Photo by Doug Oakley.

About 200 black students at UC Berkeley stood in silent protest for over two hours at Sather Gate on campus today in reaction to racial incidents at UC San Diego last week, according to a report by Bay Area News Group tonight.

Read more here.

Update: In the comments, reader s z underwood points to coverage in UC San Diego’s Guardian student newspaper which includes what appears to be an apology from one of the students involved in the alleged racist incidents at the campus. Read it here.

Tracey Taylor

Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...

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  1. OK, so I checked with UCPD, they have a dog trained and capable for bomb detection, they do not have a search and rescue or an attack dog.

  2. Black at UC Berkeley. Thank you for your insightful comments and for expounding on your own unfortunate experiences at UCB. The racism you have experienced at UC Berkeley is regrettable. I am sure you are just providing “highlights” and that you experienced a generally hostile climate even more often than you describe. I am sure you can also appreciate that members of every group have some bad experiences in their college years. Many young women in college face multiple types of harassment, unwanted comments and stereotyping every weekend (mostly from young men of every race and ethnicity — EOP sexism?). Religious minorities sometimes endure hurtful comments or offensive “jokes” at their expense and crude stereotyping.

    In fact, practically everyone—including members of the so-called “majority” groups—experiences some form of hostility or racism in their school years. Attending a broadly integrated high school, I witnessed a great deal of overt racist comments and actions directed in multiple different directions: blacks, whites, Asian and Latino groups/gangs all of whom engaged in various types of crude comments and language (in fact, almost constantly)and sometimes even engaged in overtly racist hostility with each other. It was never a one way street.

    Our entire society has serious social problems which need to be addressed in a rational and constructive manner. That’s why I (and many others no doubt) think it’s important to engage in constructive protests which unite people, rather than divide them. It also matters whether the “spark” that lights the fires of a particular protest are really racist (or even real) incidents. It strongly appears that the UCSD noose was not racially motivated. Movements can lose credibility and broader support when they turn to the bullhorn and the angry slogans well before the facts are even in.

    Yes, you correctly cite the legacy of the student protest movement at UCB as a touchstone. But let’s compare for a moment an excerpt from a celebrated Mario Savio FSM address with some of the impassioned speeches being aired recently at UCSD. Note how both of the speeches quoted below from UCSD specifically attack the concept of Free Speech which is at the core of UCB’s student activist legacy. Personally, I don’t see a strong link here in thinking or mentality from the origins of the FSM to the student activists of today.

    Mario Savio 1964:

    Now, there are at least two ways in which sit-ins and civil disobedience and whatever — least two major ways in which it can occur. One, when a law exists, is promulgated, which is totally unacceptable to people and they violate it again and again and again till it’s rescinded, appealed. Alright, but there’s another way. There’s another way. Sometimes, the form of the law is such as to render impossible its effective violation — as a method to have it repealed. Sometimes, the grievances of people are more — extend more — to more than just the law, extend to a whole mode of arbitrary power, a whole mode of arbitrary exercise of arbitrary power.

    UCSD Senator, March 1, 2010

    Campuswide Senator Desiree Prevo referenced the recent reaction from members of student media organizations to A.S. President Utsav Gupta’s funding freeze last Friday, a reaction to BSU requests to shut down controversial humor newspaper the Koala. Prevo said this was not a free-speech issue.

    “The Bill of Rights, in which the free-speech document came from, was never meant to include my people — our people — so how do you expect me to respect free speech, when I was never supposed to have free speech?” Prevo asked

    UCSD student activist editorial

    In challenge to the First Amendment, words that “by their very nature, involve danger to the public peace” become unconstitutional (Justice Sanford, 1925 Gitlow v. New York.) I ask for support from my peers in achieving and retaining this peace by supporting the demands of the Black Student Union, which aim at stemming the intimidating climate of UCSD toward minorities and making this campus all of our campus. I have had enough of this shit, I will not get over it, and because you don’t think it is a big deal, I will make it a big fucking deal. I may only be part of 1.3 percent of this campus, but I matter. I will not give up.

  3. I am personally sorry those painful and ugly events happened to you. It is completely unacceptable. But I can relate.

    When my sons were young teens they were targeted for their skin color, white, and my oldest was pulled downed from behind and stomped in the head while my youngest was held against a fence dodging punches. The black parents egged their kids and his friends on from the park bench, none of the black families in the park did anything to stop the violence or help my kids get home from the park.

    Last year I was jumped across from Ashby BART by a group of drunk black girls, one of the them kicked me in the head after knocking me down onto to the sidewalk. I am over 50 years old.

    In both cases racial charged terms where used by the aggressors. Unfortunately those are not the only stories we have collected here in Berkeley, many of my kids friends have been victims of racial violence on school campuses and in different parts of town.

    I spoke about racial violence at a city forum on hate crimes, and have written in the Planet about it. I deplore violence.

    Question, what police dept showed up with a canine unit, since neither Berkeley pd or UCPD have a canine unit, only the fire dept has a search and rescue dog.

  4. laura,

    Before classes started during my freshman year, a group of my friends and I (all of us are Black) went to attend a party and were turned down because the party was “full to capacity.” As soon as we stepped aside, however, another group of students who were not Black were allowed in. There’s also the time when students wrote in wet concrete the word “nigger” on the sidewalk leading to the dining hall that many Black students on campus eat. This was also during my first year.

