Safe Spaces For Black Students Should Be Protected

OpinionStaff Op-Ed

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Kristina Stahl / The Triton

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If the university claims to stand with Black students and hear us, they would commit more than empty promises in their emails and newsletters. Instead, they would be more proactive in making changes which benefit the Black community on campus, the same community which continues to be overlooked and ignored until traumatic events occur. 

On May 30, racist individuals invaded an online forum intended for Black students. The initial reason for the meeting was for ASUCSD to listen to the concerns of the Black students at UCSD in response to the recent events involving the Black Lives Matter movement. Syreeta Nolan, a Black student, was expressing her grievances when people with fake names interrupted her and started yelling out racial slurs such as the n-word and other exploitative terms. This incident shocked the Black community at UCSD, but many students were not surprised.

“Honestly, I’m not surprised that a racially charged event even happened,” Black Student Union (BSU) Retention Co-Coordinator Ndiya Usim told The Triton. “I am aware that there have been so many disrespectful and racist behaviors that have taken place at UCSD before 2010, during 2010, and surely after.”

This is a disgusting act considering the state of the country right now. We are living in a pandemic that continues to exacerbate existing systemic racism. In addition, the pandemic is coupled with a movement which strives to get this world to understand that Black Lives Matter and our bodies are not here for abuse or brutality. 

We should not be subjected to this kind of targeted racism while in college. However, it’s not surprising due to the previous racist events at UCSD, such as Black Winter in 2010 and how this institution consistently proves its lack of consideration for its Black students outside of its self-interested diversity campaigns. 

“I was so upset that it even happened and to hear those words shouted at us when we were in a healing space, sharing our feelings on the events happening in the world right now regarding the rebellion and protesting for Black rights was just atrocious,” said Usim. “I feel the most disrespected that the Chancellor has not said anything about the situation as well. UCSD needs to do better. I am ashamed to be a Triton.”

This zoom bombing event simply shows the Black community that the university neither cares nor does it learn from its own mistakes. There is a call for the zoom bombers to be found and held accountable for the impact and the actions following the incident. Students feel as though the space wasn’t secured properly in the first place as the meeting ID and password were posted on Twitter and shared throughout social media and to those not within the Black community. 

The university should be held accountable and all racist acts should be dealt with severe consequences. In addition to this, non-Black students and allies should respect Black spaces without trying to use them for their own benefit, and leave space for the Black students.  

The administration and other student organizations at UCSD shouldn’t be reaching out to the Black community only in moments of tragedy; there should be an ongoing relationship to better achieve the needs of the community. The university putting on a “CAPS” bandaid is only a temporary solution. 

The administration is trying to silence the voices of Black students by directing us to therapists rather than the people we need to talk to⁠—people in executive positions that can directly work to change situations like this from happening again. What UCSD needs to do is hire more Black staff and psychologists who know and relate to our needs, because Black students are tired of talking to people who don’t care or understand our needs and fail to listen and support us.   

Another potential solution would be for the UCSD community to realize that if a space for Black students is made for Black students, non-Black people and allies should respect that and refrain from speaking. Instead, they should listen. Better yet, there should be other meetings allocated for the grievances of non-Black people of color. Although their emotions and opinions do matter, this time especially is for the Black community to have their long-denied voices be heard. 

Our Black brothers and sisters are still getting murdered in the street; while you may have the privilege of taking a break or just exercising your right to be a performative activist, we can not take a break because it is up to us to continue to fight for our community. 

“There were non-Black people in the space when it was meant for Black students,” said BSU External Vice Chair Jordan Ward. “They had the courage to ask the Black community for help but instead advocated for themselves who are not Black. That needs to be addressed.” 

The meeting was meant to provide a safe space for Black students, and other students were supposed to be there to listen. For other students to take space away from Black students and ask how they could be accommodated during this time is disrespectful. 

If you are a person of color, don’t ask the Black community how you can help, help! It is a stressful time for Black students and they don’t need additional stress to be added onto them in order to educate you. Instead, educate yourself and speak out against injustices happening around you. Sign petitions, donate to bail funds and activist organizations, and share them with others. If you are looking for more ways to get involved, you can visit here

Black student spaces need to be protected and uplifted, not invaded by people who want to listen to the grievances of hurting students to see how they can get away with not doing their assignments. Black students endure microaggressions and systemic racism everyday at this university, so for that to be brought into spaces which are meant to heal our hearts is incredibly hurtful and must be addressed by the administration. 

Kiyahna Brown is the Assistant Arts and Culture Editor for The Triton. Mo Al Elew is a former Editor-in-Chief of The Triton and assisted in the writing of this article.