In Defense of Our Cultural Communities

Posted by at 6:11PM

This past Saturday, for the first time in my years here (only 2), gun shots were fired on the Stanford campus. This occurred in Lagunita Parking Lot near Roble Field where Blackfest was being held.

Our campus, other than shock at this occurrence, was virtually silent on the affair. Most people publicly complained about the lack of information about the gun shots and gunman and how, compared to other violent crimes that occurred this year, the police department gave out the least information while this seems the most potentially fatal. Yet, I think most people on campus couldn’t help but make a connection between the shootings and the “black” event at Stanford.

More than anything, Blackfest was a way for our communities to celebrate hip hop with other people from Stanford and the surrounding areas.

Other than mentions of proximity, only one person really brought up the issue that most people felt too polite to bring up: the reflection the shootings would have on Stanford’s black community. Autumn Carter wrote a compelling article in the Stanford Review  about the fact that being black in itself has nothing to do with violence. People are familiar with the black community here – this idea should be self-evident. Yet, even though no one made a big fuss over the connection, she felt the need to defend the community. And I can’t help but wonder why.

Is it because the silence hid both snickers and pity about the irony of the situation? Maybe. Is it because, due to circumstance, people will consider racial ideas about violence before considering other factors such as history and socioeconomic factors? Possibly. I could try to go over all the reasons in my head but rather than think of why this type of thinking can still happen here at Stanford, I’d like to consider how to change the way people view these kinds of episodes.

After having a discussion with a friend who was not black, he informed me that not only did he not know about black community events but that he never felt particularly invited to them. To him, Blackfest, despite the coordination between the diverse Stanford Concert Network and the Black Family Gathering Community to bring in big name hip hop artists that appeal to people of all races, was for Stanford’s black community only. This is obviously a misconception. But it’s a misconception that no one’s actively trying to dispel. The black community, along with all the other cultural communities are not a separate part of Stanford, but groups that explore a specific aspect of some of the student population’s heritage. I think we need to change the way we approach Stanford’s multicultural communities.

The shooting near Blackfest should not have been a black community problem but a Stanford problem. But in order for that type of thinking to develop there needs to be more of a cross exchange between the cultural communities and Stanford at large. After having written this, I realized that in my dorm of over 300 people, rarely do I get invitations to for cultural events other than performances featuring dormmates.

More than the people on the Diaspora would like to be informed about these events.

I’m a member of the Diaspora, which is a rare forum that actually gets emails (or spam for some people) from a multitude of communities on campus. This meant that the only space where I received information about the May 12th visit from Tim Wise, an antiracist essayist, was from a mailing list that many people are too daunted to look through. I have even received a community weekly newsletter that has information about events from 7 different minority groups. It’s useful news that should reach beyond the groups that started it!

I don’t expect this type of exchange to change the way people think about race quickly or even fundamentally. But I would like to see our cultural communities be more than microcosms of the school that, while strong, can still be overshadowed or blamed. We all have our own communities – here at Stanford, in our hometowns, and within our families. We’re all a member of many. And being a member of these separate communities is not exclusive. If race is a part of your identity, more and more people of other races should be able to understand it! I think our cultural communities have it within their power to make a preemptive strike towards the thinking on this campus that led to Autumn’s article. Blackfest wasn’t hosted by the black community, but our black community. I hope that one day, most people here will really believe that statement.


7 Responses to “In Defense of Our Cultural Communities”

  1. annon says:

    “Is it because, due to circumstance, people will consider racial ideas about violence before considering other factors such as history and socioeconomic factors? Possibly. ”

    Although there is truth to this, it is also taking the easy way out. Would it be wrong to also consider the factor of rap culture? It’s not PC to say it, but artists like Big Sean actively promote a culture that glorifies violence and misogyny. This culture is obviously NOT the same the multitude of “Black” cultures out there, and I think most Stanford students are intelligent enough to realize this (granted… many aren’t). But why is it so taboo to criticize those who glorify “gangsta” life?

    To me, the fact that there was at least one gun at this Bay Area event is about as surprising as the fact that there are hard drugs at Electric Daisy Carnival or flannel at Treasure Island. Music does breed a particular culture of its own, and although the vast majority of students who enjoy rap do not support violence or misogyny (hell, I listen to it too!), it is not shocking that some people will define themselves by the music they listen to.

    I don’t think the festival should be cancelled (although a change in name would surely change the ‘misconception’ that this is a racially exclusive event!) but I also don’t think students who see “irony” in this should be branded as racist.

