It's hard to keep a racist-graffiti scandal under wraps these days — media hit-seekers sniff out that stuff quicker than Schwarzenegger baby mamas.
But back in early September, California Institute of the Arts officials did a pretty crafty job quarantining the aftermath of multiple scary attacks against black student Sasha Swedlund to a simple all-campus memo. Spraying racist messages is a “hate crime” and a “clear breach of CalArts' harassment policy,” the Office of the President warned students, faculty and staff. Other than that, though…
… the vandalism went under the radar.
“My studio has been broken into three times,” Swedlund tells CBS2 today. And this Halloween weekend, another victim came forward:
Daine Carter, a senior at the Valencia art school [Note: Headline originally placed the school in Pasadena, but has been corrected], says he returned home to his on-campus apartment Friday night to find red paint splashed all over his walls — in the form of swastikas and other “devil signs.”
He adds in an interview with CBS2 that some of his most expensive paint brushes were destroyed:
The school's September 8 memo acknowledged that there had been “a few recent acts of hateful and racist graffiti found on our campus, the most recent of which declared, 'Niggers are morally corrupt.'” Here's the rest of the stern scolding.
We want to make it clear that as a collective of artists we welcome an exchange of ideas and challenging critique, but always and only in the context of respect. We do not accommodate or accept language or actions imbued with hate and that aim to marginalize or strip another of their humanity. Such actions are cowardly, ignorant, and wholly counter to the values of the artists we seek to be and become and we want to stress that there will be no tolerance for anyone caught engaging in these acts. Lest anyone feel that they are protected under the banner of “free speech” we want to be clear that this type of vitriolic language displayed in this context is considered a hate crime and is a clear breach of CalArts' harassment policy. Furthermore, we warn that anyone who witnesses such an act and does not speak out becomes complicit in these hateful and racist acts. It is incumbent upon all of us as members of this community to take responsibility for the spaces we share and to speak out and empower one another when any injustice takes place. As Martin Luther King Jr. once stated, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” As we begin this new academic year we hope that we can move forward in an engaged, critical, and even controversial manner, but in a way that respects the contributions and multiplicities of every member of our community.
Looks like the message didn't get through. We've contacted CalArts media relations for comment this morning.
We've also contacted the Black Student Union, to see if there's anything students think administrators could be doing to prevent these apparent hate crimes. In similar situations, BSUs at other California campuses have pinpointed the root of the problem at the lack of diversity in admissions. (A tough topic, considering the state's ban on affirmative action.) According to StateUniversity.com, only 1.8 percent of the CalArts student body is black:
Those familiar with campus life, let us know: Are these anonymous hate-tags mere isolated incidents, or is there a larger spirit of racism on campus that needs to be addressed by President Steven Lavine?