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If American racial divides have steepened over the past several years, certain college protests — such as those that single out students based solely on skin color — have certainly exacerbated those divides.
Now, at California's Pitzer College, a group of students is causing a similar stir, demanding that their white peers stop “appropriating styles … that belong to the black and brown folks.”
Namely, that “white girls” stop wearing hoop earrings:
According to campus paper The Claremont Independent, the controversy began after a group of Latino students spray-painted “White Girl take OFF your hoops!!!” on Pitzer's “free wall” — a place for students to express “artistic representations of local and global issues that usually spark educational discussion across campus.”
When a white student reportedly sent out an email asking exactly what the message meant, she received a lengthy reply from Pitzer resident assistant (RA) Alegria Martinez that explained exactly what the problem was:
[T]he art was created by myself and a few other WOC [women of color] after being tired and annoyed with the reoccuring [sic] theme of white women appropriating styles … that belong to the black and brown folks who created the culture.
The culture actually comes from a historical background of oppression and exclusion. The black and brown bodies who typically wear hooped earrings, (and other accessories like winged eyeliner, gold name plate necklaces, etc) are typically viewed as ghetto, and are not taken seriously by others in their daily lives.
Because of this, I see our winged eyeliner, lined lips, and big hoop earrings serving as symbols [and] as an everyday act of resistance, especially here at the Claremont Colleges. Meanwhile we wonder, why should white girls be able to take part in this culture (wearing hoop earrings just being one case of it) and be seen as cute/aesthetic/ethnic. White people have actually exploited the culture and made it into fashion.
Another one of the students behind the message, Jacquelyn Aguilera, added that “if you are incapable of using a search engine and expect other people to educate you,” or “if you can’t pronounce my name or spell it … take off those hoops.”
Interestingly enough, it's not the first race-based controversy that has broken out at California's Claremont Colleges, a consortium of five schools that includes Pitzer.
In August of 2016, a group of students raised similar questions about racial divides when they posted an ad looking for a roommate — but said that "“POC [people of color] only” could apply.
As one student, Nina Lee, said at the time: “We don’t want to have to tiptoe around fragile white feelings in a space where we just want to relax and be comfortable.”