  2. Why is it… says:

    …the onus of the cultural communities to reach out to this amorphous other waiting to be tapped? Like you stated, SCN and the Black Family Gathering *Committee* reached out to the entire Stanford student body. Similarly, Lu’au, the Comunidad BBQ, the Pilipino Youth Leadership Conference and countless other events, by cultural groups and communities, were advertised for across campus. Flyers, email blasts, Facebook, twitter and face-to-face dining hall runs–what more do the communities need to do to reach out to the amorphous “rest of the Stanford student body” ???

    Frankly, this is a two-way street and I’m done walking.

  3. Wendy Smythe says:

    Are you a robotic mercenary Stanford Yuppie who needs De-Programming? Were you turned into a robotic San Francisco Marina Yuppie by Stanford brainwashing?

    You need to hurry and undo the stereotype externalizations and mental aberrations that Stanford brainwashing may have programmed into you. How do you know if you need such classes? Here are the signs:

    1. Do you live in the Marina District in San Francisco? The Marina is where fraternity boys and sorority girls live in a cluster so they can reinforce their sense of privilege together. The younger ones go to Chestnut Street, the next older ones (yuppies) to Union St and they move up the hill to Pacific Heights as they get old. When “they” say those areas are “really nice”, they mean that there is no cultural diversity and that everyone looks just like them with small sharp facial features and blonde or black hair. They have “business clubs” called which make sure that they only do business with each other and don’t mix races or non-frat-house people into business deals. They have either nordic or Mediterranean features with small upturned noses. They raise their eyebrows and exaggerate their facial expressions as often as possible in order to appear to be interesting. They smile at each other but look through those who do not match the profile. If this is the case, then this class is for you!

    2. Are your facial features small in size and perfectly balanced? Have you had plastic surgery to make them look even more so or died your hair and eyebrows to the darkest or lightest colors you can? Equilateral facial features are very important to Yuppies.

    3. Are your parents rich and did they go to fraternities and sororities?

    4. Are you and your frat buddies the only ones able to get money from the venture capitalists for your start-ups because you and they can exchange the secret Stanford handshake?

    5. If you are a guy do you see women as objects to be used to demonstrate your position over other men in your Stanford Club?

    6. If you are a woman do you sit in your junior league meetings and wonder which Stanford/Guardsman guy you can bag as a husband so you never have to work again? Do you wonder how quick you can get him to have an affair so you can get a great alimony deal?

    7. Does the most important location in your life have the word “brewing company” in it’s name?

    8. Are you unable to interact with humans on a one-to-one basis, must you always be in a group of Stanford people with beers in order to communicate? Can you laugh on que?

    9. Do you drive a BMW?

    10. Do you have a fanatic interest in sports but can’t explain why?

    11. Do you judge others mostly by how much money they have? Do you try to appear to have as much money as possible?

    12. Do you think Berkeley (Cal) University is a “bunch of filthy hippies”?

    13. Do you feel like a robot that was cloned by a machine to support its infrastructure?

    14. Do those around you discourage you from dating anyone who does not have the “Stanford Look” or the “Stanford way of thinking”?

    15. Did Stanford make you live on campus so you wouldn’t cross-breed with any families who were not from the “proper list” of families. Did they do anything possible to keep you from seeing anybody in East Palo Alto?

  4. haha says:

    wow Wendy, judging people based on their facial characteristics and neighborhoods? I hope you realize the irony of your post.

  5. @Wendy says:

    Holy crap are you misinformed. Someone clearly doesn’t like Stanford despite not knowing what its student body is actually like.

  6. KN says:

    I make a connection between the shootings and Blackfest *not* because of presence of black people, but the presence of non-Stanford students. I have difficulty believing that any illegal gunshots would occur on the part of students; and in fact the lack of any such episodes in the past suggests that that hunch is right. Whenever some crime happens (like attempted rape, or a burglary), it’s almost always a non-student — someone from one of the cities nearby who came on campus and committed a crime (and yes, the perpetrators are often white, too). Again, the statistics of past cases proves that. So when there’s an event across the street that brings in lots of people from surrounding areas, people who are not students, and such an incident occurs, I’ll automatically make a link. The innumerable previous incidents make that reasoning sound.

    So I don’t care if it was blackfest, or asianfest, or whitefest, or even Anti-NRA-fest, I would make that link if it meant that a lot of people from surrounding cities were present on campus.

  7. KN says:

    And ignore Wendy Smythe. The mention of Berkeley makes me think that it’s a Cal student writing that. The excessive Stanford hate and the repeated assumption that Stanford students are a bunch of rich, entitled brats, all indicate that it’s a Cal student writing that.

    Oops, Wendy, your inferiority complex is showing. Might want to cover that up.


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