A group of students at the Claremont Colleges in California are in search of a roommate. There’s one condition though — they can’t be white.
According to the Claremont Independent, student Karé Ureña posted a message to her Facebook page encouraging non-white students in need of housing arrangements to reach out to either her or two other students with whom she planned to live with at an off-campus residence.
“POC [people of color] only will be considered for this living opportunity. “I don’t want to live with any white folks,” wrote Ureña, who is also a resident assistant at the school.
Her post ruffled a few feathers, as expected. Fellow student Dalia Zada expressed concern at the RA’s “racist” post and asserted that excluding white applicants from her living arrangements was an act of discrimination.
“POC only?,” Zada responded. “Maybe I’m missing something or misunderstanding your post, but how is that not a racist thing to say?”
Pitzer Latino Student Union member AJ León came to Ureña’s defense, stating, “This is directed to protect POC, not white people. Don’t see how this is racist at all…,” the Claremont Independent reports.
Women’s study major Nina Lee backed León’s sentiments by noting the importance of creating safe spaces for POCs where they aren’t forced “to tiptoe around fragile white feelings in a space where we just want to relax and be comfortable.”
Sara Roschdi, another Latino Student Union member, commented that POCs have a right to create “POC only” spaces for their safety. She asserted that Ureña’s request wasn’t reverse racism, but rather an act of self-preservation.
“Reverse racism isn’t a thing,” she wrote.
A fellow resident assistant and Africana Studies Major voiced her frustration at the hypocrisy of white folks who cry discrimination when they feel excluded but won’t reprimand their peers for being exclusionary and/or racist toward POCs.
“White people always mad when they don’t feel included but at the end of the day y’all are damaging asf [sic],” Terriyonna Smith posted. “And if a POC feels they need to protect themselves from that toxic environment THEY CAN! Quick to try to jump on a POC, but you won’t call your friends out when they’re being racist asf [sic]. I’m not responding to NO comments and NOPE I don’t wanna have a dialogue.”
Jessica Saint-Fleur, another RA and Black Student Union member, echoed Smith’s sentiments that some white people create toxic environments and “trauma on these campuses.”
“…Why in the world would I want to live with that?,” Saint-Fleur added to the long stream of comments. “Bring that into my home? A place that is supposed to be safe for me?”
While officials at Pitzer College encourage students to engage in dialogue that challenges “cultural lenses beyond their own,” it insists that the rhetoric not be intimidating or harmful.
“[Pitzer College] supports the thoughtful exchange of ideas to increase understanding and awareness, and to work across difference without intimidation,” the Mission and Values Section of the college’s website reads. “We have the right to be heard and the responsibility to listen. Communication, even at its most vigorous, should be respectful and without intent to harm.”
Social responsibility, intercultural understanding, and interdisciplinary learning are also among the school’s core values.
Pitzer president Melvin Oliver has since issued a statement condemning Ureña’s housing ad.
“While Pitzer is a community of individuals passionately engaged in establishing intracultural safe spaces for marginalized groups, the Facebook post and several subsequent comments are inconsistent with our Mission and values,” it read. “Pitzer College’s Mission is to create engaged, socially responsible citizens. We rely on Pitzer’s core values, including intercultural understanding as well as Pitzer’s community values of diversity, dialogue, inquiry and action to help us achieve this mission.”