Tag Archives: Protests

Inside the College #Resistance

Last month, at an event at Scripps College intended to educate students on activism, I learned the art of “solidarity”—helping undocumented immigrants circumvent our nation’s immigration laws, and collectively shouting down opponents in student-led political protests.

Ever since the inauguration of Donald Trump as president of the United States, protests of his administration and other acts of resistance seem to be happening everywhere and every day, from the streets to the town hall meetings of members of Congress. Participation by my fellow college students in the “anti-fascist resistance” (or, in millennial speak, “anti-fascist #resistance”) is the norm, yet I had been puzzled as to how my peers planned to resist and what exactly the #resistance entails.

I finally had the opportunity to find out when I attended the event held by the #resistance at Scripps College with the purpose of teaching the students of the Claremont Colleges how to “resist the fascist and white supremacist policies being espoused and enacted by our current administration” by “[roleplaying] solidarity actions.” Walking in, I only had two questions that I hoped would be answered: Will the methods of resistance taught be legal, and how is this current administration fascist? I hoped that the former would be answered affirmatively, and that someone would at least attempt to explain the latter to me.

The event began with a discussion led by representatives from the labor union UNITE HERE, who explained that they hoped to teach students about the rights guaranteed by our country’s rule of law. Besides the gimmicky antics of the speakers, who called each other “comrade” and urged “students and [the] community to fight capitalism” in one of their PowerPoint slides, the opening discussion addressed the Trump administration’s deportation of undocumented immigrants and the legal rights of undocumented immigrants in a substantive way. The speakers explained, for example, the differences between administrative and judicial warrants, clarifying that only judicial warrants give Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents the authority to search private homes for undocumented individuals, and detailed the legal processes that undocumented immigrants face if arrested.

But this substantive discussion, which lifted my hopes, soon gave way to silliness—the roleplay simulation of ICE arrests, as well as a crash course on how to disrupt and protest in the streets and in the offices of politicians.

To simulate an ICE arrest, some participants (mainly students) were given roles as suspected undocumented immigrants; others were assigned to be ICE agents. When questioned by the ostensible ICE agents, the students who played suspected undocumented immigrants were instructed to pretend to be undocumented—staying silent in the face of ICE commands. This method saddened me; to set a precedent of undermining our rule of law is dangerous, and to expect the people of our country to buy into obstructing law enforcement belittles the decency and respect for the law Americans have. The organizers called this tactic “solidarity”; by pretending to not have documents, citizens and documented immigrants can make it difficult for immigration agents to find the undocumented individuals among them. However, teaching a group of presumably documented students who are mostly citizens how to pretend to be undocumented to show “solidarity” does not seem likely to solve the problems of illegal immigration. The change in content, from explaining the American legal system to obstructing the rule of law, struck me as another example of the organizers’ unconstructive message—teaching students how to hinder the rule of law should not be the answer to perceived injustices—but this message did not end here; the speakers soon started criticizing dialogue, touting uninterrupted protest as a better alternative.

Changing course, the speakers moved to discuss how protests trump dialogue as effective and just means of resisting the Trump administration, even if they block the flow of traffic and affect local businesses. To help students understand how to protest effectively as a “delegation,” the organizers initiated another roleplay scenario. I was assigned to be a member of the “herd,” the backbone of the delegation the role of which is to project numerical superiority. Some students played the role of “speakers,” who deliver the group’s message to a “person of power,” and others played “monitors” and “herders,” who are supposed to keep the delegation together and lead chants whenever the speakers encounter any trouble, which the organizers defined as any attempt to interrupt the speakers from delivering their message, even if it was an offer for constructive dialogue. I was hopeful that my peers would not believe suppressing dialogue is a solution to their perceived problems, but their enthusiasm proved me wrong. Their enthusiasm discouraged me; dialogue, the very foundation of communicating and solving problems with people of different opinions, seems to be shunned now. We simulated storming into a politician’s office and delivering a message, with the monitors leading a zealous chant of “Let them speak!” whenever the speakers were challenged by drowning out any voices of opposition.

