For Immediate Release
March 16, 2011
Contact: Daya Mortel, BAYAN USA Southwest Regional Coordinator, firstname.lastname@example.org
Filipino Organizations Stand Firm Against Racism at UCLA
BAYAN USA Southern California and its member organizations–Sisters of GABRIELA Awaken (SiGAw), Anakbayan Los Angeles, Anakbayan San Diego, and Habi Arts–stand in solidarity with students, staff, and community members struggling against pervasive racism and xenophobia on campus at UCLA.
UCLA student Alexandra Wallace posted an appalling bigoted video entitled “Asians in the Library,” a shameless rant about “hordes of Asians” at UCLA, and a tirade of insulting language about their alleged lack of “American” manners around campus and in the library. The video soon went viral, with re-postings and even re-mixes. Responses to the video have ranged from protest and indignation over her racial slurs, to a continued proliferation of sexist, racist, and other denigrating remarks.
Wallace’s comments were blatantly racist and disparaging of Asian Pacific Islander (API) communities. Her comments have an underlying message of Asians as “foreigners,” or as “others,” who do not belong in privileged spaces such as in universities. The mere fact that she had the audacity to post her uncensored viewpoints on a public video forum and prefaced it with a disclaimer not to be offended, is reflective of a dangerous trend amongst the student and general population who hold similar beliefs.
Though some may argue that Wallace’s comments are harmless, and those protesting her comments are “overreacting,” it is the mindset Wallace displayed which promotes the idea that APIs are lesser than the white dominant culture. This mindset prevents people from recognizing Wallace’s comments as hate language and racial slurs, and her nonchalant purveyance of these views makes it all the more easier for people to justify continued discrimination and hate crimes against marginalized groups. It also perpetuates within the API community feelings of shame and inferiority to “dominant” groups in power.
“This video is merely an overt reminder of the larger racist views held towards the API community and it is saddening that it took a racist action to stir dialogue and action on her racist comments, which are reflective of similar views on campus,” states Kimberly Mendoza, UCLA student and member of SiGAw.
We acknowledge that while Wallace’s public apology is a step in the right direction, it falls extremely short in relation to the gravity of her remarks and the larger implications of her actions. Wallace’s video is not an isolated incident of one student making brash comments. The video demonstrates a larger problem of unaddressed systemic racism within the UC system. Just last year, students in a fraternity at UC San Diego held a “Compton cookout” party, ridiculing Black History month by emphasizing long-held negative stereotypes of the African American community. These offensive acts take place while the UC system threatens to cut ethnic studies from campuses, which would only further exacerbate this underlying current of ignorance and racism.
To counter this current, we call for a stronger push for the Diversity Requirement at UCLA, emphasizing a campus effort to expose students through an academic curriculum to issues of diversity surrounding race, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, religion, age, and sexual orientation. Unfortunately, UCLA is the only UC campus without the Diversity Requirement. Remarks and racist beliefs held by students like Wallace must be combated by a continued and thriving Ethnic Studies program, as well as programs for Asian American Studies, African American Studies, Latin American Studies, American Indian Studies, and more. We demand the UC system ensure funding for these programs and address the shortage of tenured professors of color and academics in the field of Ethnic Studies.
Though these incidents have the effect of hurting marginalized groups within the college campus, their impact weighs far beyond the campus walls and is reflective of many longstanding oppressive views held about communities of color. Nationally, students and community members have been entrenched in fighting off attacks on ethnic studies, immigrants, and people of color. The passage of SB1070 in Arizona, and other legislation legalizing racial profiling, demonstrate a nationwide right-wing trend of white supremacy.
Although Wallace’s actions are inexcusable, we condemn the death threats along with the sexist and degrading comments made towards her. Let us understand Wallace’s ignorance in the context of a university system that does not foster diversity and understanding, as well as the larger imperialist culture. This imperialist system seeks to divide our communities through xenophobia, racism and other forms of discrimination, which is manifested on the individual level up to the societal level. Imperialism puts profit over people, splurging the people’s wealth and resources to benefit the few and to subjugate people locally as well as abroad, such as through wars of aggression in other countries.
“While this incident is a reminder that blatant racism and hatred targeting communities of color still exist, we concerned students at UCLA are coming from a place where we see a public attack as only perpetuating discrimination and division within our communities,” continues Mendoza. “Instead, there is a need to bring the API community together and work in solidarity with each other to address the campus climate. The fact that so many campuses and community organizations have voiced out their concerns and support shows that we are fighting together against racial intolerance and discrimination.”
We support the response by UCLA’s Asian Pacific Coalition and join their demands for action to create a university culture respectful of diversity and actively seeking to build understanding between people of all backgrounds. We urge other community organizations to support these organizing efforts and call for students and community members to take hold of their future by being an active part in fighting against this decadent imperialist culture and creating a new society where diversity is upheld and cherished. ###
Sisters of Gabriela, Awaken! (SiGAw) is an organization serving Filipinas in the Los Angeles community. We strive to build a strong Filipina women’s mass movement, recognizing that the problems of the Filipina diaspora are linked to the root problems of the Philippines. SiGAw addresses the rights and welfare of women through education, organizing, campaigns, and cultural work.
SiGAw is a member organization of GABRIELA-USA, an overseas chapter of GABRIELA (General Assembly Binding Women for Reforms, Integrity, Equality, Leadership, and Action). GABRIELA is the largest and most mlitant women’s alliance that is working for genuine democracy and freedom in the Philippines.
SiGAw is an LGBTIQ-(Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, and Queer/Questioning) friendly organization that is inclusive of gender-non comforming people of Philippine descent.
SiGAw is also a member organization of BAYAN-USA.