Editor’s Note: We thought it interesting and appropriate to run the following email from Sunny Dae Earle, a local resident who is now a second-year student at UC Berkeley. It seem sides are hardening on the campus over Senate Bill 185, which would allow state colleges and universities to consider race, gender, ethnicity, and national origin, along with other relevant factors, in undergraduate and graduate admissions. We don’t know if the attitudes chronicled here are typical of what the school has now become. If so, it’s back to the ’60s.
Hello Family and Friends,
I am e-mailing you all because there is a lot of media attention surrounding a controversy at my school, and I thought I would shed some insight on the issue from my point of view.
As many of you may have read or seen, a student group, Berkeley College Republicans, conducted a “diversity” bake sale on campus Tuesday (Sept. 26). The purpose of this bake sale, was to make a satirical statement and cause people to think about affirmative action and how it is unfair. It seemed that it did not matter to the group that their “humorous” idea of a bake sale might be both coarse and insulting to other groups.
The Berkeley College Republicans made their point by selling baked goods at different prices based on race and gender. For example, for Whites the price of the baked goods were $2, for Latinos $1, African Americans $0.75, Native Americans $0.25 and all women get $0.25 off their purchases. The idea was that all were purchasing the same item but some were purchasing at a lower price, which is unfair to Whites.
The event took place on campus across from a phone banking demonstration encouraging people to call the governor’s office in support of SB 185 (a bill on Brown’s desk which would overturn anti-affirmative action laws and allow admissions officers to take race, gender and national origin into account when accepting students). Of course, Berkeley College Republicans are opposed to such a measure.
With that said, I know that there are a lot of different views of affirmative action, even within my own family, I am sure. However, I would just like to share some of my own personal experiences with you from my time at Berkeley.
First, I would like to say that UC Berkeley is huge, both in size and in terms of student population. However, on a campus of more than 30,000 students there are only 867 African American students. That number was very surprising to me, but I was unabashed by it until I realized the dramatic impact this has on campus climate.
Last year, while walking back to the dorms from dinner with three of my male friends (all well dressed, neat, articulate and Black) we saw a desolate, old, filthy, White vagrant, who I assumed was also a drug addict. The lady was being loud and obnoxious, but Berkeley is a weird place, so we were used to such actions and paid her no mind. As we passed the vagabond, she spat at us while shouting “burn niggers burn” and threw handfuls of rocks after us.
A few months later, I went out with two of my friends (my friend Asha, an African American girl, and Manal from Saudi Arabia) and two of Manal’s White friends. We attended three frat parties, the first two were boring, I guess it was a slow night for them and they were allowing anyone in, so we went to a third. I assume this was the popular party of the night because there was a large crowd of people trying to get in. Lucky for us, we thought, Asha knew the guy working the door. (He was a member of the fraternity, and he and Asha had attended elementary, middle and high school together). He saw Asha, asked her how many friends she had with her and told us to come in.
Upon hearing this, his Asian frat brother intervened and asked why he was letting us in. Asha’s friend said, “Dude, just let them in. I know her.”
The Asian boy replied, “Fine, you and your f***king jungle fever.” We immediately turned around and told the Asian boy how disrespectful and rude he was, and left the house. Asha and I cried on our way back to our dorm; we cried from hurt, humiliation, embarrassment and pain. (I should probably contextualize this more by letting you know that it is a common understanding among Black students at my school that “you won’t get into the frat parties, so don’t go”… which leads me to my next story.
(By the way, this frat has lost its charter for similar racist activities having nothing to do with the incident involving us.)
Fast forward to Saturday, Sept. 17, 2010).
After my first encounter with a White frat party I realized I obviously was not welcomed at those types of parties, and I will never go where I am not wanted. However, on that Saturday an acquaintance on the football team told me he was throwing a football after-party at a frat house. My friends and I went, with the expectation that it was my acquaintance’s party. (He had done something like this during the summer.) Upon arriving, there was a large crowd of students waiting to get into the party (some were football players, some were freshmen, all were Black).
We were met with belligerence and profanity, being told to “get the f**k off of our property, the party is over, it’s getting shut down, get the f**k out of here.” We remained on the sidewalk, discussing what we were going to do next and ignoring the ignorant frat boys, until one of the boys pulled out a water hose, turned it on and pointed it at the crowd of students (no one got wet).
We asked if they realized the racial implications of the water hose, and were met with the response “you guys just need to leave.” Asha and I reported the incident to the dean of students, filed a hate crime report and had a meeting with the frat and the dean. A meeting which I honestly feel was a waste of time, because I still do not believe the boys realize just how hurtful, disrespectful and racist their actions were … and I don’t expect they ever will.
I just wanted to share these things with you because these acts of discrimination and racism are not exclusive to my Berkeley experience, but instead are the lived experiences of many of my peers and students before me, and that simply is not OK.
We held a student-led protest Tuesday (on the same day as the bake sale) addressing campus climate, and I participated in it (there was also a press conference after the protest). I ask that as my family and friends you all share your support and prayers with me. I love you all and I want nothing more than to continue making myself, my family, my friends and my people proud.
Sunny Dae Earle