Tag Archives: Safe Space

Pomona Progressives Create Whites-Only Club To Fight Racism

On Monday evening, a number of White Pomona College students formed a new club called “We’ve Got Work To Do: White People for Deconstructing Whiteness.” The club, open to students from all five of the Claremont Colleges, aims to “work on owning our racism, deconstructing our Whiteness, and to engage in movement & action toward dismantling White Supremacy.”

“White people at the 5C’s: we’re all racist. we’re all microaggressive. [W]e are all not only complicit in, but actively perpetuating white supremacy,” states an advertisement for the group. “Pretending that we are not racist and hoping that no one will discover our racism really doesn’t cut it. [W]e need to ACTIVELY be doing work to deconstruct our whiteness (and holding our peers accountable in doing the same).”

“Recognizing that White identity is a self-fashioned, hierarchical fantasy, Whites should attempt to dismantle Whiteness as it currently exists,” explains the group’s Facebook page, quoting Ian Haney López, a leading racial justice scholar. “Whites should renounce their privileged racial character, though not simply out of guilt or any sense of self-deprecation. Rather, they should dismantle the edifice of Whiteness because this mythological construct stands at the vortex of racial inequality in America.”

Though the community is meant to be an open space for the discussion of students’ Whiteness and its negative impacts on people of color, students within the group must be “white people who believe white supremacy exists, whether [they] have owned that [they themselves] are racist or not.” The founder of the group clarified that mixed-race students with a White parent would be able to attend, but only if they had the end goal of deconstructing their learned Whiteness. Additionally, White students who do not believe in White supremacy are not welcome.

“The group is trying to address racism in the white community. We’re not racist and we don’t hate white people,” wrote Kate Dolgenos, a senior at Pomona who joined the organization, in an email to the Independent. “I’m really happy this group has formed and I’m excited to see what we’ll do throughout the semester.”

Not all students are as enthusiastic, however. “While I cannot comment on how the group intends to define and ‘deconstruct’ a white identity, as a cisgendered, politically liberal white male,” Dalton Martin, a junior at Pomona, said, “I feel this group may do less for persons of color rather than more. I feel that trying to codify and effectively martyr an image of white culture detracts from attempts to engage and stand in solidarity with marginalized identities.”

International students, too, found the group to potentially be harmful. “Outside of the United States, being ‘white’ is not a unified and malignant identity,” wrote one international student in an email to the Independent. “I think their brash generalization invalidates the experiences of many people who would be considered White by their standards, which does not harmonize well with embracing one’s own identity and self-love.”

“We’ve Got Work To Do” will soon be meeting to discuss their short- and long-term objectives as a community as to how to approach and handle their Whiteness, as well as how their Whiteness affects communities of color both on- and off-campus.

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Image: Flickr

Pomona College Resource Center Teaches Students Social Justice Buzzwords

On Thursday night, the REACH (Revolutionizing Education, Advancing Collaborative Hxstories [sic]) committee of the Asian American Resource Center (AARC) organized an event called “How //Not// to Talk Like an Activist” held at The Hive to teach students the definitions and usage of language used by social justice activists.

The event description states, “sometimes it’s impossible to figure out what students at the Claremont Colleges are talking about, even when we’re talking about things that everyone needs to understand. Join the AARC’s REACH committee to discuss how we can break down activist language.” The organizers added that the event will “explore key terms in describing social change and figure out how to make those terms accessible for ourselves and our communities,” and affirmed that “this event is open to students at the 7Cs and centers students of color and allies.” The event description also gave examples of what terms would be discussed: “Intersectionality. Cisheteropatriarchy. Toxic masculinity.”

According to its description, the AARC “works in collaboration with other ethnic groups, academic department and campus offices to sponsor a wide range of educational endeavors.”