After the event ended, I could not help but feel disheartened. Despite the commendable determination my radical peers displayed, it seemed they were willing to shut out dialogue to “deliver their message,” avoid confronting any challenge to their ideas by simply drowning out opposition with chants, and obstruct the rule of law that has served our nation so well. They were willing to divide and label this nation which we all share into groups of “oppressors” and “resistors,” all in an effort to challenge our democratically elected, though apparently “fascist” administration.

After almost two hours of indoctrination and “roleplaying oppression,” I left discouraged with my fellow students’ radical methods and misconceived ideas about the state of America—summarized by a souvenir in the form of a pledge card asking me to “fight back against the fascist policies of this new administration” and “engage in non violent civil disobedience.” However, most importantly, even after those two hours, I still did not have an answer to one of my central questions: “How is this current administration fascist?”

______________

Image: Flickr

SJWs Create ‘Shady Person of Color’ List to Target Dissenters

During the height of the racial protests at Claremont McKenna College last November, CMCers of Color issued a list of demands including the resignation of Dean Spellman and the establishment of a permanent “safe space” that would function as a Resource Center for students from marginalized backgrounds.

The student group wrote an official proposal to the administration, but also created a private Google doc with other miscellaneous items they wanted for their safe space, such as kitchen items and a sound system.

Among this list is a Shady Person of Color (SPOC) board, which includes a royal court of five members of the CMC community who opposed the group. Brandon Gonzalez, the King SPOC, is the Assistant Dean of Admissions. Gonzalez led the diversity initiative that CMCers of Color felt misrepresented CMC. The Queen SPOC, Hannah Oh (CMC ’15), was the Editor-in-Chief of the Claremont Independent at the time, and coauthored an editorial critiquing the protestors’ tactics. In a similar vein, Nathan Tsai (CMC ’17), the “Ignorant SPOC,” wrote a letter that garnered 277 signatures in opposition to the protestors’ demands.

13148470_1173638699314442_1551879985_o

Tony Sidhom (CMC ’17)  was included on the list because he was critical of the movement as a whole, particularly with regards to the methods they used. Sidhom didn’t agree with the idea that CMC was institutionally racist, and was vocal in raising his concerns at Student Senate.

The Court Jester SPOC, David Brown (CMC ’19), was critical of the protestors’ lack of logistics and data as well as their tactics. Brown told the Independent, “If [CMCers of Color] had provided a single piece of evidence indicating that they were being systematically kept from performing well, I would have believed them. If I, in my own experience, had noticed a single instance where I was being held down based on the color of my skin I would have believed them. But they didn’t, I didn’t, and I don’t believe them.”

“I find the fact that they named themselves ‘CMCers of Color’ an insult. Instead, they purposefully use their name to manipulate their appearance as if to seem they were anything more than just 30 militant new wave liberal students,” Brown added. “I heard one of the protestors called a friend of mine ‘too rich to be black.’ Doesn’t it seem a little strange to you that the people supposedly fighting racism are the ones perpetuating racist stereotypes? The entire notion of fake or ‘shady’ people of color is just blatantly racist. Since when does being a person of color not allow you free thought? The whole point of this is so the protestors can still feel good about themselves by saying that they represent all ‘real’ people of color campus, but in order for them to consider you ‘real,’ you have to be one of them. Martin Luther King, Jr. said he wanted people to be judged off of the content of their character rather than the color of their skin. Oddly enough, the protestors have consistently done the opposite. The protestors are the most racist group on campus I’ve seen to date.”

The use of the term ‘SPOC’ to dissociate students of color who dissented from the protest movement was widespread last semester. “Pomona’s new Latinx club was actually planning on creating a ‘SPOC calling-out’ committee” to target Latino students who did not agree with them, stated Kevin Covarrubias (CMC ’18). “The fact that such an idea was even brought up is deeply disturbing. As a 5C community, we should be all for constructively engaging with each other while debating the actual substance of our beliefs, not indulging in baseless ad hominems directed at one another.”

Edit: This story has been updated to include the name of David Brown, who initially requested anonymity.

