Opinion People Soka

The Black Student Union and Student of Color Coalition Manifesto

This manifesto was written by Black Student Union and the Student of Color Coalition

Addressed to Soka University of America

Dated November 7, 2019 

 

BLACK STUDENT UNION STATEMENT: 

Due to the recent interruption of SUA’s erasure of Black Students’ lived experiences, which stemmed from a non-Black student using the n-word racial slur, has culminated into a campus-wide appraisal of Black students humanity based on standards determined by those who oppress and marginalize us. This new-found attention has raised not attempted understanding of the trauma inflicted on Black students on this campus but has turned into a continual contention from others about the “civility” of our humanity.

The student body response to our expression of pain within our community was one of and not limited to:

  •  Deflecting the role of perpetrator of pain onto the Black students
  • A “critique” on how Black students were not utilizing the “proper” methodologies to “combat” racism
  • A demand of providing “education” rather than “hate”
  • A campus-wide sentiment that Black students are “hostile” and “scary”, thus justifying many students’ non-participation in evaluating their positionality within the SUA institutional structure in which marginalizes Black students
  • An insistence on Black students “dividing” the student body and hesitation to dismantle a system that benefits the majority student populations on this campus
  • Notifying Residential Hall Coordinators, Residential Assistants, and Campus Security due to the “possibility of violence” and to ensure students were “safe”
  • Utilizing the common troupe of “I’m not racist, but….”
  • A “conflict” within individuals regarding the “legitimacy” of Black students trauma versus their “obligation” to sustain SUA as it is

After receiving the student body’s “riposte” on our Black humanity, the BSU paid the insurmountable price of reliving our trauma’s to provide a “civil education” since it was in such high demand by our fellow peers. Even after hosting these spaces, students still fed into the stereotypes that we were “scary” and “judgemental” which is all to say that they didn’t want to face the gravity of our Black pain because they valued their own comfortability over our humanity. This is not to “generalize” the entirety of the student body, there are allies that exist, but they are small in number. The BSU has felt degraded, dehumanized, and unsafe on this campus due to the very fact that we must “debate” with our own peers why our Black lives matter just as much as everyone else’s.

The administration response was one of defensive reaction, framed to look like proactive work being done to alleviate and address Black students’ humanitarian concerns. This is false. To send a single email to the student body about the “n-word incident” and claiming to possess a commitment of “doing the work necessary”, does nothing to help create a “community of inclusion”.  We employ the word “claim” because these are words with no tangible action. Not one administrator reached out to any of the Black students to inquire about our well being and it took us sending an email in response to arrange a meeting where we can “share [our] thoughts and concerns freely with administration”. Any “action” by administration was initiated by the Black Students, not due to some inherent, benevolent nature of SUA. The Black staff and supportive faculty on this campus have been the only ones to reach out and articulate their concerns and support for us.

To quickly host a meeting to discuss the “academic side” of what is being done to bring Ethnic Studies on campus, a topic in which the BSU and the Students of Color Coalition have been advocating for for months and have been putting in the tangible work administrators have not, is more supporting evidence that Black and Brown voices on this campus are not heard until the students the institution have already ordained as “valuable” are within the discussion now.

The “evidence” for the racial violence and oppression on our Black Bodies derive from the traumatic experiences Black students undergo on this campus daily. This goes beyond a student saying a racial slur. That racial slur incident may have been a catalyst for others to turn their attention onto our Black humanity, but was not the case for us. This has been an enduring struggle, not confined within our time here at SUA, but for our entire lives. This is not an “over reaction” on the part of the BSU. This is a historical dehumanizing of Black Bodies that SUA as an institution and all its students, faculty, staff, and administrators are implicated within.  It is a participation in structures entrenched in racism we all did not create, yet have consequences nonetheless even if those implications are not seen by us ourselves.

We should not be ashamed or hesitate to decolonize SUA, to make this institution live up to its foundational values. The Black students on this campus are students. We too, are receiving education here and have been told the same promises of “diversity” and “inclusion”. Yet we are denied when we raise our voices to challenge these notions and demand for change. The response from SUA’s student body, administration, faculty, and staff is evidence of the difference between our Black voices and other students on this campus. The very culture of SUA has facilitated the marginalization of Black students and we have the undeniable right to dismantle a system that oppresses us.

The Black students are crying out. You must listen.

THE STUDENTS OF COLOR COALITION IS IN SOLIDARITY WITH THE BLACK STUDENT UNION. 

The Students of Color Coalition stands firmly in solidarity with our black community and the Black Student Union. We remind our readers that the Coalition re-emerged in order to address the lack of decolonial praxis inside and outside of the classroom, or in other words, the institutionally sanctioned stripping of our marginalized voices from knowledge production in campus culture. We speak to the absence of African and Ethnic Studies and black faculty, 1st generation student resources and undocumented student resources, the neglect of institutional response to microaggressive tendencies amongst staff, faculty, and administration–all of which predominantly impact our communities of color. This one’s about our Black Student Union; this one’s about us.

