Full disclosure: I was abroad last semester during the
Michael Brown and Eric Garner verdicts. I was in Cuba when I saw my hometown
explode in anger at police brutality. I was not on campus during the debates on
these topics, and I was unable to witness the anger. But I was angry as well. I
went to school with three kids who have since been shot and killed by cops. I
graduated with a friend who was the object of police brutality. I identified with
the protestors in Ferguson and across the country, and I was lucky to see some
of what was happening on our campus from afar.
But that’s why what happened a few weekends ago in North
Quad is so startling. While no phrase or word should be sacred, and political
correctness is not a virtue, it’s imperative as an educated member of society
to understand the language you use. In the aftermath of police intervention on
our campus, Claremont McKenna College students were yelling about Ferguson, some chanting, “Black Lives
Matter” and being aggressive with the cops.
At face value, one might
assume some sort of attack on our civil liberties and rights. But no, a group
of students drinking, many of whom were underage, was reported to have created
a dangerous situation. While that may be wrong, it certainly doesn’t merit the
appropriation of a phrase that only a small number of CMC students can actually
The use of these powerful sayings at a school that is 4.2 percent black is ironic on a campus that is white, wealthy and disproportionately
male—at a school that doesn’t even have its own Chicano, African American or
Gender Studies majors or departments and the student body thinks it’s okay to
appropriate the sayings and gestures associated with a sociopolitical movement.
They drew parallels that did not exist. The larger social
narrative was brushed aside and ignored. People looking for equality
suddenly had their cause equated to the right to party in the open. The events
and reactions of the night devalued the actual movement for social change and
dissonance of this is overwhelming. To claim police overreach on our campus, and then ignore those who were actually harassed, is insulting to those who went through those struggles.
Rather than worry about partying and police involvement,
what CMC and the Associated Students of Claremont McKenna College should work on is creating a real social conscience. It’s
been well documented that this is CMC’s wealthiest first-year class ever and one
of the least diverse in a long time. We have students who are leaving one sheltered
bubble for another.
For a school that sends a large number of kids to Wall
Street or into business, you would assume that “Business Ethics” is a required
course. The problem is that the class isn’t offered at all. At
the end of the day, CMC’s assessment of liberal studies is anything that can
get you a job. We are woefully undereducated for a supposed liberal arts
college, and our campus has not developed any sense of moral obligation.
Yeah, sure, we are training leaders, but we’re not training
visionaries. With no understanding of the world around us, intercultural understanding or ability to relate to others, CMC will not
produce leaders with the power to change the world, but rather global citizens
who fit into the already existing world order.
Until the administration feels that it is time to change the
way we educate our students, we will continue to face insensitivity like the
kind that was demonstrated several weeks ago. Without a cultural shift in our
student body, police involvement and what can safely be deemed an unhealthy
party scene will continue to be a problem on this campus. But hey, as long as
we’re having fun and don’t get caught: panem et circenses.
Camilo Vilaseca CM ’16 is an International Relations and Economics double major. He plans on pursuing a career as the benevolent dictator of the world. Failing that, he plans on returning to his East Bay roots for some soul searching.