Opinions

Racial Profiling, or Why CMC Needs More Diversity

Two weeks ago, I published a column on Claremont McKenna College’s five-year drop in its_x000D_
student body’s socioeconomic diversity and its overarching effects on the_x000D_
college as a whole. Never did I imagine my concerns being immediately validated.

On_x000D_
the night of Sept. 20 (the day after the piece was published), two enlisted U.S._x000D_
Marines, my girlfriend and I were racially profiled outside of Phillips Hall at_x000D_
CMC.

Let_x000D_
me trouble you with the details: After_x000D_
a quick 7-11 run, we all came back to CMC to chill and reminisce—all four of_x000D_
us went to the same high school on the west side of Chicago. It was Keyvan and_x000D_
Cesar’s fourth or fifth time coming to campus. They’re both stationed in Camp_x000D_
Pendleton, a brisk, 45-minute drive away from Claremont.

Shortly_x000D_
after leaving the Sixth Street parking lot, I realized that I left my CMC ID in my_x000D_
room. “No biggie,” I thought to myself. It isn’t rare for people to ask to get_x000D_
into lounges and dorms.

Lo_x000D_
and behold, after only a couple of minutes waiting outside Phillips, three guys_x000D_
who looked like first-years began walking toward us. It was dark out, around_x000D_
12:30 a.m., so I approached them in a friendly manner, just in case.

“Yo,_x000D_
can you guys open Phillips for me? I forgot my ID in my room,” I told them.

“Yeah,_x000D_
sure,” said one of the guys, nonchalantly.

As_x000D_
he began to walk over, one of his friends began to whisper something,_x000D_
glaring at us from a distance. The first guy seemed to not pay attention and continued to walk toward us. But when he was about 10 steps away from me, the same whispering friend yelled with urgency, “Dude, legit!”

The_x000D_
guy already had his ID out. But he turned to look at his friend, then back at_x000D_
us, and proceeded to turn around and leave.

“Sorry,_x000D_
we gotta go,” he warily said as he fast-walked away.

“But_x000D_
it’ll only take you 10 seconds!” I pleaded. Nobody else had passed by, and I_x000D_
didn’t want to keep my buddies waiting any longer. 

_x000D_
“Sorry!” the whisperer said. “We’re in a hurry.”

At_x000D_
this point it’s worth nothing that all four of us are Mexican—dark Mexican, at_x000D_
that. It’s also worth noting that we weren’t wearing boat shorts and Sperrys, either.

Having_x000D_
realized what just occurred, my girlfriend, a Pomona second-year, said a_x000D_
loud “What the hell?!” Cesar and Keyvan followed up with their own confusion: “That’s some fucked up shit,” one of them said. “Do we really look like we’re_x000D_
gonna rob this place?”

Meanwhile,_x000D_
I’m standing still where the guy was supposed to meet me, shell-shocked. 

_x000D_
“Maybe they were in a hurry,” I think_x000D_
to myself. “Maybe they were uncomfortable with letting people in the dorm when_x000D_
it’s so dark outside. Maybe we’re the_x000D_
ones that are too dark…”

I’m_x000D_
not gonna lie: I was angry. I was ready to become their criminal. But after_x000D_
yelling “Fuck you” in their general direction, I cooled down. I wasn’t about to_x000D_
give them the pleasure of justifying their prejudice.

So_x000D_
what does socioeconomic and racial diversity have to do with racial profiling_x000D_
on campus? It has everything to do_x000D_
with it.

The_x000D_
reason why more than half of all students who attend the 5Cs are Caucasian—a_x000D_
grievous disproportion compared to the national, college-age population—is that whites in the United States have had greater_x000D_
socioeconomic and political power up to the present day, making them statistically_x000D_
more likely to attend elite institutions such as the Claremont Colleges. Plain_x000D_
and simple.

Being_x000D_
here also entails having the financial means available to afford this type of_x000D_
schooling. I’m not talking about the 5Cs’ cost of attendance—I’m talking_x000D_
about being able to afford private schools, SAT tutors, costly extracurricular_x000D_
activities, “life-changing” trips across the globe and every other perk needed_x000D_
to spice up someone’s application to these schools.

When_x000D_
you put both of these factors together—the overwhelming wealth and whiteness_x000D_
of our campuses—a certain type of environment begins to grow, one in which a majority of the student body is completely foreign to the experiences of_x000D_
low-income people of color.

This_x000D_
alienation is what fosters racism. Only when we are spiritually and physically_x000D_
distanced from each other can prejudice take hold. If one of those dudes knew that_x000D_
I wrote for the newspaper, or that my friends were Marines, or that my girlfriend goes to_x000D_
Pomona—that is, if they even had the slightest_x000D_
clue of who we were—the situation would have been completely different. This_x000D_
column would not have existed.

And_x000D_
this isn’t to say that we need to sing “Kumbaya” and sit around a campfire to_x000D_
appreciate ourselves—it just means creating a campus where seeing people_x000D_
of color dressed in non-affluent ways is not out of the ordinary. How can that happen_x000D_
when only 11 percent of our student body receives a Pell Grant? How diverse can we be when our racial demographics are dominated by wealthy nonresident aliens?

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It’s_x000D_
up to CMC—the 5C with the lowest socioeconomic diversity—to prevent these forms of discrimination from growing. Only_x000D_
through a diverse campus substantially made up of students of all colors and income levels_x000D_
can we free ourselves of damaging stereotypes. This time it was just the door to Phillips, tomorrow it could be a job interview.  What I’m trying to say is this: neither the color of my skin nor the clothes on my back have the right to determine who I am. Only my soul can do that.

Carlos Ballesteros CM ’16 is a sociology and history double major from Chicago, Ill.

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