The following reads groups on campus’ statements in solidarity with the Black Student Union. 

Asian-Pacific Diasporas Club 

We write this statement as the Asian-Pacific Diasporas standing in full solidarity with the Black Student Union.​ In line with the grievances of the Black students in our community, we recognize that institutions of power have historically and materially pitted our communities against one another. The campus culture at Soka is not exempt.

Our Asian-Pacific Diasporas community writes this, acknowledging that our communities’ grievances are connected to those of the black community: the same weekend that Black students were forced to re-articulate their humanity at the expense of their safety and well-being, we were supporting our member and sister speaking out on the exoticization and commodification of Pacific Islander Bodies vis-a-vis the Lu’au. Furthermore, we speak to: the violent exoticization and assault of Asian and Pacific Islander women’s bodies on and off campus, lack of on-campus resources (faculty or programming) for predominantly Southeast Asian and Pacific Islander communities, the rewriting of our Othered bodies through white scholarship, and general ignorance in campus culture which needs to realize that the same military industrial complex that incarcerates Black Bodies also deports our communities. Ultimately, we recognize the sorrow of imperialist and colonial pillaging, removal, sexualized violence, and dehumanization as well as continuous Orientalism and subjugation. We know the sorrow of having to spill out our hearts, begging for an acknowledgement of our humanity, from the same people who stole wealth from our ancestors years ago. Simultaneously, we recognize this as connected, but differing and unequal, to the pain that Black bodies experience as a result of a global white supremacy manifested on this campus. We stand with you–our Black community, asserting that our organizing is incomplete if we do not recognize the reification of anti-blackness in our communities. We stand with you, remembering that it was Black Students who stood with us against traumatizing performances, as history tells us and as we have seen manifest on our campus: it was Black Students who were the first to defy laws allowing Students of Color not to organize so that we could have our club, and that it was Black students to organize for African Studies first, so that we could organize for Ethnic Studies.

We write this manifesto standing in any way appropriate, against anti-blackness, asserting that our liberation is only possible if it is with yours. Black Power and Yellow Power. In solidarity.

Southeast Asian Student Association

The leaders of the Soka Southeast Asian Student Association stand in solidarity with the Black Student Union. As a Southeast Asian student community,  we need to reach out and stand in solidarity with the BSU, our peers and friends. Our solidarity must begin with organizing, educating ourselves, and offering ourselves whole-heartedly in ethical allyship. Though our community has yet to fully manifest as a united entity, this statement of solidarity is being made in the hopes that our future actions and intent will be that of support. Let us remember the division and injustice that systemic colorism and anti-blackness has done to our own communities and expand our efforts to all communities who are hurting from the same, who have fought for our liberation. Let us be clear through this understanding that while our oppressions are connected, they are not the same. Black bodies are systematically and historically dehumanized in the U.S. in ways we do not face. Silence is not neutral, and so apathy, silence, and performative allyship on our part would be our failure as a Southeast Asian community. We must do better. We make this statement of solidarity in determination of this.

Latines Unides
We, Latines Unides, stand in full solidarity with the Black Student Union. We acknowledge and support the fight against the marginalization of the black community on campus. We stand as allies in recognition that the grievances of the black community are connected to our own struggles. Our struggles are linked, and it is important to recognize that being black and being Latinx are not necessarily mutually exclusive. However, we also acknowledge the gatekeeping, anti-blackness, and colorism present in the Latinx community that discriminates against black Latinx and contributes to black erasure. We commit to educate ourselves and our communities to fight these systemic issues as allies.

The Black Student Union’s fight for African and Ethnic studies directly impacts the Latinx community on campus. It is vital for us to see ourselves represented in academia. The self-determination, empowerment, and agency of students must be of utmost priority to an institution that claims to concern itself with our well-being and academic prosperity. When this university expects students to succeed in an environment where almost no authority figure shares our identities and lived experiences, it severely ignores what students need to feel a sense of belonging and encouragement within the university setting.

We decry the hypocrisy of Soka’s vision of diversity and lack of resources to support students of color. In allyship with the Black Student Union, we challenge notions of diversity that only seek to tokenize students of color and demand that resources be set in place to support present and future students that are admitted on campus. We demand more resources that support undocumented students, through representation in international student services and support by student affairs. We need events on campus that promote awareness of issues related to undocumented students. The campus-wide Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion educational programs must incorporate rapid response training regarding affairs that directly impact the lives of undocumented students on campus. An increased effort to expand the SAII office to provide detailed, concrete alternative study abroad programs. We also insist that a point-of-contact exists on campus to assist undocumented students with legal assistance.

