Dear Occidental community,
My name is Diamond Webb. Senior. Black at a Primarily White Institution (PWI) and barely surviving.
During my three years at Occidental College, I have been constantly reminded this space wasn’t made for me. White students ask intrusive questions about my hair, tokenize me in classrooms and refer to me as ratchet as they seek out twerk lessons at parties. Late February 2014, I helped create a memorial for Trayvon Martin, which two students desecrated. The students knowingly ate the skittles and Arizona we put out, without any repercussions from administration. In retaliation, my Black peer and I were falsely accused of assaulting one of the two students, and we were subsequently investigated.
To be Black at a PWI means to be in a perpetual state of suffocation. I can’t mourn the racially-charged murder of a 17-year-old Black boy who could have easily been my little brother.
I have held my breath for far too long. We have held our breath for far too long.
My peers at colleges across the nation have shown that Black students will no longer suffocate silently. We deserve better. Our feelings of not being safe, being dismissed and rendered invisible are legitimate. I feel validated and inspired by the fight of Black students everywhere, striving to make their institutions reflect their rhetoric of “diversity,” “equity” and “multiculturalism.” Oxy, you are next. You promise “to provide a gifted and diverse group of students with a total educational experience of the highest quality.” Yet you have failed to support marginalized students in their efforts to thrive, instead of merely survive.
May 28, 1968: Black Student Caucus (BSC) delivers seven demands. As of November 2015, none of the BSC’s demands have been met.
Nov. 12, 2012: Occidental Sexual Assault Coalition (OSAC) published 12 demands. As of November 2015, only two of OSAC’s demands have been met under the term of President Jonathan Veitch.
Oct. 13, 2013: The Coalition at Oxy for Diversity and Equity (C.O.D.E.) published a list of 29 demands. As of November 2015, none of C.O.D.E.’s demands have been met fully under the term of President Jonathan Veitch.
Nov. 12th, 2015: Colleges around the nation participated in demonstrations in solidarity with Black students at the University of Missouri. We all saw that Missouri was not isolated but rather a microcosm of the racism that lives on college campuses. Mizzou taught us that if we continue to deliver demands to presidents that have no desire to meet them, we must demand presidents that will.
By neglecting racially-charged and unjust events, Tim Wolfe, president of the University of Missouri, participated in fostering an unsafe campus climate for Black students. He was rightfully forced into resignation. Wolfe is not the only president of an institution failing to meet the needs of marginalized students, exemplified by protests held at Yale, Ithaca College, Claremont McKenna and now, Occidental.
This past Thursday, Black and other marginalized students were once again reminded of President Veitch’s apathy in the face of our well being. During the demonstration, we shared the trauma of our lived experiences. As emotions ran high, our president turned his back on us. We are here to remind you of his words that very day; he is not tethered to his position and is “happy to resign.” If his willful negligence persists by the end of the week we demand that he stays true to his word.
This right here, right now, is a movement, not a moment. My peers and I will no longer suffer silently. We hope you all will join us in this fight for loud liberation.
Diamond Webb (senior)
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