By Corinne Murdock |
Members of the Multicultural Solidarity Coalition (MSC), a student-led activist group that’s been advocating for the establishment of a multicultural center at Arizona State University (ASU), targeted and harassed two students on video for being white males in a room they’d established as their “multicultural center.” The room in question was the ASU Tempe Campus’s Student Success Center in the Student Pavilion, room 321. It has not officially been designated as a multicultural center – ASU says that efforts for such a center are underway, but the university hasn’t indicated where or when the center will be established. MSC posted the eight minute video of them harassing the two white male students with the caption “Defending the Space” on Instagram. It has since been removed.
The MSC members took offense to the two white male students for their race, sex, and display of conservative-leaning political messages. One of the students had a “Police Lives Matter” sticker on their laptop, while the other wore a “Did Not Vote for Biden” shirt. MSC members told the two students to leave the room and “shut the f*** up” repeatedly, said that they were promoting murderers and white supremacy by supporting police, called them “Karens” for being upset, and ridiculed them for insinuating that diversity or multiculturalism included white people. Out of all the other students in the room, only one individual spoke out in defense of the two white male students: an Asian male student.
The two most outspoken MSC members in the video were an ASU undergraduate student named Mastaani Qureshi and an ASU graduate student named Zarra Teacola. Qureshi is a member of Omega Phi Alpha (OPA), a national service sorority, and enrolled in ASU’s honors college, Barrett. In addition to being MSC’s founder, Teacola is the co-minister of activism for Black Lives Matter (BLM) Phoenix Metro and a PhD Candidate in ASU’s School of Sustainability. Teacola was arrested last October with seven other BLM protestors; they were indicted for charges related to rioting, aggravated assault, obstructing roads, and street gang involvement.
We attempted to contact MSC for comment. They didn’t respond by press time.
According to Teacola, ASU has been complicit with MSC’s claim of the public space to segregate or discriminate against individuals based on their race or creed, especially “white, cis[gender] males.” According to Teacola, ASU President Michael Crow recently gave them the space to use as a multicultural center. Teacola explained that the BLM movements following George Floyd’s death last year caused Crow to change his mind – he’d originally been hesitant to give them a space that excluded certain students based on skin color or gender. No official press release or notice has been issued to reflect this purported agreement for a multicultural center.
“Michael Crow told us that a multicultural center wasn’t inclusive toward white cis males, you know, that’s what he said in 2019. Then come the uprising, the tone really changed, right? And they’re like ‘Okay, okay, you can have your center,’ right?” said Teacola.
It appears that ASU is complicit in MSC’s newly-established authority over this room. ASU told AZ Free News that the incident was a “disagreement” highlighting “differences of opinion” that were “part of the university experience.”
“The Dean of Students Office is aware of the disagreement between a handful of students that was captured in a video circulated on social media. The Dean of Students Office will be discussing it with all involved,” stated an ASU spokesperson. “ASU is a community of more than 100,000 people from all 50 states and more than 150 countries. Differences of opinion are part of the university experience. The university expects respectful dialogue between students in all engagements.”
The university later posted the statement on their website. It is unclear who, if any, will face disciplinary action.
Late Friday afternoon, MSC removed the video of their members harassing the two students. In its place, they issued a statement blaming ASU for not adequately preparing the room for their multicultural space so that the confrontation would’ve been avoided.
MSC defined “inclusion” as securing areas for marginalized people, and “blue lives matter” as a threat to black individuals. Though MSC didn’t use the term “hate speech,” they indicated that certain speech they believed to be wrong was prohibited in their multicultural center. They said that the death threats they received following the video were indicative of pervasive systemic racism and white supremacy.
MSC included links for clarity on their position: “Why People of Color Need Spaces Without White People” a publication from the city of Cambridge, Massachusetts; a Los Angeles Times opinion piece titled “We Need to Talk About Racism and ‘Blue Lives Matter’”; “The Myth of Reverse Racism” from Canada’s Alberta Civil Liberties Research Centre; and a USA Today article titled “What is Systemic Racism? Here is What it Means and How You Can Help Dismantle It.”
Read the statement below:
The Multicultural Solidarity Coalition (MSC) is a group of graduate and undergraduate students from marginalized and oppressed communities who have been trying to create a space for our community members to exist on campus without the ubiquitous threat of racial and gender-based violence that we experience on campus. We have been working toward this goal since 2016 and, as of 2020, we have been coordinating with ASU administrators to establish a multicultural center. The multicultural center is currently housed in one room on campus that was opened this semester and has not yet been fully launched. You can read our full proposal here.
The incident that took place on Thursday, September 23rd is a result of ASU not taking seriously our safety concerns, especially in regards to the multicultural center. Despite repeatedly expressing our concerns during biweekly meetings with Dean Aska last semester, administrators did not adequately prepare the multicultural center before the start of this semester to avoid these types of confrontations.
