On Monday, hundreds of students, faculty, parents, and community members gathered to mourn and speak out against racial profiling and institutional inequality at the University of Southern California. The sit-in was sparked by an incident last Friday night where 79 Los Angeles Police Department officers arrived to shut down a peaceful, end-of-the-school-year student party at a house near campus. Many attendees were graduating seniors. Almost all were minority students: African-American and Latino.
Before the sit-in began, student leader Rikiesha Pierce climbed a ladder to adorn the USC mascot, Tommy Trojan, with the graduation sash and honor cords of the seniors who were wrongfully arrested last Friday night. Behind Tommy Trojan, carefully crafted chains of foil handcuffed our beloved statue.
As Rikiesha set up the vivid display, students burst into tears, fully realizing the impact of the incident, which USC has yet to publicly acknowledge. After hearing horrific accounts of verbal abuse, habitual harassment, and physical harm—all from the LAPD—I understood just how monumental this movement is.
The sit-in we held on campus yesterday was not your typical student protest. People of various ethnicities, religions, and affiliations to USC spoke out, wept, and encouraged one another in a way that I have never seen done before. I cried on numerous occasions, completely shattered by the retellings of blatant racism and injustice against my brothers and sisters. Our testimonies liberated one another, finally allotting us the opportunity to process the pain we’ve been suppressing out of fear of seeming weak.
When USC Provost Elizabeth Garrett walked right past an enormous group of devastated Trojan Family members into Bovard Auditorium, the real definition of weakness became apparent. While hundreds of revolutionaries sat in the rain to share our stories and inspire change that is long overdue on and around this campus, university officials of the past, present, and future gathered less than 400 feet away for a retirement party.
Above the unwavering denial from LAPD and the failure of USC's Department of Public Safety to protect students from harm on multiple occasions, my university's silence has been one of the hardest things for me to deal with. Within the last four days, my team and I have built a movement from the ground up, gaining national media attention and an overwhelming amount of global support for a cause that doesn't technically exist. Despite the revealing YouTube videos—which have acquired hundreds of thousands of views, the poignant photos from last Friday that symbolically resemble the 1960s, and the countless number of stories from traumatized students, no substantial statement from USC or the LAPD has been released.
USC has made their priorities clear. It seems to me that they are more concerned with losing diversity enrollment numbers than catering to the few they already have. Its top officials would rather attend a brutality-free retirement party in the Grand Ballroom than publicly address the civil rights movement happening below their office windows.
After the sit-in, I got an email notifying me that my cap and gown were ready for pick-up. In 10 days, I’ll be graduating Magna Cum Laude from a university that doesn't prioritize students' outcry.
Tonight, we are hosting a discussion forum with the USC Department of Public Safety and the Los Angeles Police Department. I have been fasting and praying for two days in hopes that my time, tears, and efforts will not go unanswered. One can only hope that the leaders, servers, and protectors of this city will finally acknowledge the injustice that has rocked the nation.
Absolute honesty and transparency are essential to this community's progression. If my superiors are planning to communicate in circles and dance around detriment, this discussion will be a waste of everyone's time. But since I know for a fact that the #USChangeMovement will succeed, I expect the LAPD, DPS, USC faculty, students and community members to bring nothing but the unadulterated truth. Our community cannot afford to live in the past it has been dwelling in. The time is now!
We've made our statement. Where's yours?
Click here to add signing the petition to demand USC end racial profiling on campus to your GOOD to-do list.