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Ithaca College Holds First Diversity Town Hall Meeting

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In light of Michael Brown, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, and the ongoing national debate regarding institutionalized racism, students at Ithaca College held the school’s first diversity town hall meeting. Student leaders gathered this afternoon to discuss and brainstorm ideas to work toward a more diverse campus, focusing primarily on diversity issues related to the college’s African, Latino/a, Asian, and Native American (ALANA) community, but also including topics such as gender and sexually.

Instead of just talking about the issue, students were asked to come up with specific solutions to problems in which they feel are directly related to a lack of diversity on campus. Maybe someone of color was given odd looks as soon as they stepped into a room full of white people. Maybe someone received microaggressive comments from a peer and didn’t know how to handle it. Maybe there aren’t enough professors of color in a school. How can we address these issues, and, more importantly, what are we going to do to prevent these things from happening again?

School administrators sat in on the meeting and took note of the various suggestions that students had for diversifying the campus. Students also participated in a series of discussion-based activities, such as filling out an identity worksheet in order to share the most salient parts of their identity.

The town hall meeting today served as the infrastructure to a future of possibilities. The idea here was to start planning a course of action–what can we do as students to help make the campus a more inviting place for students of color? We’ve had endless discussions about the problem, so now it’s time to actually do something about it.

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Givenchy’s “Chola Victorian” Show Celebrates The Chola-Glamor Aesthetic

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Givenchy’s Fall 2015 show stirred up the fashion scene, arousing many bloggers and self-proclaimed fashionistas to rave about creative director Riccardo Tisci’s “bold” accessory choices. “Beautiful! Scene-stealing! Those bright colors and beautiful textures!” were some of the phrases used to describe the show.

While the intricate designs of the clothing itself accentuated Tisci’s sleek style, the theme of the show, “Chola Victorian”, raised some slicked-down eyebrows.

Givenchy Fall 2015 show
Givenchy Fall 2015 show

The term chola first originated in the gang-ridden parts of Southern California throughout the 1960’s and 70’s. It describes a “working-class, young Mexican-American female from the barrios of the southwest with a very distinct aesthetic, style, and attitude.” The history of this lifestyle, however, dates back to the early 20th-century Mexican Repatriation, where millions of people of Mexican descent were pressured to leave the United States and suffered from internalized racism and oppression. As many as 1.2 million of those forced to leave were United States citizens.

Being used first as a derogatory term, Mexican-American youths of Southern California began to self-identify as cholas/cholos (male version of chola) as a method of self-empowerment and identity. Most teens who identified as chola came from impoverished backgrounds full of gang warfare. The term became a way for Mexican-Americans to express the “strength and creative independence it takes to survive in a society where your social mobility has been thwarted by racism.”

Nowadays, chola culture is celebrated and perpetuated mostly throughout the music and fashion industries. The term is associated with gang violence, big hoop earrings, pencil-thin eyebrows and slicked-down baby hairs and is used more as a costume than to represent the specific Mexican-American subculture. Pop singers like Lana Del Rey and Rihanna romanticize the chola aesthetic, donning stereotypical accessories to look “bad-ass”.

Singer Rihanna wearing a stereotypical chola costume
Singer Rihanna wearing a stereotypical chola costume

In recent years, fashion moguls like Givenchy have incorporated ethnic looks into their designs to bring an air of “edge” to their looks. However, when a person of color is seen with that same aesthetic, it is deemed “low-class” and “ratchet”. At what point, then, does cultural exchange turn into appropriation?

Race And Technology: A Discussion With Dr. Bruce Hoskins

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As a part of their “Tech N’ Color” race discussion series, Ithaca College’s Center for the Study of Culture, Race and Ethnicity invited Dr. Bruce Hoskins to give a lecture on his own experiences regarding race and technology.

The event offered Ithaca College students a chance to get an inside look into Hoskins’ journey as an educator and an activist. Mainly with the help of his own students, Hoskins was able to branch out across various technological mediums and “amplify the activist voice in [his] scholarship and teaching.” Through the use of slam poetry and a discussion of his own research on multi-ethnicity, Hoskins challenged Ithaca College students to think about what it really means to be a minority in today’s society.

Hoskins, who is a professor of Sociology at MiraCosta Community College in Oceanside, California, also emphasized the importance of starting from home. Being from Oceanside himself, Hoskins believes that the only way to induce change is to start from the roots, which is why he chose to become a community college professor in his hometown.

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‘Freedom Of Speech’ Is An Excuse To Allow Racist Comments To Exist

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The disturbing video of Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) fraternity members singing a racist chant has gone viral within the past few weeks, shedding light on the ever-growing issue of race and diversity in universities.

Since the viral outbreak, the Oklahoma chapter of SAE has expelled two of its members seen in the video and has banned the fraternity from the university. The fraternity also issued a national apology and has announced that it will begin a mandatory diversity and education program in addition to appointing a national advisory committee on diversity and inclusion.

In light of this recent scandal, however, a recent CNN op-ed piece brought up a different angle to this story.

The post, entitled “What we risk when we ban racist speech”, talks about the importance of our First Amendment right to freedom of speech. The theory here is, essentially, that it’s unfair for the SAE brothers to receive punishment for saying what they wanted to say. Here’s an excerpt of the article:

“Forget whether you like the speech or not. That is not relevant. These boys got kicked out of a public school for singing a song, on their own time, in a privately rented bus, simply because the government didn’t like the content of their song. Censors overstepping their bounds is no surprise. What surprises me is how readily the public supported the expulsions, and how many supposedly intelligent people were willing to turn the First Amendment on its head, because of nine seconds of video.”

