Commenting on our post about the silent protest held by black students on campus yesterday, reader s z underwood wrote “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.”

In response, a UC Berkeley student contributed the following comment:

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.


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. That “offensive” language is regularly heard outside my home every single day, loudly I might add.

  2. Black @ UC:

    Thanks. Nice job. Please indulge this odd community by sticking with it if you are so inclined. And it sure wouldn’t hurt if you can come out from behind the anonymity although one can understand why another might decline to do so. My wife works at Cal and was able to vouch for some details from your account, so I remain pretty convinced you’re not full of it.

    Your story there about the professor tolerating the “what happened to all the black people” comment really, really pisses me off. In my view, that’s a moment when the prof properly would switch back on the lights and demand “Who said that?”. There being nobody who would cop to it, it’s then “Who heard that?” at which, presumably, lots of hands go up. And then its “This lecture will not continue until the person who said that owns up and apologies and leaves for today or is identified and expelled from the hall and possibly more. I can wait. I’ve got all day. I’ve no tolerance for such crap because it fundamentally undermines everything I’m trying to accomplish in these lectures. I will not teach in such a hostile environment.”

    I don’t think it’s unreasonable to impose some collective responsibility in such a case.

    Easy for me to say, of course.

  3. I second Ms. Menard’s earlier request (in the other related thread) that the author of this comment will please kindly elaborate on his or her experience of racism at Cal.

    To be clear, I have trouble doubting the existence of such experience and I don’t wish to obligate the commenter to rehearse grievances here.

    To be equally clear, I don’t presume the anonymous commenter is who he or she claims to be.

    It is simply an interesting topic and since we’ve seen a few responses that seem to be critical of the action, there may be some value in exploring the topic more carefully.

  4. I think it’s good to have a range of protests — all black, multi-culti, all white — whatever — main thing is to keep energy going and have many different cells of people activated for a longer duration of time. Good Luck!