We believe that inclusion means making spaces safer for the most marginalized students. We understand “blue lives matter” to be an explicit rejection of the Black Lives Matter movement and therefore an overt threat to Black lives. In the new multicultural centers, we will not tolerate people entering with racist slogans to intimidate and antagonize historically and currently marginalized students.
Inclusion does not mean we accommodate white supremacists, their slogans, and behaviors at the cost of endangering all other community members. This has been made overwhelmingly clear by the many death threats we have received. These racially-charged threats are directed at the two MSC members from BIPOC communities who confronted the two white men with a “Police lives matter” sticker and a “Did Not Vote For Biden” shirt who were in the multicultural center making students uncomfortable.
If you do not understand the purpose of a multicultural center, click here.
If you do not understand why “blue lives matter” is racist, click here.
If you do not understand that reverse racism doesn’t exist, click here.
If you do not understand what racism is, click here.
The Multicultural Solidarity Coalition will keep advocating for students from marginalized communities until we have fully-supported and fully-staffed multicultural centers on every ASU campus and we call on students to join us in defending these spaces and to #defendMSC.
(emphasis added, original links maintained)
Read the entire transcript of the incident below, or watch the verbal altercation here. “MALE 1” is the student with the “Police Lives Matter” sticker. “MALE 2” is the student with the black t-shirt reading, “Did Not Vote For Biden.”
MALE 1: What did I do wrong?
TEACOLA: You’re offensive. Police lives matter?
MALE 1: You have the same sticker …?
MALE 2: We’re just trying to do school.
MALE 1: You have the same sticker as the other –
TEACOLA: But this is our space.
MALE 2: We’ve got a ‘Police Lives Matter’ sticker and we’re getting kicked out, can’t do school.
UNKNOWN MALE IN BACKGROUND: Nobody’s kicking you out.
MALE 2: You just said we have to leave!
QURESHI: No, I said –
TEACOLA: You’re making this space feel uncomfortable.
MALE 2: You’re making me feel uncomfortable.
TEACOLA: But you’re white! Do you understand what a multicultural space [is]? It means you’re not being centered.
MALE 2: White’s not a culture?
TEACOLA: No, it’s not a culture! White is not a culture! Say it again to the camera! You think this is a culture?
MALE 2: This is insane.
TEACOLA: So anyway, this is the violence that ASU does and this is the type of people that they protect, okay? This white man thinks that he can take up our space. This is why we need a multicultural space, because they think that they can get away with this s***.
MALE 2: I’m going to sit here the whole time and you can find somebody to care.
TEACOLA: That’s cool. We will.
QURESHI: We’re not kicking you out. We’re asking you to leave. If you have any consideration for people of color and our marginalization.
TEACOLA: They clearly don’t.
MALE 1: Is there anywhere I can go?
TEACOLA: Yeah! The whole rest of the campus! The second floor, the first floor, the whole MU – every single part of the campus centers you! This is the only space that you’re not centered and you’re still trying to center yourself which is peak cis-white-male bulls***!
MALE 1: I’m not racist, I’m just studying.
TEACOLA: You are racist! Your sticker is racist because police, that’s a job! You can choose to be police. I don’t choose to be black! Okay, no – you can choose to be a cop, you can choose to kill people with a badge, and you’re protecting that s*** which means that you’re racist!
MALE 1: I’m sorry. I wasn’t trying to offend you guys or anything –
QURESHI: I know, I know, but this offends us automatically because these people kill people like me and like us, right? So you’re promoting our murderers. So please just don’t do that.
UNKNOWN MALE IN FOREGROUND: Why is that sticker affecting you negatively? They’re just trying to do their work.
MALE 2: Thank you! Thank you!
UNKNOWN MALE IN FOREGROUND: So, why should that bother you?
TEACOLA: Because! Do you understand that police lives matter was in response to black lives matter?
MALE 1: I pay the same f****** tuition as you!
QURESHI: But you get more advantages.
MALE 1: I don’t! I’m working 60 hours a week while going to school because my parents don’t just give me money.
TEACOLA: Okay! Doesn’t matter! You have the second floor!
MALE 1: You guys are f****** bulls****. F*** you – I don’t care about what color your skin is!
UNKNOWN FEMALE IN BACKGROUND: You can get out of here if you’re going to be yelling at people because –
QURESHI: We make this f****** space! We had to work for five years to make this space.
UNKNOWN FEMALE IN BACKGROUND: Guess what we did? We worked for five years for ASU to build a multicultural space. […] ‘Police Lives Matter’ is saying white supremacist narratives –
MALE 2: We’re not white supremacists!
UNKNOWN FEMALE IN BACKGROUND: ‘Police Lives Matter’ is –
MALE 2: That’s not a white supremacist saying!
TEACOLA: Yes, yes it is. It’s affiliated with white nationalists.
UNKNOWN MALE IN FOREGROUND: They’re just sitting here studying and you guys went out of your way to inconvenience them.
