Lauren Marnel Shores and Shomik Mukherjee
Campus Beat Reporter and News Editor
In response to a weekend ‘Unite the Right’ rally in Charlottesville, Virginia that turned violent, the Associated Students Senate unanimously passed a statement by email today condemning “all acts of discrimination against people of color and religious minorities.”
The statement calls the violence in Charlottesville an “act of domestic terrorism,” condemns “hatred, white supremacy, bigotry, and anti-blackness in every shape and form on our own campus,” and reserves the Senate’s right to “restrict funding to groups that foster direct white nationalism.” It further urges all campuses throughout California and the rest of the country to follow suit in the protection of marginalized communities. It passed with a final email vote of 20-0-0.
On Monday, nearly 60 UCSB students, faculty members, and administrators engaged in a session of mourning for the victim of the rally at the MultiCultural Center Lounge and discussed the state of race relations in the United States while speaking about their own personal experiences with racism. Also, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Margaret Klawunn indirectly criticized President Donald Trump for not having condemned white supremacy by name at a press conference regarding the rally on Saturday.
The Charlottesville rally began Friday evening when a gathering of white nationalists, neo-Nazis, and members of other right-wing groups protested the removal of a statue memorializing General Robert E. Lee, who served as a Confederate General during the Civil War. Completed in 1929, the statue stands as a symbol of historic preservation to some and lasting racial oppression to others.
Waves of rally-goers and counter protesters had filled the area by the following morning, and Va. Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency after violence broke out between the two sides. A car driven by a neo-Nazi demonstrator rammed into a crowd of counter protesters, killing one and injuring 19 others. That evening, two state troopers were also killed in a helicopter crash meant to monitor the demonstration taking place.
Charlottesville local and paralegal Heather D. Heyer was killed in the vehicular attack. She was 32 years old. Lt. H. Jay Cullen, 48, and Trooper Berke M. M. Bates, 40, died in the helicopter crash.
The resolution was passed unanimously, 20-0-0, by email vote.
“The vote speaks for itself,” Senator Dhishal Jayasinghe, a third year global studies and philosophy double major who coauthored the resolution along with Senator Kristen Armellini, told The Bottom Line on Tuesday. “Not a single person abstained, not a single person said no. I can’t imagine with an event like this that anybody would feel any kind of way besides this.”
Many more were vocal in their criticism of racism at the MCC Lounge at a forum hosted by The Beloved Community Isla Vista, a local community organization, on Monday.
“I’m losing my patience and empathy for people who claim they didn’t know this was going on in America,” said Evan Quash, a second year statistical science and black studies double major.
“You must have been closing your eyes to every Tamir Rice, every Mike Brown. Every time you see these white nationalists pushing against police barricades and not getting arrested,” Quash said. “People at Standing Rock were getting bullets and hosed for standing on their own property.”
Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Margaret Klawunn stayed for the duration of the forum, emphasizing the need for voices in a time of what she called a “lack of leadership.”
“You’ve seen the damage it causes when people won’t step up and name hate and white supremacy, and condemn the KKK,” Klawunn said, alluding to Trump’s omission of hate groups in his initial condemnation of violence from “many sides” of the Charlottesville conflict. The President later did single out the groups by name on Monday, but the following day, he reverted to criticising violence from “both sides” of the rally.
Part of Monday’s discussion leaned toward dealing with mental health issues in the wake of the rally. Faculty members touched on the modern history of racism, with one noting that many today have already forgotten about major historical events, like the 1991 police beating of Rodney King in Los Angeles.
A.S. President Hieu Le reflected on his own experiences of being called racist Asian slurs by his childhood peers and having to protect his siblings from similar verbal attacks.
“I spoke about my own experiences with racism and what it meant to me,” Le said, “but also, I’m in a position of power and privilege and knowledge where I can fight back against it. But for folks like my little sister and brother, or the less fortunate who are marginalized — they have less of a voice to defend themselves. As a leader, I want our school to embrace our diversity.”
Senator Jayasinghe said he consulted with Le, as well as with former A.S. presidential candidate Nawar Nemeh, in an effort to produce campus bipartisanship behind the resolution. The two added “important clauses about specific things” the Senate can do, Jayasinghe said, like reserve funding for groups that support the resolution.
The resolution states that the current political atmosphere is a “legitimate threat” to people of color and their allies, and “to passively watch acts of hatred is an offensive abuse of the privilege and power that Californians, and moreover, student leaders have.”
Jayasinghe made clear that there are no gray areas on the subject.
“It’s the cliche quote you always hear that if you’re neutral on an issue, you’ve taken the side of the transgressor,” said Jayasinghe. “White nationalism is a flaw in this society and needs to be condemned in the fullest terms by everyone. This is not something to be neutral on. There is no ‘hearing out’ in this. It’s either yes or no; one side or the other. There is very much a clear binary in this, and there needs to be.”
Jayasinghe said he hopes the disavowment of white nationalism is only the first step, and that the Senate can discuss future specific actions against discrimination when it reconvenes after the summer.