Is the content of the speech relevant? Does it matter that a bunch of students were alluding to lynching in a “harmless” song?

What needs to be focused on is the fact that these students thought this was merely a fun act. The perpetuation of racist ideologies is seen constantly within social media and our society’s culture. Rape culture, racism, sexism…it’s all clearly there, yet there are people willing to turn a blind eye rather than accept the fact that it’s really happening.

Bottom line is that these things are learned behaviors. How can we expect to change the future if we won’t take the time to educate ourselves and reflect on what we are perpetuating?

UVA Student Left Beaten And Bloodied 3 Blocks From Campus

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Earlier this week, University of Virginia student Martese Johnson was violently beaten and left bloodied by agents of the state’s Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) unit near the campus. Johnson’s arrest was captured by onlookers of the incident and posted online, going viral in a matter of days.

The video shows the 20-year-old being beaten to the ground by the state agents as blood gushes down his face. An onlooker is also heard yelling at the state agents, pleading them to stop.

“What are y’all doing? Yo, his head is bleeding,” can be heard throughout the video.

Johnson himself is also heard repeatedly screaming at the police officers, seemingly shocked and in disbelief that this is even happening to him.

“I go to UVA! I go to UVA!” he says. “How did this happen, you f–cking racists? How does this happen?”

Johnson’s roommate, Joshua Kinlaw, believes the dispute started when the ABC officers checked his ID as he was attempting to enter one of the bars.

“I am aware that Martese does not own a fake ID,” Kinlaw said. “So the ID that he actually showed to both the bouncer and to the ABC officers was his real ID. Now because the age on that ID shows him to be 20 years old, I think that’s when dispute and discrepancies came in.”

The incident has caused an uproar throughout the school, resulting in various protests by UVA students. The Twitter hashtag #JusticeForMartese has also gone viral, with many users accusing the police officers’ intentions as yet another racist brutality case.

Virginia’s governor has ordered an investigation into Johnson’s arrest.

Learning To Recognize Microaggression

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Earlier this week, Ithaca College’s student run newspaper, The Ithacan, published a special opinion piece written by a student. The commentary, which was in response to the release of the school’s 2012 campus climate survey results, primarily focused on the issue of microaggressions still being perpetuated throughout the campus.

According to Psychology Today, microaggressions are defined by the everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership. A racial microaggression, therefore, would be if a white woman clutched her purse as a person of color walked by on the street, suggesting that their minority group can be dehumanized to merely a bunch of criminals

Perhaps the bigger issue here, however, is that there aren’t a lot of people in our society who are able to recognize them.

A while back, I wrote a piece talking about the various microaggressions I’ve personally had directed toward me. Looking back on it, what struck me the most about writing this piece is the fact that I myself wasn’t able to be conscious of the microaggressive comments I was hearing on a daily basis.

“Where are you really from? You look kind of exotic. You speak English so well for an immigrant! You don’t even act Hispanic.” These were meant to be compliments.

What most–let’s be frank–white people don’t realize is that microaggressions have been hardwired into our culture, allowing those in the majority to sincerely believe that they are not doing anything offensive. An article published in the American Psychological Association suggests that microaggressive comments are made by “well-intentioned white people who are unaware of the hidden messages being sent to them”.

There are times where jokes can be made and certain questions can be asked. But we need to educate ourselves on what exactly we are perpetuating when we comment on a specific racial group. Race, in general, is meant to act as a political categorization technique derived as far back as the 15th century. How can we progress as a society if we aren’t able to be aware of racializations?

Maybe we should have paid more attention in elementary school when our teachers taught us to “think before we speak”…

A Night Of Hollywood’s Whitest

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The 87th Annual Academy Awards show is a time for film buffs and cinematography enthusiasts to celebrate the year’s best in show and argue for hours on end about which movie should have won for Best Screenplay. It is a time for glitzy gowns to be showcased on the famous red carpet, and for viewers watching at home to peer into the world of Hollywood movie stars. The only thing that’s missing from this world of glamour and finesse is something that hasn’t been around for several decades–diversity.

This year’s host of the prestigious awards show, Neil Patrick Harris, opened up the event with a joke that brought up a good point: “Tonight we honor Hollywood’s best and whitest–I mean, brightest”.

The Academy, the ones who pick the winners, is made up of 94% whites and 77% males, with an average member age of 63 years.

That being said, it is important to note that this year’s Oscars held the least amount of diversity since 1998.

Among the nominees this year, there were no people of color present. In other categories, female screenwriters, directors or cinematographers weren’t nominated as well, leaving the stage to be set for primarily white, male actors and film makers.

via Huffington Post
A look at this year’s primarily white nominees (via Huffington Post)

Viewers took notice of the lack of diversity, and took to Twitter to lash out against the white-dominating industry, using the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite to jokingly point out the overall “whiteness” of the awards show.

This year, John Legend and Common’s win for Best Original Song was only the 32nd time in 87 years that a black person has won an Oscar. That’s 32 wins from a person of color out of more than 3,000 winners. And the times they did win, they won for perfectly portraying the role of a struggling minority (i.e. Octavia Spencer in The Help). Yikes.

More often than not, the entertainment industry has become submerged in Caucasian power. So the question here is, how do we break the habit?