The organizers started the event by stating that students sometimes “hear words tossed around and repeat them and sometimes we don’t stop to think what they mean or about how we’re using them to make our change-making ineffective or effective,” adding that the “goal of this event is to break these terms down,” referring to “commonly used buzzwords.” The organizers emphasized that “they are not buzzwords to elevate ourselves above others, but…ways to understand actual problems society has,” and further stated that “it’s not bad that these are being more popularized…but we want to use this event as a way to understand the historical roots of these terms.”

Attendees of the event then broke down into smaller groups to discuss definitions for the following words and phrases: intersectionality, identity politics, structural oppression, safe spaces, cisheteropatriarchy, toxic masculinity, white supremacy, and privilege. Participants tried defining those words in small groups before the actual definitions—drawn from Harvey Mudd College, Columbia University, the Catalyst Project, and the blog Decolonize All the Things (D.A.T.T.)— were revealed.

According to its website, the Catalyst Project believes “that racism is one of the fundamental forces keeping systemic injustice in place, and as white people we believe we have a strategic role to play in ending it.” The author of D.A.T.T., in a description of his ideology, states that he is “interested in the complete liberation of all peoples from white patriarchy, capitalism, oligarchy, colonialism, settlement, as well as orientalism.”

Examples of definitions included “a system of power based on the supremacy & dominance of cisheterosexual men through the exploitation & oppression of women and the LGBTQIA”—drawn from D.A.T.T—for “cisheteropatriarchy.” “Privilege” was defined as operating “on personal, interpersonal, cultural, and institutional levels and gives advantages, favors, and benefits to members of dominant groups at the expense of members of target groups”—based off a document from Harvey Mudd College’s Office of Institutional Diversity.

Samuel Breslow (PO ’18) told the Independent that he thought “the event did a really good job of helping us be more cognizant about carefully articulating what we mean with the terminology we use,” adding that “it can be hard for us, as progressives, to have constructive discourse with conservatives when the social justice concepts that we refer to have been distorted and caricatured by Fox News to the point where they mean something totally different. Using words that have widely agreed-upon definitions can help us communicate more clearly with each other and can help avoid misunderstandings.”

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Image: Flickr

 

 

Safe Space Shut Down After Anti-White, Anti-Male Statements Leaked

Recently, the Independent obtained screenshots from the “5C Women of Color” Facebook group. According to its description, the group—accessible only to its 1,100 approved members—is “for 5C students and alumnae who identify as women of color to reach out and serve as resources/support for one another.” Many of the page’s most popular posts mock those who do not identify as women of color.

In response to her adoptive white father making jokes at her expense, Sarah Weiyun Otterstrom (SC ‘17) posted “I just need to get this out. I hate having white parents so much.” Another student responded by instructing Otterstrom to tell her father that “his pale ass is worthless and the sun doesn’t even like him. Talk about his receding hairline, the fact that he probably looks 20 years older than he actually is, and that he probably has a small penis.”

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Additionally, Namrata Mohan (SC ‘16) stated that her family “ha[s] THE ‘white person voice’ they use when they want to make fun of white Americans.” Later, she continues to justify this “white person voice” by stating that although “it’s soooo lowkey shady,” it’s acceptable to “make fun of white Americans” because “like white people created #colonialism so i’m not mad.”

Rachel Song (PO ‘18), who posted in the group for advice on classes, stated that she was concerned about taking “PSYC141: Leading Entrepreneurial Ventures” because she is “afraid [it] is going to be a class full of white, male business bros.” Lanna Sanchez (PO ‘19) noted that she is “kinda scared to take a politics course in general since this space is typically dominated by white men.” Sanchez added that a class taught by a “conservative POC [person of color] professor” also “raised a red flag.”

Catherine Chiang (SC ‘16)—who was elected by her peers to be the senior class speaker at Scripps College’s commencement ceremony this year and who is an acting intern at the Scripps Communities of Resources and Empowerment program—stated, “asian boys r a social issue,” to which other students responded “esp [especially] the nerdy ones who can just hide in their tech caves” and “they get all angry when it comes to how Asian men are asexualized/emasculated.” Kristine Lee (PO ‘17), a staff member of the Pomona College Asian American Resource Center who sits on the “Production” and “Mental Health” committees there added, “F*ck your masculinity whiny Asian cis bros this is why I only hang out with femmes.”

