Looks like one multicultural club got a little too multicultural.
A University of California at Berkeley student says she feels betrayed by her department after her multicultural club logo prompted accusations of cultural appropriation.
“I got destroyed,” says Sydney Moss, who is a Ph.D. student in two fields of study related to social justice. (Out of fear of retaliation, she asked Heat Street not to mention the name of the department, professor or the club involved.)
Moss said the controversy began when she helped design a club logo that was meant to be an homage to multiculturalism. It depicted two Mexican sugar skulls bearing designs from African, Indian, Mexican and other indigenous cultures. She said her professor incorrectly interpreted some of the imagery as a warrior motif.
Moss, who has both a Mexican and Korean ancestry, said she understood the cultural significance of the images she used. But the logo prompted a strong reaction across her department.
Moss provided an email she received, where her professor wrote: “The logo is extremely problematic, with insensitive imagery that triggers histories of violence—both physical and symbolic—against [group redacted]. You have to redesign it.”
That same professor later wrote: “YOU MUST REMOVE THIS ITEM IMMEDIATELY AND POST AN APOLOGY! … This is a formal request for you to cease and desist in representing any facet of the department with this offensive imagery.”
The professor also told Moss and other students who had worked with her on the logo that if they did not remove the “offensive imagery” from online within four hours, the department would possibly intervene and take it down.
“It honestly felt like the logo was being tossed around our department to decry our leadership and say we were offensive people,” Moss said. “Especially being a woman and a woman of color, I didn’t think I’d have to be told not to promote something because it’s offensive.”
Moss said she has volunteered often with the department and studied hard to ensure a sky-high GPA. But now, she’s concerned her professors’ reaction to the logo may hinder her post-college opportunities.
“These are the people I’d want to get letters of recommendation from, and now, I feel uncomfortable walking in the department,” she said. “I never thought I’d be in this situation, especially given where I’m studying and its foundation in the free-speech movement.”
Frustrated by the situation, Moss wrote about her experience for the Tab.
In an interview with Heat Street, Moss said doesn’t fully agree that PC culture has taken over higher education. And she appreciates that professors and students are paying more attention to the underprivileged, the oppressed and injustice.
But she says she’s now witnessed firsthand how the far left “is trying so hard to be politically correct that it ends up being censoring.”
“I don’t think this is the majority,” Moss said. “It’s the significant minority that has the position of censorship and shutting other people up.”
— Jillian Kay Melchior writes for Heat Street and is a fellow for the Steamboat Institute and the Independent Women’s Forum.