Lydia Dasari is a business administration junior. The views expressed in this letter do not necessarily reflect those of Mustang News.
Ten years ago, Oprah Winfrey’s website named San Luis Obispo the “Happiest City in America.” The video declaration follows beautiful, blonde actress (and anti-vax activist) Jenny McCarthy as she interviews white citizens of SLO, who gush about the paradise that this city is to them. To its credit, SLO is a paradise: 10 beaches within 10 miles, hundreds of hikes, minimal light pollution, year-round sunshine — what more could you ask for?
For minorities, it turns out, a whole lot. I wonder if the same conclusion would have been reached if Oprah made the trip and not Jenny. San Luis Obispo is a paradise — a white paradise — and Cal Poly is so resistant to change that.
Ten years ago, Oprah Winfrey named SLO the “Happiest City in America.” Two years ago, we suffered through blackface.
Ten years ago, Oprah Winfrey named SLO the “Happiest City in America.” About one year ago, our Chinese Student Association was “Zoom bombed” by racists.
Ten years ago, Oprah Winfrey named SLO the “Happiest City in America.” Two days ago, Jewish-affiliated fraternity AEPi found a swastika spray-painted onto its main house.
Ten years ago, Oprah Winfrey named SLO the “Happiest City in America.” Today, Cal Poly can’t acknowledge that this title only extends to its eurocentric, heteronormative and hegemonic population.
Again and again, Cal Poly’s minority students suffer the trauma of hate-charged incidents on campus and in the community. We are emotionally unsafe here.
I went on a run last night (Yes, mom, I carry pepper spray!), something I’ve done three or four times a week since I was a first-year. SLO’s warm nights and lack of major crime have allowed my night-runs to be a grounding source of therapy, but yesterday, I couldn’t run the scaries away. Being a minority in SLO has always been characterized by an element of fear, and it’s difficult to know who around us is made uneasy merely by our presence.
If we’re lucky, we get odd looks at the grocery store or are micro-aggressed against in a classroom. If not, we’ve been treated with explicit racism, homophobia, sexism, etc. Yet, we still grocery shop and show up to class and live our lives, albeit with our guards up. Every interaction I have had with a stranger since I started here in 2018 has been cloaked in suspicion. Is this the happiest city that Oprah envisioned? I can’t imagine so.
Dear President Armstrong and Cal Poly administration, please do not let AEPi’s weekend be another unchecked incident on the timeline. Our campus is a dichotomy of students in paradise and students actively checking over their shoulders, burdened with emotional trauma and the challenge to perform despite it. We need to see punishment. We need to see public condemnation of white supremacy. We need confirmation that Black Lives Matter to you and we need to know you are on our side.
Bigoted attitudes that are bred at Cal Poly find their way into the workplace, the community and even the government. An alumni network as wide-reaching as ours has real-world repercussions and we cannot let the trauma of San Luis Obispo permeate the lives that we will live post-college.
Being a student of color and a visible minority feels like screaming into the void. And as thankful as I am for the many resources that are marketed to us, it’s time for you to take the responsibility of building an equitable and sustainable community off the backs of minority students. Minimum-wage student assistants at the MCC cannot change campus culture single-handedly, but you can.
Please stop telling us to do more and start vilifying the parts of Cal Poly that empower hate and division.
I used to be bothered when I was chosen last for group projects. Now, I wonder if my neighbor is a violent white supremacist. I run through SLO and question every passing face. My anxiety is juxtaposed against beaches and palm trees and the view of the sunset while surfing Morro Rock: pieces of heaven. San Luis Obispo will always be a paradise, just not one for us. Cal Poly, you can change that.