Minority students in America are less discriminated against and victimised today than at any time in history. And yet, in 2016, some are clamouring for the reintroduction of racial segregation, for their own “protection”
The fight for social justice claims another Pyrrhic victory in California this year, as racial segregation comes roaring back to university student accommodation.
The Berkeley Student Cooperative, a student housing organisation primarily serving students at the University of California Berkeley, is proudly rolling out racially segregated accommodation for “people of colour” who, unlike their predecessors fifty years ago, experience untold oppression, violence and discrimination in their daily lives, and thus desperately need a “safe space” to huddle together in respite.
The Daily Californian reports, in a fawningly approving article entitled “Reclaiming a safe space: Person of Color co-op to open this fall”:
In May 2014, the BSC Board of Directors established the Demographic Inclusion Task Force in order to propose ways that the BSC could better meet the needs of low-income students and students of color. The DITF conducted another membership census in the 2014-2015 school year that revealed socio-demographic issues like those found in the 2012 census. The DITF also led a series of focus groups last October, with the goal of identifying the root causes of the socio-demographic barriers.
[..] According to Skye Ontiveros, DITF chair, some of the focus groups revealed that certain students of color did not feel welcome in the undergraduate houses. In the focus group, some students of color reported that they felt like they could not cook traditional dishes in the kitchen because it did not stock the food that they needed or felt that their cultures’ music was not accepted in the common room. She explained that these situations create a hostile environment for students of color by stifling their right to cultural expression.
The DITF hopes that the Person of Color theme house will foster a safe space where students of color feel comfortable expressing themselves and their cultures, according to Ontiveros. White students and higher-income students can legally live in the Person of Color theme house, but Ontiveros hopes that they will choose to live in a different house and reserve this space for people of color.
“It’s meant for people of color,” Ontiveros said. “It’s not meant for folks who … want to be an ally or … want to learn about different cultures.”
And naturally, in order to live in this Racially Segregated For Everyone’s Mental Safety accommodation, residents must partake in mandatory “inclusivity” training, so as to receive top-up indoctrination in the same kind of reactionary social justice extremism which led to the segregation in the first place:
The Person of Color theme house will be founded on three pillars: cross-cultural exchange, academic and professional support, and anti-oppression and allyship. In order to achieve these goals, members will need to dedicate five hours to the community per semester by holding or attending workshops dedicated to these pillars. Possible workshops include traditional cooking or music lessons and inclusivity training.
It is astonishing to read the flimsy grounds on which racial segregation is now being reintroduced in Berkeley. The Daily Californian cites no evidence of racially motivated attacks or even verbal altercations – not that this would make racial re-segregation any more acceptable. No, the entire justification for the dramatic step of reintroducing segregation seems to be based on the “feeling” of a small number of students in a focus group that their food or music was somehow unwelcome in racially integrated student accommodation.
This is ludicrous. The entire point of the Berkeley Student Cooperative is to provide low-cost accommodation for students who would struggle to afford market-rate campus accommodation. If each building was to stock ingredients catering to every culture in the world, what do the safe space dwellers think would happen to their rent costs? And since when did not having your favourite ethnic food provided by default constitute such an intolerably “hostile” environment that self-segregation is the only answer?
If this perplexing story tells us anything, in fact it shows us how far the civil rights and tolerance movements have come, that today’s pampered student activists are reduced to throwing their toys out of the pram because their communal kitchens do not come replete with every conceivable cooking ingredient from around the world (as though going to the store and buying things independently was not an option).
Or to invert Chris Rock’s excellent joke at the recent Oscars ceremony, now that minority students (thankfully) no longer live in daily fear of finding their grandmother swinging from a tree, they are free to worry not only about who is nominated for Best Documentary Foreign Short, but also about whether they can ever possibly rebuild their lives after having once received a quizzical look for playing their favourite Balinese Gamelan music CD in the common room.
One would think that a country with such a visceral recent history of racial segregation and deeply engrained hostility – which often took the form of lynchings and systematic disenfranchisement rather than the mere failure of a student housing cooperative to stock certain ethnic foods – would do everything possible to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past and bringing back customs which were properly buried with Jim Crow. But then one would also think that a country whose civil rights movement succeeded only thanks to the exercise of free speech would be rather less cavalier about restricting speech today.
Sadly, these mistakes now seem doomed to be repeated as UC Berkeley leads the way in playing host to a racially segregated student population.
More tales from the Safe Space here.
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