On Sunday evening two students were harassed while walking to get coffee in I.V. They were verbally harassed with degrading slurs which escalated into screams when they didn’t initially react. Their attackers even said, “You have a nice faggot pride week this week, you feel nice and fucking proud?!”
Later, when speaking to other members of the queer community I realized this was part of a trend of harassment most had encountered over Pride Week. As the political chair of Queer Student Union, I felt I should write a statement about the events of this weekend, given that this incident failed to make the police blotter, and despite many being affected, those incidents were largely ignored by the larger campus community.
The tragedy of the situation is that in I.V., we’ve accepted the norms that allow our streets to be unsafe and our fellow students to be targeted. Even during our celebrations within their designated safe space, we are never fully safe. Often times the problems of Isla Vista are brushed off as some excuse the hate speech as drunken antics and taunts not meant to offend or be taken seriously. However, the reality is the same slurs that are used by drunken folks in aggressive outbursts are occasionally heard in classrooms and on campus, and the oppression from ignoring the severity of the problem contributes to the lack of safe spaces for the queer community attending our school.
[media-credit id=20122 align=”alignleft” width=”250″][/media-credit]Whether spoken in ignorance or malice, hate speech hits a nerve. It makes for unsafe spaces, and verbal harassment leads to the same degradation that enables other types of harassment and assault. In Isla Vista, I often observe the contrasting dichotomy of the sun-soaked ideal paradise and the very real problems that constantly plague the queer community and other minorities. As tempting as it is to ignore reality and enjoy the beachside bubble, we have to address these problems.
Pride Week is the UCSB queer community’s biggest celebration and it offers a tempting opportunity to forget political struggles in favor of entertainment and celebration. However, as a campus community, we need to acknowledge those positives while also taking action against issues of harassment, discrimination, and dehumanizing language used to target a community.
This Tuesday, I issued a call for the queer and allied community of Isla Vista to take action against the recent harassment incidents in I.V. Prior to the protest, the Isla Vista Foot Patrol station lieutenant expressed concern that if we spoke up against the specific residents responsible it would jeopardize the investigation and put the queer community more at risk in the long run. We respected the institutional process by silently marching around Isla Vista rather than targeting the house where multiple individuals found themselves targeted — thereby respecting the need for an undisturbed investigation as well as the community’s need to reclaim the space.
The task of making UCSB and Isla Vista a safe space should not be the task of only queer individuals. Just because harassment has become normalized within I.V. does not excuse a lack of response to such incidents. If you or anyone else has experienced harassment recently, I urge you to publicize the occurrence and report it to the Office of Judicial Affairs. You can do so by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, calling (805) 893-5016, or going to the office in person on the second floor of the Student Resource Building. Don’t let hate speech or harassment silence you or plague our community.