TEACOLA & 2 UNANIMOUSLY: Yes, yes we did because it’s our space.
TEACOLA: We fought for this s*** for five years, since 2016. You have no idea about the labor that was created to create this space –
TEACOLA: No, no we can’t. You’re violent, dude. […] F*** America bro. America was created on genocide and slavery. Look at his face.
UNKNOWN FEMALE IN BACKGROUND: That is the point.
UNKNOWN MALE IN FOREGROUND: They were studying.
TEACOLA: The point is that studying – this is not a space for studying. This is a space for multiculturalism.
MALE 2: I thought we weren’t yelling anymore. You guys were going to kick us out for yelling?
QURESHI: Shut the f*** up.
MALE 1: This is crazy to me… You guys are the racists. You’re the racists.
UNKNOWN FEMALE IN BACKGROUND: [indecipherable] You’re making people uncomfortable. You can go.
MALE 1: F*** you. I was just studying, I pay the same f****** tuition as you.
UNKNOWN FEMALE IN BACKGROUND: This is this white man telling black people ‘f*** you.’
MALE 1: Did you even buy this building?
UNKNOWN FEMALE IN BACKGROUND: Cussing out black people, way to prove yourself.
QURESHI: I work! [indecipherable]
MALE 2: I don’t care where you work!
QURESHI: I told you to shut the f*** up because you’re making me feel unsafe and you’re in my space!
TEACOLA: White people – there’s no such thing as reverse racism, so have fun saying that we’re the racists because there’s no such thing.
TEACOLA: No, we’re not saying white people have to leave.
MALE 1: I’m going to the dean’s office. Come on.
TEACOLA: Go ahead. Go to the dean’s office. Go ahead. You can learn about this s***. You can learn about the history. Go ahead, Karen.
UNKNOWN MALE IN BACKGROUND: The big black people scared me out!
UNKNOWN FEMALE BACKGROUND: No, we didn’t.
MALE 2: You bullied us out, but…
UNKNOWN FEMALE IN BACKGROUND: No, we didn’t. You caused a scene. You caused a scene.
UNKNOWN MALE IN BACKGROUND: You are unaware of history, and it’s ridiculous.
MALE 2: I’m unaware of history? I probably have a further degree than any of you in here.
TEACOLA: So, anyways, we’re here. We had to protect the space because ASU wasn’t. And you know we fought for this space. It was years of organizing, and we’re not going to just let some white supremacists change that.
MALE 2: Oh, I’m going to.
TEACOLA: That’s why we’re here – yeah they’re going to make a scene and go talk to their Karens. But you know, it’s important to recognize why we have to do that and what a multicultural space means because multiculturalism doesn’t mean that, oh, we all come together and hold hands. It means that you provide space and you protect the most marginalized. And s*** like that makes this space uncomfortable.
QURESHI: He threatened us that he will go to the dean. We will see what he has to say to the dean and we will see how the dean reacts. And now we will see who ASU prioritizes in this – students of color and our only f****** room on campus, or white cis men who are threatening black students by saying police lives matter.
MALE 2: Uh, you’re speaking to nobody.
QURESHI: That doesn’t matter. Can you leave?
MALE 2: No.
QURESHI: Okay, you don’t want to leave? That’s fine.
MALE 2: Perfect. I’m not.
UNKNOWN FEMALE IN BACKGROUND: We’re saying to you: this is a multicultural space, you’re making us uncomfortable, and you’re saying you don’t wanna go.
QURESHI: You’re not a minority person.
UNKNOWN MALE IN BACKGROUND: What’s your culture, bro?
TEACOLA: Yeah, tell us about your culture. What’s white culture? Stealing things from people? Colonization, co-optation, theft, occupation?
MALE 2: America is like one of the most un-racist countries –
TEACOLA: Whaaa…! He just said America is one of the most un-racist countries. And this is what we mean about who we are you centering, who are you centering?
MALE 2: [indecipherable] … black people in the times of racism.
QURESHI: Don’t speak my truth –
TEACOLA: Well, you don’t even –
MALE 2: There’s no difference in what you do. Bullying me leaving this place [is no different] than what happened in the times of racism.
UNKNOWN FEMALE IN BACKGROUND: We didn’t bully you! We asked you to leave.
MALE 2: You guys – I can’t even do my school. You came over here and said that I’m offending you.
QURESHI: Bro, you can do your schoolwork anywhere in the building. Just not here.
TEACOLA: Anyways, another day of trying to defend this space.
MALE 2: If it makes you feel better about making your group less diverse – it doesn’t make any sense.
UNKNOWN FEMALE IN BACKGROUND: Oh wow, so diversity’s now about including more white people.
TEACOLA: Diversity’s now about including white men!
UNKNOWN FEMALE IN BACKGROUND: You have the whole campus, honey. You have the whole campus.
MALE 2: Angry –