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Submission: Black students should not be told how to feel, react toward racism

By Daily Bruin Staff

Oct. 14, 2015 7:33 a.m.

Disclaimer: This is not a critique of Caterina Kachadoorian or those who agree with what she published in her Opinion submission Monday. Rather, it is a critique of the ideas and beliefs in that piece.

Dear Caterina,

How dare you tell Black people what’s wrong with Black America? How dare you tell outraged Black students that a peaceful protest is an outlandish and ignorant way to express their frustration with the racial insensitivity on this campus?

You have no idea what African American students on the campus of UCLA experience on a daily basis because you are not Black. As a Black male, it would be impossible for me to completely understand your broad experience as an Armenian woman in America or your specific experience as an Armenian Bruin. Vice versa, it is impossible for you to understand our experience as Black Americans or Black Bruins.

The “Kanye Western” party was not “mildly inappropriate,” it was grossly offensive. You are not offended by the plump lips and padded butts because those Kardashian-esque physical features are viewed positively in pop culture. Furthermore, you even admitted that those features are not generally associated with Armenians, so you rightfully have no reason to be offended.

However, the sagging or baggy jeans that students wore to the party represent one of the most notorious African American stereotypes in fashion. So notorious in fact, that it has led several cities across the country to make sagging illegal. The racial undertones associated with this clothing style make its cultural appropriation highly offensive to Black students. Pertaining to your claim that none of the students wore blackface, the pictures clearly show that some of the students browned their skin to look Black. In 2015, blackface is not necessarily tar-black face paint and white lipstick.

Caterina, you claimed that, “If any other race had dressed up as pop culture figures from other ethnic groups, there would absolutely not be this much uproar about it.” I am afraid to tell you that this statement is both outlandish and ignorant. Both Native Americans and Asian Americans find costumes depicting their cultures equally offensive.

Caterina, you cited a barrage of crime statistics that have nothing to do with the “Kanye Western”-themed party or the backlash. You cited a statistic that 38.5 percent of people arrested from 2011 to 2013 for murder, manslaughter, rape, robbery and aggravated assault were Black. Congratulations! You unintentionally highlighted America’s racial policing problem. This statistic does not prove that Black people in this country are overwhelmingly immoral. If police arrested the rapists that run rampant on college campuses like this one or the jocks who assault each other after every game of beer pong at the same rate they arrest Black people for the same crimes, those statistics would be much more proportional to America’s racial makeup.

Caterina, you ignorantly stated that the Afrikan Student Union members are wasting their time protesting and should instead, “help the future African American generation succeed.” However, the same First Amendment that you cited as justifying the costumes students wore also grants members of ASU the right to peacefully protest. Furthermore, a quick Google search would have allowed you to see that ASU is helping younger generations succeed. The Afrikan Student Union has a “Reach 1” program, through which its members pledge to reach out to at least one Black high school student and assist with the college admission process.

Allow me to cite some statistics that may actually help you understand the microaggression that Black Bruins experience on a daily basis. According to UCLA’s demographic profile, only 4 percent of UCLA students are African American. In 2013, while Black men were 3.3 percent of the male student population, a whopping 65 percent of them were athletes. Black students at UCLA face a suffocating and unwelcoming atmosphere every day on campus. This protest was not a response to an isolated event; it was the culmination of pent-up frustrations that Black students accumulate every time they walk into Ackerman Union or across Bruin Walk.

Lastly Caterina, please do not worry. You are safe. None of the Black students at UCLA will attempt to commit the crimes of murder, manslaughter, rape, robbery or aggravated assault that you cited as being the real issues in Black America. Unlike the characterization of our people that you depicted in your submission, we are actually quite civilized.

Jackson is a graduate student at the UCLA School of Law.

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