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Not The First Time: Minority Students At USC Speak Out Against Racism

Cindy Robinson |
September 25, 2015 | 12:42 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

Rini Sampath, right, pictured with USG Vice President Jordan Fowler. (Tiara Muhammad/Neon Tommy)
Rini Sampath, right, pictured with USG Vice President Jordan Fowler. (Tiara Muhammad/Neon Tommy)

Students, faculty and others at USC are still discussing the racial incident that occurred over the weekend between the undergraduate student body president and a fraternity member. On Saturday Rini Sampath, USC’s undergraduate student government president, was walking by a frat house on The Row when someone called her “Indian piece s — t” and threw a drink at her.

Sampath posted the incident on her Facebook page the following day.

READ MORE: USC Student Body President Fires Back In The Face Of Racist Remarks

Although Census Bureau statistics state that Los Angeles, often referred to as the nation’s melting pot, is populated with people from 140 countries and speaking approximately 86 different languages, it appears that not all of them get along. Reaction to the incident on The Row was mixed. Some were shocked but others weren’t at all surprised.

Tiara Muhammad, an African-American student, and her friends have had their own racial issue with fraternity guys. A photograph that included Muhammad and her friends with a fraternity member was passed around at his house. His brothers then encouraged him to invite “the black girls” over to get their parties popping, she said.

“I do think it happens often on campus,” said Muhammad. “We’re either [I guess] glorified in a way, to be like the cool, hip, urban friend or like a few people I know have experienced some type of racism on campus.”

READ MORE: Living Under The Bamboo Ceiling: One Asian American Student's Struggle Against Model-Minority Discrimination

Dominican student Kathrina Ruiz. (Cindy Robinson/Neon Tommy)
Dominican student Kathrina Ruiz. (Cindy Robinson/Neon Tommy)
Dominican student Kathrina Ruiz also had a bad experience while on The Row. Ruiz declined a dance with a guy and in return got called a “Hispanic b — h,” she said.

That was just one of many racial encounters she had experienced here as a student at USC, said Ruiz.

“Especially going to a predominantly white institution, anytime race comes up in class people look at me to be the end-all-be-all answer for how every Latina or Black person feels,” said Ruiz.

Some comments made towards minorities may seem harmless, but in reality can be offensive.

African-American student Chasen Washington said he has had female friends receive compliments on their hair only to then be asked, “is it real?”

While, not all minority students have experienced racism on campus, it seems that they all have known someone who has been in a bad situation.

Another African-American student, Isha Rahman, has had friends who were told they could not park in a specific area in Los Angeles because “their people” were not welcome there.

One thing many of these stories at USC have in common is The Row.

“Greek life is a different social experience on campus,” said Washington. “There’s a lot going on in terms of heightened masculinity and your perceived notion of personhood within a culture.”

Jay Balagna, a white student, may not have ever experienced racism himself, but he had some insight on the issue with fraternities.

“Those fraternities in a way are trying to frame themselves as being places young men can go and find a family structure,” said Balagna. “But that family structure also needs to support them in growth to becoming better members to society.”

Sampath said this incident was not the first time she encountered something like this, but it is evident she is also not alone. 

Reach Staff Reporter Cindy Robinson here and follow her on Twitter here.



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