    Allow me to move on to when all of a sudden the weekly gathering of Black students every Wednesday in GBC became an “issue” for no real reason after Black students have been meeting there at the same time, same day, and same place for years. I’m not sure if you read the flyer we passed out or not, but police showed up with canines, claiming they were just walking through. That was my second year. Also during my second year after a Jena 6 rally on campus, one of my friends who is heavily involved in campus organizations, after picking up his backpack from the grass was held up by UCPD on suspicion of stealing it–not because they had received a complaint about a missing backpack, but because he was Black.

    During my third year, a Black girl was assaulted by members of the crew team. They poured beer on her while calling her “nigger” over and over again.

    And most recently, during my fourth year, when a professor turned down the lights in a classroom, one student yelled out, “Where did all the Black students go?” The professor said nothing.

    I am not saying these incidents are UC Berkeley’s fault, but I do believe Cal’s reaction to these events, and many others that I did not mention, have been minimal, if not absent completely.

    With that said, while our demonstration was about standing in solidarity with our fellow students at UCSD, it was also about standing up against Berkeley’s personal neglect of the issues going on on its own campus.

  5. I am one of those Black Berkeley students who participated in this silent protest and for you, s z underwood, to say this is a sign of increasing Balkanization is completely incorrect and unfair. Let me put things in perspective for you and any other person who may come across this and feel the same way. If one thing should be clear, it is that the Black students at UC Berkeley did not carry out this act to purposely exclude people of other cultures and ethnicities, but to demonstrate to the wider campus, and on another note, to ourselves, that we can be unified as a community and stand for something we all believe in.

    I’m not sure if you know this, but the percentage of Black students at Berkeley is currently estimated to be less than 4% and with our studies and other obligations, we are stretched thin and many of us hardly know each other. This event built a sense of solidarity that is not only needed to mobilize those within the Black community, but also that is necessary for us to even begin to reach out to other communities. Please believe that we ARE indeed working with other groups on this, and similar issues. Also, please allow us the space to do what we feel we need to do before we can move forward and mobilize a greater and more diverse group of supporters.

    Furthermore, I attend Berkeley. Do you understand the legacy of political protests, strikes, and demonstrations on the campus? Every single day, there is someone or a group of people out on Sproul, standing up for what they are most passionate about. Oftentimes, these demonstrations are multicultural and, I will admit, I walk past most because they are so much like the others–peopling yelling out their demands, explicit and offensive images, etc. What we did today could not have been ignored. Completely silent, no posters, and organized beyond belief. What we call the Black Out will go down in many students’ memories as a demonstration like no other. The fact that we were all Black only goes to exaggerate the frustration that we face as a community.

    Moreover, it is not only what has occurred at UCSD during the past month that we stood up against today, but also the many, many, many things we have personally faced on Berkeley’s campus. I am a fourth year student and the discrimination, believe it or not, started before my first day of classes.

    With all of that said, I am not going to ask you to see things from my perspective and agree that this should, as it was, have been an all-Black demonstration. I am, however, going to ask that you be understanding of the fact we were conscious of the impact this event could have had with a multicultural group of demonstrators, but ultimately felt this was something we needed to do for ourselves.


  6. It’s a pity and perhaps a sign of increasing Balkanization on our college campuses that this was apparently not a multi-racial or integrated group expressing their common outrage. All people of good conscience deplore racist acts. It seems to me this protest would have been a more powerful statement if a broad spectrum of students had together as a coalition.

    Aside from that point, our universities are supposed to be “temples of reason” or, at least, to train young minds to defer judgement until they have sufficient facts and evidence in hand (it used to be called the “faculty of reason”). I don’t know for sure if this is a credible statement or not, but today’s UCSD Guardian student newpaper has run an apology letter from the student who claims to have left this noose in the library and, according to her, she is a minority student who had no racist motives, as you can read for yourself.

    I have a story that needs to be heard. I am the girl you’ve read about, the one who hung the noose in Geisel Library.

    Firstly, I’m writing to apologize. I don’t have an excuse for what I did, and I deeply regret it.

    Secondly, I’m writing to hopefully put a little bit of faith back into the UCSD campus by clarifying that it was not an act of racism. This is what happened.

    I found a small piece of rope on the ground earlier in the day. While I was hanging out with my friends a bit later, we tried jump- roping with it and making it into a lasso. My friend then took the rope and tied it into a noose. I innocently marveled at his ability to tie a noose, without thinking of any of its connotations or the current racial climate at UCSD. I left soon after with one of my friends for Geisel to study, still carrying the rope. After a bit of studying I picked up the rope to play with, and ended up hanging it by my desk. It was a mindless act and stupid mistake. When I got up to leave, a couple hours later, I simply forgot about it. This was Tuesday night. Three days later, on Friday morning, I found out that the noose had been found and construed as another racist act on campus. I felt so ashamed and embarrassed, and the first thing I did was call the campus police and confess. I was hoping to clarify that this was not an act of racism before the incident got a full reaction from the campus. I gave my statement around 9 a.m. They thanked me for coming forward and for trying to clear up the issue. Later, I received a campuswide e-mail saying that I confessed and had been taken into custody, which simply wasn’t true. One thing that is true is that I have been suspended. I know what I did was offensive — regardless of my intentions — I am just trying to say I’m sorry. As a minority student who sympathizes with the students that have been affected by the recent issues on campus, I am distraught to know that I have unintentionally added to their pain.