Race: The R-word: Cultural sensitivity and dialogue; their absence in UC campuses

After suffering what she considered a great social injustice, Alexandra Wallace got on YouTube and ranted about how Asians were too loud in the library. Within hours, the video went viral and it was immortalized on the Internet.

Should I or anyone else, be surprised, seeing as the persistent trend of racialized incidents in UC schools?

Numerous racist attacks such as the “Compton Cookout”, thrown by a fraternity at UCSD, or the noose found hanging at a UCSD library, and the swastikas carved into dorm doors at UC Davis indicate that UC campuses have a long way to go in fostering environments of tolerance and cultural sensitivity.

Instances of racial and ethnic intolerance have initiated response from many student groups, but their impact on campuses still resonate deeply.

Here at UCLA, Wallace’s comments sparked numerous emotional responses.

At first glance, Julie Pham thought that the Wallace video might be a joke but realizing it was not, she became enraged.

“I think that Wallace’s comments [proved] her to be very ignorant,” Pham said, “Asians are not the only ones that are loud. These are stereotypes that perpetuate hateful thinking that do nothing for social change and understanding.”

Victor Chan, a fourth-year biology student, is of Asian descent and identifies as Latino. His grandfather emigrated from China to Columbia, Chan’s birthplace and home.

When Chan first saw the video, he was in disbelief.

“The first thing I did after watching the video was to make sure that Wallace in fact was a UCLA student. When I found out she was a student, it really upset me,” said Chan, “being an individual that has dealt with being part of more than one culture, I have always hoped that people would be more understanding [of] one another, and learn about one another’s cultures.”

Recently, Chan and members of his Latino fraternity, Nu Alpha Kappa, held a taco sale fundraiser on Cinco de Mayo. They overheard students nearby demean the holiday by calling it “Drink-o de Mayo” as well as saying, “Oh I love Cinco de Mayo, that’s when all the tacos come out.”

Disappointed by their attitude, Chan said, “They don’t respect the day, nor do they even try to learn about it.” All of the different people and organizations on our campus share a responsibility to begin addressing these issues, especially among our diverse student groups.

While this incident was only lived by a few members of the UCLA population, it is still a strong example of interpersonal aggressions that that promote ethnocentrism.

Changing what we know about diverse groups is essential to changing how we talk about them. UCLA students expressed their support for a more ethnically inclusive learning experience in the recent USAC election, as 62.9 percent voters approved the Communicating Unity through Education initiative, which seeks to reform general education curriculum to include a diversity requirement.  Although this change to the curriculum has yet to go into effect, UCLA is making institutional moves towards creating a critical ethnic discourse.

“If we were to start to have open dialogue about the many different cultures that exist at UCLA, then we would be able to avoid such intolerance on our campus,” said Pham.

Whether it be the swastikas carved into doors, indecent party themes, or a video that demeans an ethnic group, it is abundantly clear to me that there needs to be open dialogue to help heal the social rift of these transgressions.

Question 9

I was home for the weekend, eating dinner in the kitchen and talking to my mom about my week at school. It was last month, when the government made every effort to urge people to fill out the 2010 Census. So after seeing one of those TV census commercials, my mom told me she filled out every question of the famous survey. I felt very proud of her since I thought she would have difficulty understanding the questions—not that she can’t read or anything, but you know how complicated things can get with politics and the government. While thinking what a good job my mom had done, she then said, “but I still need to answer one more question.”  With a question mark in her face, my mom asked, “¿mija, que somos?”

I found it interesting, or better yet, annoying and irritating, to see that race and Hispanic origin are separated into different categories.  Not only do we have to decide if we are of Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin, but we are asked again to classify our race.

Allow me to problematize these questions. First of all, Latino, although it sounds nice and even exotic, is a term used exclusively for people who come from Spanish speaking countries south of the border. But doesn’t Europe have Latinos too? After all, Italians, French, Romanians, etc. are also of Latin origin.  Secondly, one can come from a Spanish speaking country but not be of Hispanic/Latin heritage. Most countries have Indigenous communities that are secluded or excluded from the greater city life and have to learn Spanish as a second language.

The census also left me in awe whe I saw Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, listed as races next to white and black. So I ask: do they want to know our country of origin or our skin color?  Maybe the answer is both. Thus I find that the last option for question nine, “some other race”, is the most pertinent option. In my opinion, there should only be one racial/ethnic question next time, that way people can have the liberty to write in answers that they consider most appropriate to define themselves and are not limited to imposed options.

Time magazine reports that in the 2000 Census, more than 40% of Hispanics did not register as white or black but rather as “other.” Angelo Falcón, the National Institute for Latino Policy in New York City president and census community adviser told Time that “a lot of Hispanics find the black-white option offensive, and they’re asserting their own racial uniqueness.”  As for me, I consider myself, and most of my paisanos mestizos.

So after analyzing all these discrepancies and incongruities (which are not only applicable to Hispanics/Latinos), I laugh at myself for telling my mom we are white; I should have said what I really believe we are, mestizos.