October 16, 2019
San Luis Obispo, Calif.—The Central Coast Coalition for Undocumented Student Success (CCC-USS) is a collective of advocates and educators that challenges anti-immigrant and oppressive ideologies, institutional practices, and everyday actions that threaten undocumented and historically marginalized communities. Through our work together, we create social change to ensure educational equity for all students and build capacity to support undocumented students in our region.
On Tuesday October 15, 2019, an image targeting undocumented communities circulated on social media. The posting shows individuals that appear to be dressed in stereotypical gang attire, use of related gestures, and includes a racial slur. It is important to emphasize that the offensive term “illegal alien” used in the posting is not only inaccurate but also dehumanizing and discriminatory. The word “illegal” is not a noun, as a result, a human being can never be illegal. In addition, the use of the word “alien” to describe (im)migrants is rooted in U.S. exclusionary policies and practices that have historically denied human rights, discriminatively scapegoated groups of people, and justified violence and mistreatment.
These actions cause harm to our undocumented students, their families, and our community by perpetuating false narratives about undocumented people and the Latinx community. The impact of this dehumanizing language and the use of other people’s lives and experiences as a costume is abhorrent and far reaching. Actions like this contribute directly to the oppression of members of the Cal Poly and San Luis Obispo communities. More specifically, Latinx students, undocumented students, and students with undocumented family members have the right to an educational environment free from intimidation and harassment. These students report higher levels of anxiety, especially in the current political climate. Treating these situations as one-off incidents or acts of ignorance is also part of the problem—the problem is rooted in White supremacy.
Again, this is more than an “incident.” It is more than a “learning opportunity.” The Cal Poly administration has an obligation to name this behavior as racist and to actively change the persistent toxic campus culture and climate. We strongly encourage Cal Poly to move beyond a strategy of deflection and instead, hold those responsible to actionable consequences for the harm they have caused. Now more than ever, it is necessary to take action proportional to the seriousness of the toxic normalization of racism and xenophobia at Cal Poly that this act represents.
We stand in solidarity with all students, staff, and faculty of Color who have been harmed, threatened, and/or discriminated against during their time at Cal Poly. We commit to actions that challenge the roots of white supremacy at Cal Poly and in our communities. We will not be deterred or sidetracked from what Dr. King called the "fierce urgency of now.”
Central Coast Coalition for Undocumented Success