A recent Facebook post from Karé Ureña, a junior at Pitzer College at the Claremont Colleges, asked for fellow students to join an off-campus house for the upcoming school year.
“POC only,” she wrote, using the abbreviation for “people of color.”
Ureña, who is black, added, “I don’t want to live with any white folks.”
The responses from offended whites was immediate and predictable; “POC only?’ Maybe I’m missing something or misunderstanding your post, but how is that not a racist thing to say?” Pitzer student Dalia Zada wrote, according to the Independent.
Another student wrote, “Housing segregation is illegal.”
Mmmmm, that’s a dicey proposition. YES, overt housing discrimination, and segregation would fall under that, IS indeed illegal, BUT there are and always have been ways around that, most notably by landlords making prospective renters fill out an application. In that way, one can weed out those with children, pets...and well, just about anyone you desire to avoid renting to.
Pitzer student Terriyonna Smith later wrote back: “White people always mad when they don’t feel included but at the end of the day y’all are damaging asf (as f---) and if a POC feels they need to protect themselves from that toxic environment THEY CAN! Quick to try to jump on a POC but you won’t call your friends out when they’re being racist asf...I’m not responding to NO comments and NOPE I don’t wanna have a dialogue.”
In short, Ms. Smith’s missive is an inarticulate argument in favor of “the right to free association.” That's a VERY important issue and I happen to support the “right to free association,” the right for people to choose (discriminate) in their choice of friends, collaborators on various educational and business projects and yes, roommates, as well as whom they do and don't rent to.
Perhaps it was Terriyonna Smith’s unartful way of communicating that has me concerned that she naively believes such a right to “free association” only goes one way - that is "POC" get it, everyone else....not so much.
NOT AT ALL. It is a fundamental human right and ALL people have that right and SHOULD have that right respected at all times.
Interestingly enough, Karé Ureña and her roommate, Pomona College student Sajo Jefferson, were offered a platform by the Washington Post, something I’ve never seen them do for white separatists, for example. They both took to defending their request in a statement to The WaPo in which they claimed minority students often feel ostracized on campus.
“When and if you understand this context, it becomes clear that students of color seeking a living space that is all-POC is not only reasonable, but can be necessary,” the statement said.
“We live in a world where the living circumstances of POC are grounded in racist social structures that we cannot opt out of. These conditions threaten the minds, bodies and souls of people of color both within and without the realms of higher education. We are fighting to exist.”
Ureña said her friends have since found their roommate, and she has deleted the post.
So, there has been no penalty from the school, nor any condemnation from the national media...and rightly so, in my view, BUT this sets the precedent that “freedom of association” trumps all “non-discrimination laws” and must be respected for all.