GWS Department: Racism Intersects with Heteronormativity

On Thursday, the Deans of the Claremont Colleges forwarded a statement signed by over forty faculty members expressing support for campus protesters to the student body. “As Gender Studies, Feminist, and Sexuality Studies faculty at the Claremont Colleges, we write in support of students of color who have been at the forefront of making their desires known this fall semester to the administrations of our communities,” the note begins. “The students have demonstrated success at refusing to be subjected further to difficult and unequal interactions in our classrooms, our dorms, and our student service centers, and they have taken action to change what is an unacceptable status quo at the colleges. We thank the students for bringing these issues to the surface for constructive discussion and concerted action.”

“The issues being raised are not new issues, and the sense of not being full and respected members of the college communities is not a new development,” the professors continue. “Our students have asked us as institutions to confront problems that are not limited to recent past events, and that will reoccur in the future if action is not taken this year to address them.”

“Racisms at the Claremont Colleges are not an isolated problem,” the email states. “Racisms also intersect with other issues that plague the Colleges and society more broadly: sexism, heteronormativity, class inequality, among others. Recent campus reports about pervasive issues of sexual assault, incidents of harassment of queer and trans students, and ongoing financial struggles for many working class and first generation students demonstrate the ways in which students of color work across these intersections.”

“We stand in support of those who no longer tolerate the structural inequalities, the overt and covert forms of violence, and the complicities with racism and other intersecting problems that plague our colleges and our society,” the statement continues. “We write to ask the administrative leadership at our consortium to take this opportunity to reflect seriously on the student demands, and to take action to address the issues raised by the students to ensure that the colleges move forward to reduce racism and to provide an educational environment for all students that is consonant with the complex diversity of our nation and our world.”

The faculty members state, “Administrative change at this juncture may take this opportunity as an opening of possible new directions and for building an educational environment where all students can thrive and where differences produce constructive emotional, intellectual, and social experiences on campus for all.”

The note closes by stating, “The students have mobilized, the faculty are mobilizing, and neither students nor faculty are going anywhere soon. So if administrative leadership does not take this opportunity to commit significant funds and other resources, time and energy, training and development to address the student concerns, then they may lose their credibility as educators. We ask you to act now to address the students’ concerns.”

The Grinch Who Stole Culture: How We’re Losing America’s Melting Pot

One of the things I value most about America is our unique level of diversity. Our diversity entails more than just having a large portion of non-white US residents. Rather, it relies on both the breadth of different cultures as well as the depth of the personal connections in which we can experience these different cultures. On a practical level, this mean that races, ethnicities, and religions that differ from our own are more than just concepts that we read about in books. Our melting pot in America gives us the unique and direct ability to see, and in some cases experience, other cultures instead of just reading about their eccentricities.

Every day we are surrounded by a diverse array of people and cultures and because of this, I see the United States as a palette of cultures from which we each can personally sample. What I find most valuable about this is that in some cases, we may create a color that we find more beautiful and that we love more sincerely than any one color alone.

In this process of cultural integration, it is true that some of the original culture’s authenticity thins. And it is also true that there are some people that exploit integration or, in poor taste, take it too far. But this is hardly enough to even come close to canceling out the more positive aspects of this integration. Namely, that we are given the gift of being able to share parts of countless cultures in our daily lives. And because we can share in these cultures as a routine and not just a once-in-a-decade trip to a foreign country, we are able to internalize cultures that differ from our own constantly and on a much more profound level.

Many of the students upset about cultural appropriation at CMC suggest that the only way to solve the problem of racism and misappropriation is through intense discussion. These students are fixated on the minute realities of every possible sect of every race and every culture. I would argue that practically speaking, this is not the most effective solution for several reasons.

First, it is a privileged solution in the sense that it assumes everyone has the time and capacity to engage in an endless number of discussions. That is simply not the case. Second, tolerance is something that must be nurtured, and forcing people to sit through lengthy dialogues that are only one-sided may actually leave them with a distaste for diversity. Furthermore, if these dialogues are channeled in a way that is overly detailed, students will leave with a sense of confusion and with no real personal connection or love of the cultures surrounding them. What I have witnessed are methods of politicized discussions and angry protests to promote cultural sensitivity, but these methods depend on always creating a new attacker or oppressor who is worthy of being shunned.  All this does is create fragmentation.

