I’ve lived here for a year now, having moved on campus from Los Angeles. As a Chicano man of color, my experience as a student at Cal Poly Humboldt is different from my white peers both on and off campus.
I’m not treated the same at restaurants if I’m not with a group of my white friends, I have to go out of my way to get the same attention as my white peers in predominantly white learning spaces, I have to deal with stares from older white folk at the grocery store while shopping. These microaggressions aren’t new, but they are annoying; I’m only trying to exist.
This summer I was filmed by campus employees who were putting up trail cameras to try and catch whoever it was that had been stealing the bronze letters off of the newly rebranded “Cal Poly Humboldt” name signs. I took photos of them in an effort to document what was happening in response to the thefts. I was doing my job as a journalist.
I confronted the man who was taking photos of me with his phone, told him I was a journalist, an innocent student too. He apologized and said that I just “looked suspicious.”
I felt embarrassed that someone would racially profile me. It was especially stressful being one of the
few remaining students of color at the university living in the area during the summer semester.
According to the 2020 US Census, Arcata is roughly 25 percent BIPOC and Cal Poly Humboldt is roughly 40% BIPOC according to Cal Poly Humboldt’s official website. The diversity on campus and in the community was drastically lower in the summer, it was easy to feel singled out as a Brown man.
But this is not the first time this has happened and I am not the only person who has felt singled out for the color of my skin, my race or ethnicity. Racism is instilled in our society and is a kind of intolerance that is rooted in fear and ignorance. It is an ideology that misguides many people and most importantly it disrupts the community.
This summer someone went around on the streets of Humboldt County with cheap little plastic bags filled with antisemitic pamphlets and threw them to various homes and businesses.
Hours after the city of Arcata read a statement against hate speech at a regularly scheduled meeting in response to the spread of antisemitic pamphlets, someone was quick to sneak up to El Jardín Santuario and ruin the welcome sign. They sprayed over it with an oily black and red slick, sloppily scrawled:
They couldn’t fit the whole name in one try. They also uprooted plants and damaged produce that was growing; further violating a safe space for the Latinx community. El Jardín Santuario is a community garden in Arcata run by Centro Del Pueblo, who aim to empower the Indigenous immigrant community in Humboldt County.
These attacks hinder community building but it is only through spreading more culture that we can combat this intolerance and racism. While these racist strangers among us may tear up the roots in our garden they cannot uproot us from the homes and safe spaces we are building here. It is important to recognize our differences and embrace that diversity, especially in the face of hate like this.