered when the despicable perpetrator of the noose hoax at my university was cast out of our community in shame, but I assure you that had she been white and had the noose been a sincere threat, I would have hoped the consequences would be far more severe.

    As for "derailment," I'm not sure I know what it means, but I know what you think it means -- and more often than not, *I* think it's bullshit. The mere fact that the noose incident was discussed without caveat in a post about white racism suggests that pointing out that the person who left the noose was not, in fact, white should certainly be considered to be within the scope of the discussion flowing logically from that post. No one's contending that the importance of this fact overshadows the importance of everything else Mr. Boehm raised. Well, at least, I'm not contending anything of the sort. (IMHO, however, his post speaks most saliently about his own white racism against Asian people). I guess I can't speak for the commenters you censored, though.

  33. @ TiredOne,

    I just want to say that I can envision your frustration and agree that it's illogical and dishonest to try to leverage the identity of the noose-hanger as some kind of get-out-of-jail-free card absolving white people in regard to other allegations of racism, e.g., the atrocious Compton Cookout. I jumped down Macon's throat because I do think the identity of the noose-hanger is a BIG DEAL, i.e., should forcefully shape any attempt to interpret the implications of the noose incident with respect to white racism. But traces of the denials you describe surfaced in the dialogue on my campus following our own noose incident, and I agree, they were stupid. And I'm sorry you can barley breathe after refuting them 24/7.

  34. For others reading here, I've been wondering -- why is this part of the story SUCH A BIG DEAL to some white people?

    Where does this article say that she cannot be white? Does everyone think so because she refers to herself as a minority student, on a campus that is NOT predominantly white?

  35. I would like to take a moment to respond to the high volume of negative reactions that my post attempting to contextualize the recent racial incidents at UCSD has provoked. It is clear that many people have taken offense to the way I described campus demographics. It is also clear that the numbers themselves are not what provoked such reactions, but my personal commentary about Asian students at UCSD, which could be interpreted as either perpetuating aspects of the “model minority myth” or even participating unwittingly in what Claire Jean Kim has termed “racial triangulation.”

    With this in mind, I would like to apologize for two things: first, I take full responsibility for any personal pain that my comments caused. As a white person, I can’t conceive what it is like to be a historically oppressed minority, and I am well aware of the fact that Asians and Asian Americans have been the target of racist politics and violence since their arrival to the United States, as well as in their own countries, for example in the Philippines and Vietnam, countries that suffered—and continue to suffer due to things like Agent Orange and economic devastation—the effects of U.S. imperialism.

    I would also like to apologize specifically for any problems that my post might cause for organizers on the front lines at UCSD. From personal experience, I know how difficult political organizing is at UCSD, particularly when it concerns questions of race. One of those difficulties includes coalition building across racial lines. I sincerely hope that my post has not caused any problems or divisions or pitted any racial groups against each other. Even if it hasn’t, I apologize for potentially doing so. There is much at stake in the current struggle, and I only want to help—not hurt—efforts to denounce the hateful acts that have taken place at UCSD, as well as the way racial violence manifests itself on a daily basis on campus.

  36. Is it just me or are there others who feel as though Scott's response hasn't hit the nail on the head?

    @Scott Boehm - I understand you're doing your best in fighting racism, and I appreciate your post. But I don't fully understand your comment. Firstly, what is "racial triangulation"? I've googled it, but it either gives me links to the abstracts of academic articles, or the articles themselves which require special access to retrieve, or Claire Jean Kim's CV. Okay, so she's real smart. I get that. But what in the world does she mean? Could you please explain briefly what you or she mean in plain English?

    Secondly, you referred to the campus climate in the post, but didn't give further explanation as to what it is you're referring to despite Big Man & thesciencegirl asking about them. If you still think they are relevant, it would be great to hear about them.

    Thirdly, you said regarding your comments about Asians - "which could be interpreted as either perpetuating aspects of the “model minority myth"." So, do you feel as though we have misinterpreted your commentary? If so, which part? Because right now it reads like this: "Most Asian looking people = first & second generation Americans = good at math & science = bad at written English." I'm still a little confused as to why you're inclined to assume that the ones who struggle with written English are Americans as opposed to overseas students with foreign passports (is it safe to assume that you were aware of the nationalities of your students?), or why you felt some of this information was relevant to the topic of the post in the first place. Was it in some way relevant to the campus climate? Or is all this what you mean by 'racial triangulation'?