In the process of fragmentation, groups turn away any potential outsiders. In the height of protest, for example, student activists rejected and laughed at the CMC administration for pledging to do its best to heed the students’ requests and accused President Hiram Chodosh for trying to “derail” the movement by sending an email of support right before the protest. Student activists also created a students of color-only Motley event, and they even went so far as to say that white students hadn’t done anything to help promote diversity and tolerance on our campuses.

However, what is equally disturbing is that in addition to turning away alleged outsiders, student activists have also turned away members of their own “marginalized” groups who didn’t wholeheartedly agree with the movement’s opinion. In a dialogue that took place on the CMCers of Color Action toward Dean of Students Facebook page, a student of Latino descent from Cornell University expressed the opinion that he did not find the CMC students’ Mexican costumes problematic. He was soon scolded for participating in a conversation that he could not understand since he was not present at the 5Cs.

Interestingly, an earlier Facebook post for this event featured screenshots of messages from students from other countries which were meant to show that CMC protesters were gaining international support. This was, of course, met with pride as it was seen as a symbol of validation. The hypocrisy is evident.  If a Latino student from the United States was excommunicated for being incapable of understanding the campus-specific struggles of the group, why would people who are not of Latino descent and not from this country have any greater ability to understand and support this group?

We are not fighting for the support of a marginalized group, but rather for a political ideal that attempts to expand the traditional definitions of racism and oppression. The fact that certain members of the group disagree with one another does not mean that the expansion itself is incorrect, but attempting to silence dissent should not be viewed as a means of achieving tolerance. It is creating a fragmentation that is contrary to the value of experiencing our American melting pot, and it will ultimately divide us not just between groups, but within groups as well.

___________

Image: Flickr

The Enemies of Diversity

It’s likely that every single person at CMC would claim to be pro-diversity, yet it is remarkably difficult to find someone who means it. In fact, our greatest self-proclaimed advocates for diversity seem opposed to actual diversity in any form.

At a basic level all diversity of human beings – be it on the basis of race, gender, sexuality, or something else entirely – is heterogeneity of thought. It’s generally accepted that race and ethnicity are social constructs. If we accept this premise, then racial and ethnic diversity boils down to a different experience of life as determined by the mechanisms of cultures and subcultures. The same is true for any trait tied to social status: gender, sexuality, social awkwardness, hair-color, foot-size, etc. That diversity of perspective manifests itself in a diversity of thought. Someone who has been evicted in the name of eminent domain will consider highway construction differently than a trucker who will think differently than a government official and so on and so forth. So it is logically necessary to advocate for diversity of thought if one is to advocate for diversity of race, gender, sexuality, etc. If you are an advocate for diversity of thought, then you must advocate for the idea of different thoughts slamming together.

Instead, our campuses’ advocates of “diversity” want the opposite. These last several weeks the 5Cs have been hit by a series of calls for less diversity of thought in the name of diversity itself. My campus, CMC, in particular fell under fire for being “unsafe” for students of color, queer students, and other “underprivileged” groups. I would argue that the “danger” the protestors cited is an inevitable consequence of multiculturalism. This is in no way meant to deny that the incidents cited were not painful, but simply that they a necessary byproduct of diversity. In fact, the solutions they proposed would amount to creating segregated spaces and programs of indoctrination, effectively reducing, if not eradicating, diversity.

Most students would, at this point, object to my argument. They are likely to say that “diversity” initiatives are not in fact about diversity, but rather a sort of cultural victory. The reasoning would follow like this: certain groups have been marginalized and oppressed in the past (and present) and the way to make amends is to ensure members of those groups end up (in this case) in higher education. To put it bluntly: it does not matter if they mix and interact, just that everyone gets a degree. This is a strange argument in many ways. Oddest of all, it rests on the assumption that if one member of a social group receives something that somehow benefits the whole group. Underneath that lies the premise that these social constructs like race have manifested themselves in a collective well-being.

