With only four weeks left until my final departure from UCSB, the urge to stir up certain issues has grown stronger and stronger. Controversy is not my strong suit. I actively avoid discussing anything of importance with religious fanatics, staunch supporters of certain political sides and the all-around misinformed. Why bring up race, religion, ethnicity or politics when experience dictates that the conversation — if it stays so civil — will go full circle, resolving very little and amounting to nothing more than a giant headache? So I stay quiet, watch others argue, refute them in my head and allow general apathy to encompass my attitude. Not caring is a lot easier than caring fruitlessly.
I assumed my silence was rare amid the chattering population of UCSB. We’re one of the most politically active campuses, with one of the highest student voting registration numbers in the country. We vote, we argue, we have opinions. But dissent on certain opinions can lead to being labeled as pro-terrorist, anti-American, race-card playing naggers. As tolerant as UCSB is, the wrong stances can quickly make you feel alienated from your own peers.
UCSB has a majority white population. Because the UCSB Web site doesn’t list student demographics, I consulted Wikipedia’s UCSB page, which cites white folks as 53 percent of the campus. Hispanic/Chicano students ranked a distant second with 20 percent, while Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders came in third at 17 percent. These three groups make up 90 percent of UCSB’s population. The remaining 10 percent is comprised of three percent African Americans and .9 percent American Indian, while the other 6.1 percent is lumped under Other, Not Stated or International.
To better understand the marginalization a legitimate percentage of students feel, let’s break down general campus attitudes. I see race-baiting posters taped around campus on a regular basis, depicting pictures of slain Israelis under headings reading, “He Was Killed Because of Who He Was: A Jew.”
Last week, a large crowd stood under glittery posters celebrating the 60th anniversary of Israel’s creation. Trudging slowly toward the large group of Pro-Israeli students was a misfit crew of five or six pro-Palestinian supporters, dragging a lone table, draped in black, white, green and red, some with mouths duct-taped shut. Truthfully? I’m neither pro-Israel nor pro-Palestine. Or maybe I’m both pro-Israel AND pro-Palestine. But either way, I keep my mouth shut, because any time I’ve attempted to engage in a dialogue, I’m quick to be labeled as an anti-Semite — despite my tendency to straddle the fence by sympathizing with both sides. The Jews had it hard, and needed a homeland. The Palestinians had it hard by being stripped of their homeland. Both sides kill, maim and commit atrocities — one country with the blessing and aid of the United States, and the other with the blessing and aid of its region. We all lose.
Imagine having to constantly monitor even your smallest actions out of fear — fear of having even the most innocuous or deserved actions be manipulated against you. Pretend that behaviors you engage in, though repeated to a much higher degree by your peers, are judged differently, more harshly and much more publicly. Consider being ridiculed by your peers after having your image plastered on the front page of every Santa Barbara newspaper, not because you were drunk and stupid like a typical Isla Vista idiot — but because you were of a particular three percent of the school’s population.
If my guy friends got their pictures in the paper for every excessively stupid act, I guarantee there would be a worldwide ink shortage. I’ve watched them punch walls, each other and electronics. Despite the fact they spent an entire year throwing glass bottles at their gas main, sometimes missing and resulting in bloody feet and faces, and eventually causing a massive natural gas leak which effectively shutdown their complex, no one cares. Why? My guess is because most of them resemble golden boy Adonis.
Get real, kids. We’re taught to think one-sided, media-fed, regional-influenced beliefs. Goal for the week? Challenge yourselves to consolidate conflicting positions into a reasonable conclusion. Ready? Set? Discuss.