‘Oppression Olympics’: Students of Color Conference at UC Irvine Descends Into Chaos

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By Emily Zanotti | 1:26 pm, December 20, 2016

A conference meant to be a “safe space” for students of color at the University of California descended into complete chaos after students disagreed over which minority group represented at the event was “more oppressed.” Ultimately, the event had to be canceled.

“Tensions got high” at the UC Irvine Students of Color Conference after various organizers and attendees disagreed whether the theme of “Fighting Anti-Blackness” was truly a cause that all students of color could embrace.

Apparently, the decision to focus on a single oppressed minority group offended other marginalized students who felt their causes were equally as important, and that they should have gotten a say in selecting the annual event’s theme.

According to the College Fix, a full-on confrontation broke out in one of the conference’s early breakout sessions. “One of the students raised a question about why the only issues being discussed were those involving anti-blackness, prompting an African-American student to respond that black students are the most oppressed, to which a Muslim student made a comment about her people being bombed in the Middle East,” a participant told CF.

In response the UC Irvine Student Association, which hosted the conference, cancelled some of the later breakout sessions. The event was also supposed to end with a mass demonstration, but students who didn’t agree with the event’s theme declined to participate. One student, according to organizers, even objected to being told to recite a particular chant.

Disappointed students even took to the Student Association’s Facebook page to air their “trauma.”

“I am very unhappy about how this conference was run. There needs to be accountability for the trauma some of the organizers made. And I didn’t appreciate my workshop being cancelled,” a student named Robert Gardner posted. “It was really hurtful to have other marginalized identities silenced because a small fringe of organizers decided that their oppressions are more important (talk about Oppression Olympics)…UC Irvine needs to formerly apologize to everyone for what they did because people were truly traumatized by their actions.”

Gardner went on to say that this oppression, by UC Irvine Student Association, “can’t stand.”

UC Irvine says they did apologize for marginalizing already marginalized students, but declined to provide media with a copy of their apology. Instead, the head of the Student Association offered a statement claiming that the disorganization was a “learning experience.

“This mirrors that nature of our lived experiences. But this year there was a lot of harm thrown around to the various organizers, and some people came into the conference without understanding what the theme of the conference was,” Ralph Washington noted. “There are constructive things that we can do to prevent this happening in the future.”