Three black students from California have sparked massive controversy after they advertised house share accommodation for “POC only,” or “People of Color,” refusing applications from white students.
The listing, which was posted to Facebook by student Karé Ureña, also added, “I don’t want to live with any white folks,” prompting both a large backlash and defense from fellow students and the media.
“It’s a legitimate request. Students of color should have the right to create spaces where they feel comfortable on campus and off campus,” said president of the Pitzer College student senate, Josue Pasillas, in defense. “It’s all about living in solidarity with others without the judgment and racism that they face on a daily basis… This is about comfort in one’s residences and nothing more than that. This isn’t racism.”
After one student expressed their concerns on the post, stating, “‘POC only?’ Maybe I’m missing something or misunderstanding your post, but how is that not a racist thing to say?” numerous other students fought back against the criticism.
“It is not reverse racism or discriminatory, it is self preservation,” replied one student.
“White people always mad when they don’t feel included but at the end of the day y’all are damaging asf and if a POC feels they need to protect themselves from that toxic environment THEY CAN!” commented another. “Quick to try to jump on a POC but you won’t call your friends out when they’re being racist asf.”
“The conversation that the public is having is focused on white people and their exclusion in this housing ad” said Ureña in an interview with The Guardian. “But this is not a conversation about segregation and racism. These terms are deeply rooted in historical and systemic acts of violence towards people of color that white people have simply not experienced… We want to reframe it so that it becomes a matter of students of color simply prioritizing their need for survival in the face of historical oppression in higher education.”
In a statement made by the president of Pitzer College, Melvin L. Oliver condemned the Facebook post of behalf of the university.
Recently, an article in local media quoted Facebook comments made by Pitzer students regarding their preference in race for their roommates in non-Pitzer housing. Specifically, the post indicated that only people of color should inquire about the housing option.
While Pitzer is a community of individuals passionately engaged in establishing intracultural safe spaces for marginalized groups, the Facebook post and several subsequent comments are inconsistent with our Mission and values. Pitzer College’s Mission is to create engaged, socially responsible citizens. We rely on Pitzer’s core values, including intercultural understanding as well as Pitzer’s community values of diversity, dialogue, inquiry and action to help us achieve this mission. We come together to live and work in a shared learning environment where every member is valued, respected, and entitled to dignity and honor. Our shared goal is to create a balanced approach to engaging complex intercultural issues, not to isolate individuals on the basis of any protected status.
This is but another example to us that social media is not an effective platform to engage in complex dialog on seemingly intractable critical issues that have varied histories and contested understandings. They create more heat than light and invite extreme viewpoints that intentionally obfuscate the nuanced context that surrounds these issues. Pitzer offers its new 2-course Intercultural Understanding requirement and dedicates new curricular and extra curricular programming to address difficult issues of racism, diversity, community discourse and national and international political conflict.
During these difficult discussions, self-care is critical. If you need additional support during the summer, Monsour Counseling has an on-call therapist available for students. Call (909) 621-8202 and press option 1 to be connected to the on-call therapist. Chaplains are available by calling the Chaplains Office during regular business hours at (909) 621-8685. Employees should contact Human Resources for information on the Employee Assistance Program.
As we move forward in the academic year ahead, I look forward to participating in these discussions in the best tradition of Pitzer College.