Mental health services must be expanded to address the needs of students of color through hires of representative counselors. We also demand resources for first-generation students, including financial aid counseling, mentoring programs with faculty, students, alumni, and staff, academic and career advising sessions geared toward first-generation experiences, and events where first-gen students can connect through their shared lived experiences.

Latines Unides stands in solidarity with the Black Student Union. SUA must take action to address the critical demands of its students of color, and we will continue to hold the university accountable for the safety and success of black students and all students of color on campus.

Muslim Student Association
The Muslim Student Association is in solidarity with the Black Student Union. The marginalization of minorities has been ingrained in the structures of societies around the world. And, SOKA is a reflection for the structures of power that allows orientalism and violence to exist on the bodies of the marginalized groups. The bodies that are there only for the tokenization of the institution. We are grieving for the grieve of the Black Students on campus. The Muslim Students, Black Students, and other minority groups on campus have a lack of representation for their identities within faculty, staff, and student body and the majority of the curriculums are euro-centric and lack an authentic human experience. The Muslim Students’ and Black Students’ experiences’ on Soka’s campus has a lot of intersectionalities: the need to always put yourself out there so people realize that you matter and equally a human, or, the need to fight to be heard and have basic rights, and in the process, forget even that you are a student here.

The Muslim Student Association is in full support of the BSU and is against anti-blackness that is perpetuated in different forms, because Black Lives Matter.

LGBTeam
As students coming from various backgrounds but being united by our LGBTQIA+ identities, LGBTeam is standing in solidarity with the black community on campus in hopes of furthering the demands mandated by the Black Student Union and working towards a campus culture where black voices are heard, respected, and valued. Within our community, we will continue to fight against sentiments of anti-blackness that are seen through the erasure of black activism for queer rights, the lack of representation of black bodies in queer spaces (especially in positions of power), the allowance of police presence/surveillance in queer spaces, and more. While the students inside the institution witness the pain brought upon our siblings around the world, Soka can rarely feel like a place that addresses harm and offers communal healing – unless students demand it, or create the spaces themselves.

The never-ending fight for black experiences to be validated through staff/faculty/administrative representation, academic courses, mental health resources, and more should not require as much mobilization and expenditure of student labor as it has. At the same time, black students should not have to live in a campus community where time and time again their existence is invalidated and humanity denied. LGBTeam recognizes the importance of stepping up and joining this fight not just for the black members of our club, but for black students in this school. We cannot stay idle while we watch our friends suffer, rather we pledge to stand in solidarity with them and take action to enact change.

OUR DEMANDS

The following is a list of demands from the Black Student Union with support from the Student of Color Coalition:

  1. We demand that SUA implements African and Ethnic Studies classes with faculty members who not only can articulate the scholarship within these realms of academia but can speak directly from their lived experience because they themselves derive from these contexts, respectful of conditions dictated by the Black Student Union & the Students of Color Coalition.

  2. We demand to have Critical Race Theory apart of the Soka General Education and for it to be a required class `for every single student on this campus, respectful of conditions dictated by the Black Student Union & the Students of Color Coalition.

  3. We demand to have incidents that fall under Title VI and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act be handled with a formalized process where there are student representation and an explicit, transparent process students can utilize to have their voices heard, respectful of conditions dictated by the Black Student Union & the Students of Color Coalition.  To tell students to have “dialogue” with the perpetrator is unacceptable.

    1. “Simple justice requires that public funds, to which all taxpayers of all races [colors, and national origins] contribute, not be spent in any fashion which encourages, entrenches, subsidizes or results in racial [color or national origin] discrimination.”

  4. We demand the hiring of full-time Black faculty and for students to be involved in the hiring process from the language in the search ads to the applicant interviews, respectful of conditions dictated by the Black Student Union & the Students of Color Coalition.

  5. We demand school-wide racial sensitivity training for faculty staff, administrators, and students, respectful of conditions dictated by the Black Student Union & the Students of Color Coalition.

  6. We demand to have an independent body on campus that focuses on putting in place Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion educational programs. It must be vested in an on-campus office by the same name and overseen by an outside organization that specializes in this work. It must involve student input in the decisions which SUA would make in regard to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

  7. We demand for Mental Health resources for Black Students specifically by a Black counselor as well as a general Student Affairs programmatic reform pivotal on the awareness of the needs of First Generation students and undocumented students,  respectful of conditions dictated by the Black Student Union & the Students of Color Coalition.

  8. We demand formal seats on the Board of Trustees, separate from Executive Council, reserved for the Black Student Union and the Students of Color Coalition so as to assert our self-determination in executing all of the above demands.

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