March 25 2017
Three Pitzer College students say they have received an onslaught of criticism after they claimed white women wearing hoop earrings is cultural appropriation. Now, they’re mad at the student newspaper for covering their comments.
Earlier this month, the Claremont Independent broke news about the “White Girl, take off your hoops!” message spray-painted on the college’s free-speech wall, as well as emails on the topic sent by members of the Latinx Student Union.
The story got national attention, with stories in Heat Street, National Review, Reason, Campus Reform, Inside HigherEd, Mic and other publications. Soon, the backlash began at the private liberal arts college just outside Los Angeles, and the three students began receiving unfriendly messages from readers on social media.
In a blog post for LatinoRebels.com, the women who painted the mural blamed the backlash on the Claremont Independent.
The three women claimed that by identifying them by name, the Claremont Independent “has endangered the students,” describing how they “are facing harassment from ultra right-wing groups and individuals, including a death threat through Facebook Messenger.”
The Student Life, another student publication, wrote an editorial slamming the Claremont Independent’s coverage as “dangerous, predatory and entirely intentional.”
“When the action directly results in harm to somebody else, especially the subject of the story — especially when that subject is already enduring racism, sexism, and/or other forms of oppression which made their story relevant in the first place — that article is doing work to harm someone,” The Student Life’s editorial said. “This is not objective journalism by any definition. Threats, propaganda, perhaps — but it is not worth publishing.”
Earlier this month, Pitzer College’s president spoke out in the women’s defense in a campus-wide email, saying that media coverage of their spray-painting had caused “a cycle of violent hate speech.” He added that “when speech resorts to hate, violence and threats, we will not tolerate these acts nor the perpetrators of these actions.”
The Claremont Independent defended the initial article.
“The article that we wrote was objective and it presented the speech and it started a conversation, and that’s what we were trying to do,” said Matthew Reade, co-editor-in-chief, in a statement to The Student Life. “Our main goal is to speak to students about what is happening on campus.”
— Jillian Kay Melchior writes for Heat Street and is a fellow for the Steamboat Institute and the Independent Women’s Forum.