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Submission: Offensive comments reflect unsafe campus climate

By Daily Bruin Staff

Dec. 9, 2012 11:07 p.m.

BY Kassy Saeppunh, Ashley Truong and Robin Chang

Editor’s Note:
Dear reader,

In recent weeks, campus groups have spoken out after racial and sexist slurs against Asian American women were found written on a Vietnamese Student Union sign in Kerckhoff Hall and on a stall in a restroom in Powell Library.
About a week ago, the Daily Bruin received an opinion submission from the Asian Pacific Coalition that addressed these slurs. A group of editors made the decision not to run the submission because the student group did not want to change the word “womyn” to “women” in its submission. On Dec. 3, the Daily Bruin ran an editor’s note explaining our decision, which stated that the use of the word “womyn” in our newspaper would represent a social and political stance that we, as a news organization, should remain neutral on.
After further consideration and input on the subject, The Bruin has decided to run the submission in its original format, keeping the spelling of the word “womyn.” The use of the word “womyn” in this submission represents an identity that members of the Asian Pacific Coalition says is essential to the message they want to convey. Though the term can represent a social and political stance, the submission represents the stance of its authors, and not the stance of the Daily Bruin. Our Opinion page is a forum for the community to express a variety of viewpoints that are thoughtful and generate discussion.
As a community newspaper, we invite dialogue with the public over journalistic conduct, and encourage the public to voice concerns about our editorial decisions. In this instance, we did not make the correct decision. Today, we are running the Asian Pacific Coalition submission in full. Below is the full text of the submission.

In late November, two incidents occurred on the UCLA campus that have prompted concern in the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. On the morning of Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2012, a piece of paper that said, “asian women R Honkie white-boy worshipping Whores!!!” with clip art of a middle finger was posted outside the Vietnamese Student Union’s office.

The next day, a comment was written in a stall of the girls’ bathroom in Powell Library that said, “Asian Women Are White-Boy Worshipping Sluts.” The fact that these incidents occurred on campus and that they happened one day apart shows the alarming climate of the UCLA campus and the continued presence of racism that is still prevalent today. The Asian Pacific Coalition, UCLA’s official Asian American and Pacific Islander voice, issues the following statement in response to these incidents:

These acts of vandalism are racist and misogynistic, drawing upon the stereotypes of Asian womyn that have been perpetuated throughout history. The vandalism draws upon the historical perceptions of Asian womyn being impure sexual tools to be owned. These stereotypes are not only offensive; they also blatantly disregard the diversity of the Asian and Pacific Islander community, especially Asian and Pacific Islander womyn.

By bringing this offensive image of Asian and Pacific Islander womyn to the forefront on the UCLA campus twice in one week, the acts of vandalism highlight the dangers that Asian and Pacific Islander womyn face on campus. They are being targeted not only on the basis of their race, but also their gender, and this is extremely concerning. UCLA serves as a home away from home for students, yet Asian and Pacific Islander womyn have been threatened. How can they feel safe in a place where there are repeated attacks on womyn of color?

In a larger context, these acts of vandalism are tied to other racist and misogynistic events on campus. Most recently, the Sander report questioned the legitimacy of African American and Chicano/a students. Last spring quarter, an apartment door was vandalized with racist and misogynistic slurs against the Chicano/a community. Before that, Alexandra Wallace posted a YouTube video, “Asians in the Library,” that stereotyped the Asian and Pacific Islander community and its culture.

These last few years have proved that the campus climate is getting worse for communities and womyn of color. UCLA is an institution that prides itself on a culture of diversity, respect, tolerance and acceptance for all communities. But as it stands now, the UCLA campus has proven to us, as Asian and Pacific Islanders, communities of color, and womyn, that UCLA staff and administration must be accountable to us on a systemic level.

As such, the Asian Pacific Coalition demands the following from Chancellor Gene Block: an official statement on both incidences, more support for ethnic studies and related programs, more support for culture nights to spread awareness of cultural diversity and a specific outline of the Principles of Community Initiative and plans of implementation.

These incidents prove that we, as a community, must create a space where there is a safe discussion on the campus climate of UCLA and how we all can respect one another in a mutual manner. This should not be a space where we turn to finger-pointing. Let us all come together as a community to discuss the multi-layered complexities of this issue and turn this campus back to what it stands for.

Saeppunh is the director of the Asian Pacific Coalition and a third-year Asian American studies student. Truong is the leadership development coordinator of the Asian Pacific Coalition and a third-year English and Asian American studies student. Chang is the fiscal coordinator of the Asian Pacific Coalition and a second-year linguistics and Asian American studies student. The submission was written with contributions from Asian Pacific Coalition staff and its 24 member organizations.

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