“As a feminine gay Asian woman,” Kristine Lee told the Independent, “I’m not interested in surrounding myself with the kind of possessive, toxic masculinity exhibited by the type of Asian American men we were discussing in the post.” In response to these discussions, Ji In “Kit” Lee (PO ‘17), another Pomona College Asian American Resource Center staff member, wrote “mehehehe I love this group.”

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Not all students of color agree with the page’s sentiments. Carlos Perrett (PZ ’18), who spoke with the Independent, expressed his disapproval of the statements made on the 5C Women of Color page. “Facebook groups like the 5C Women of Color not only lack inclusion, but also fail to meet their purposes of creating a space of support. Instead these groups have become the perfect outlet for shaming, hostility, and discrimination.” Earlier this year, Claremont saw similar safe spaces intended to be “pro-POC, pro-black, and anti-white supremacist” established with clauses stating that “[w]hile you may want to invite a white friend or ally, to make this a safe and comfortable space for other POC, we ask that you do not.”

After the Independent reached out to members of the 5C Women of Color group for additional comment, the page was shut down. “We found out that screen shots of our interactions were taken by people who work for the Claremont Independent, and they’re geared to write an article,” wrote Kit Lee (PO ’17). “In order to preserve the confidentiality of past conversations and healthy discussions that have occurred in this group,” she continued, “we will shut down the group … to prevent whoever is the mole from leaking more screenshots to the CI.”

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Image Source: Facebook

Student Leaders: Diversity Proposal Remedies “Unsafe Academic Environments”

Under pressure from student leaders, the Pomona College faculty voted last week to include a consideration of a professor’s “attent[ion] to diversity in the student body” in the College’s criteria for promotion and tenure.

The move follows the circulation of an open letter in support of the addition which received hundreds of signatures and the backing of several high-level officials in the College’s student government, including the current and former Student Body Presidents. According to the letter, the new language will ensure that faculty members must demonstrate a sufficient commitment to “diversity, equity, and inclusion” in order to be a successful candidate for tenure, promotion, or reappointment.

The letter also praised the motion as a significant step toward the realization of Pomona College’s diversity objectives as laid out in a document released last year by the President’s Advisory Committee on Diversity. According to the letter, the new criterion will help to alleviate the “unsafe academic environments” which have had a deleterious effect upon “students’ well-being and everyday lived experiences” by making diversity one of the top considerations for faculty advancement, thereby recognizing that “meeting the needs of a diverse student body” is “an essential component of exceptional teaching and service.”

Under the former guidelines for promotion and tenure, faculty members were required to demonstrate “intellectual leadership” (i.e. “good teaching”); “professional achievement” (i.e. scholarly productivity); and “effective service to the College,” its student organizations, or to professional organizations. The new guidelines qualify “good teaching” as teaching which “is attentive to diversity in the student body” and adds a requirement that faculty members seeking promotion should demonstrate competency or excellence at “fostering an inclusive classroom” in addition to the superior teaching skills which the College’s promotion criteria already mandate.

Potential candidates for advancement also must “specifically address their efforts to create and maintain an inclusive classroom.” These efforts might involve, as the new guidelines suggest, the “inclusion of scholarly and other works emerging from the perspectives of underrepresented groups” in the courses taught by the candidate or “any other classroom practices that support inclusivity and diversity.”

Student reaction to the change has been generally positive. The open letter in support of the new language has garnered hundreds of signatures from Pomona College students. “I support this criteria,” said one supporter, who asked to remain anonymous. “I appreciate the lengths to which the campus faculty and student body went in order to get input and consensus from so many people before implementing this criteria.”

Others, however, are less pleased with the new policy. “Professors should be hired and later given tenure because of their teaching abilities,” another Pomona student told the Independent. “When it comes to promotion, identity politics should be left at the door.”

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.

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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.