  37. Cupcake,
    Let me get this straight.
    "this is a big deal [because] white people interpret this as a cynical hoax designed to depict them as potentially-murderous thugs in dire need of anti-racist re-education."

    Ooooh! So... that the noose was put up by a black student proves that the white students are NOT in dire need of anti-racist re-education. The Compton Cookout, the planned follow-up, the "ungrateful n---s" comment, the harassment of PoC students and years of racial tension... none of that indicates a racism problem at UCSD as well as that black student's noose indicates there ISN'T a problem. Gotcha.

    Know what I think? I think your real beef is that you want there to be harsh penalties for perpetrating hoaxes that make white people look racist. Not even "hoaxes that terrorize people"— no, your problem is when WP are made to look bad. Fine, whatever. But right now, we're talking about the white people at UCSD who 1) made white people look bad and 2) TERRORIZED NONWHITE STUDENTS with their dead serious non-hoax actions.

    No one has condoned the noose-hanger.
    The OP didn't note that it was a black student because it wasn't known then. Once it became known, the point was worth noting. It's been noted. Back to the discussion.

  38. @ karinova:

    "this is a big deal [because] white people interpret this as a cynical hoax designed to depict them as potentially-murderous thugs in dire need of anti-racist re-education."

    Ooooh! So... that the noose was put up by a black student proves that the white students are NOT in dire need of anti-racist re-education.

    no, and that's a major logic fail

    Know what I think? I think your real beef ...

    Know what? You're wrong. And you're so bizarrely intent on strawmanning me that the picture you paint in the ensuing paragraph not only disregards but outright contradicts content I've *actually* posted.

    The OP didn't note that it was a black student because it wasn't known then.

    Was she black? I wasn't aware of that. (Is this a fact that's been since disclosed, or are you just assuming she was black?) I was aware, however (as was Mr. Boehm, presumably, at the time of his initial post) that the student was nonwhite. The OP is dated Tuesday 3/2. The student's apology had been published the previous day:


  39. Hey guys. The new post over on Racialicious (which I'm sure man read, but just in case) reminded me of the Asian issue that came up here and, by extension, poc (un)solidarity. It's a very interesting read. It's an example of how we can talk about this openly while still listening to each other. So here it is.

  40. Hey fromthetropics,

    After reading the Racialicious post, are you still upset by Bohems comments about Asian students?

  41. @Rutabaga - Good question. Thanks for asking. While 'upset' would be too strong a word, my sentiments have not changed towards the OP's handling of Asian students because:

    a) Scott's description of Asian students reinforces stereotypes about Asian students;
    b) the description about them being good at maths and don't speak English well didn't seem all that relevant to the issue (or rather, he didn't explain why it was relevant. I'd be happy to hear why);
    c) he doesn't (or cannot?) differentiate between American citizens of Asian descent and non-American citizens;
    d) and more importantly, he spoke about Asian students from a position of white (or dominant culture) privilege. It is not his place to point fingers at the Asians, or at least if he did think the issue was relevant, he needs to explain why. It is unclear why he wrote that paragraph, hence it gives the impression (unintentionally) that he's saying that he's a real good guy and an anti-racist (a 'martyr' of sorts, even), but those Asians aren't. I don't (yet) think that if you're white then you automatically cannot point out injustice elsewhere, but the post came across as though Scott was talking about Asians as, not only an outsider, but an outsider who is standing on a higher platform.

    In contrast, the post on Racialicious is a discussion of people on equal footings who are respecting and listening to each other. Both parties involved seemed to be talking from an insider perspective - Look, we've got the same goals, let's iron out the wrinkles together. And I guess it helps that they probably know each other quite well.

    I get that many Asians (myself included) are apathetic and hold many prejudices towards other groups. I get that. And I'm seeing it more and more since I started reading race blogs. But I do take issue with the way this post dealt with it due to it's lack of clarity. (hmmmm, hope I'm not doing the tone argument...)

  42. I'm sure many have read this by now, but for those who haven't, this is the shit (well, a big chunk of it anyway). CVT talks of how asian and black communities are intertwined, and how much of the tension between the two dates back to the divide and rule days of colonialism.


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