This argument vastly oversimplifies social structure. Individuals are affected by unique intersections of different cultural forces. Being a black man from Detroit is different from being a black man in San Francisco. While it is conceivable that a black man in Detroit might benefit through a black man from San Francisco attending CMC, it is just as reasonable that he could benefit from a white man attending CMC. The black San Franciscan could serve as a role model to the black Michigander, but if the white man was from Detroit (i.e. if they had a shared cultural identity), he could be a role model too. When we look at the black Michigander’s quality of life more broadly, the claim seems even more suspect. If the white Michigander returned to Detroit, wealthier than when he left, he could very well pour much needed wealth into the economy by employing the black Michigander. To say that this would do him less good than seeing a random black man from San Francisco become successful seems unreasonable to my mind. At the very least, it complicates matters significantly. So I would argue that the variables affecting cultural status are too complex for us to conclude that surface level diversity is valuable in and of itself.

Moreover, nowhere in their demands did the protestors actually call for a more diverse student body. They would have some grounds to do so. Like most institutions of higher education, CMC is distinctly lacking in lower income students. Tuition is very high and the cost of educating students is even higher. That makes it difficult to draw in a diverse student body. Minorities are disproportionally affected by income inequality. Instead of citing this and arguing that CMC should make an effort to increase financial aid packages, the protestors called for increased operational costs. Now, you could make the argument that the spending would make CMC more attractive to the underprivileged. The problem is that not receiving enough financial aid makes it nearly impossible for an underprivileged student attend CMC. That’s just it for them. Feeling uncomfortable at CMC is a softer barrier to entry. Even if it should be addressed, it would not be possible to do so from an institutional level without destroying diversity altogether.

Whether in a sectioned-off resource center or across the whole of campus, it is impossible to construct a “safe space” unless you eradicate all meaningful diversity. People – even of the same race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. – are unique and have their own unique experiences that shape their worldview. Because they are limited in this capacity, people are often insensitive towards one another. This is unfortunate and when individual instances surface, they should be addressed. However, it is an inevitable byproduct of diversity. This is why loving, thriving married couples generally argue fairly often. If you are to partner with another person, to understand and care for them, you have to candidly discuss how you both feel and what you both think. Couples in healthy marriages know how to do so kindly and maturely, but they still do it. Still, neither member is “safe.” The only way to keep an individual “safe” in this manner is to essentially annihilate the root of the insensitivity: diversity. Driving out or silencing those with different cultural experiences is a good place to start, but if you want real homogeny, you have to go deeper and strangle any diversity of thought.

Be it mandatory sensitivity trainings or general education requirements, indoctrination accomplishes this goal in the short term. Now, the proposed programs are nowhere near as Orwellian as Scripps students’ demand for required anti-oppression training to brainwash its student body, but protestors want CMC to become more like Scripps in this regard. They want to institutionalize this social pressure; they want the power to bully students and faculty into agreeing. As someone who attended Scripps College, I can report that this indoctrination does often succeed in ending discussions before they begin and creating a mindless space in which students are generally too afraid to question the views their institution has handed them. The general education requirements make your GPA dependent on submission to their world view. This was my experience in CORE I, where my teacher would cut off questions or comments that were contrary to a particular brand of progressive thought and would grade down assignments that did not match her ideology. You simply agreed for the sake of the assignment, but the class built in the habit of silence and capitulation.

Fortunately, for those like myself who actually desire diversity, CMC has a long stood out as an institution dedicated to individualism. Approximately 30% of CMC students are conservatives. In the range of American campuses, this makes CMC one of the most conservative colleges, which gives you a sense of just how little diversity of thought exists in higher education. Moreover, CMC is actively working to bring in a more diverse student body. Announced last year by President Hiram Chodosh, the Student Imperative is an unprecedented program that adds $100 million to the endowment in order to “create more need-based and merit-based awards in support of our Admission Officers as they push into new neighborhoods, locales, and schools – suburban, urban, rural – in search of those young brilliant minds who just need a chance.”

CMC has nearly reached its goal and, given its rapid success, is preparing to reach $200 million. Such a move would bring in real, meaningful diversity to the campus, rather than a pseudo-diversity agenda pushed onto the CMC administration by the recent protests.

____________

Image Source: Flickr