Racism on Campus: UC San Diego's Struggle is Every Community's Struggle

By Rachel Burton 3-09-2010

My heart has been burdened the past several weeks by the hurt and pain in a place I call home: UC San Diego. Through my studies at UCSD, but also my community, I grew and was challenged. Despite moving to the opposite coast last fall to take an internship in D.C., my love for the UCSD community has not changed, and many sisters and brothers whom I know and love are still integral and engaged parts of the story that God is telling in that city. It is because of these brothers and sisters that the recent events of UCSD have been heavy on my heart.

To say that this community has been suffering through brokenness from racial tensions, frustrations, and discrimination would be an understatement. The deeply troubling events over the last month began with a weekend off-campus themed party called the "Compton Cookout," which encouraged party-goers to come experience a night of "life in the ghetto," dress in cheap clothing, speak loudly, and start fights in "celebration" of Black History Month. Females were encouraged to come as "ghetto chicks," and the event organizers proudly promised chicken, watermelon, and Kool-Aid to its attendees. This racially stereotyped and deeply offensive event ignited reactions all across the board, from the student body, The Black Student Union, and the administration.

I agree with many in recognizing that this type of party, while unfortunately not altogether uncommon to some college scenes, is a reflection of deeply rooted issues in regards to racial struggles among the community of UCSD. The administration responded with resources and hosted conversations and workshops with student groups on the best ways to move forward and address areas of racism on campus. There is a long road to reconciliation ahead; but I am encouraged as I hear of steps being taken by the community, especially the students themselves, to provide a safe, diverse, and healing learning environment for students now and in the future.

Because I am called to love as Christ loved in the midst of these events and others like them, I now ask myself again, what is my response? How will I engage this? What am I avoiding engaging in my own community here in Washington, D.C.? How can we as people of faith engage in a positive and healing way instead of avoiding engagement?

I don't know all the answers to these questions. What I do know is that our God is a God of healing and redemption. In this school community and in my own community, I pray and move towards healing -- healing that addresses the root and not just the symptoms of pain and suffering. Healing that engages with the reality of the brokenness, but also moves forward into a new and redeemed place of continued reconciliation.

So today I invite you to pray with me for the faith community at UCSD, surrounding colleges, and greater San Diego, that they would be encouraged and empowered to speak love into and engage with the community in these days as well as in the future. My hope amidst the struggle, pain, and brokenness is that I serve a loving God whose grace is bigger than my faults and failures, whose love is able to heal all, and whose restoration redeems the broken.

How will you engage with the brokenness in your life and community today -- be it in San Diego or elsewhere?

To follow UCSD's response and engagement and to find out more information, visit their Web site: Join the Battle Against Hate

Rachel Burton is the advertising assistant for Sojourners and a 2009 graduate of UC San Diego.

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