Campus stance on free speech facilitates trauma against Black students

Beverly Pan/Staff

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“I think this (free speech) is not the defining issue of the country. The defining issue of the country is white supremacy. Most of the debate around free speech and hate speech or discrimination is predicated on the notion that speech really doesn’t hurt. … Part of the question is: Does speech harm? And the answer is obviously “yes.” When we talk about stereotype threat, when we talk about trauma, we talk about all the ways we know that speech can harm. It doesn’t mean we should not be careful about speech and it does not mean we should ban speech. It means the rationale — the underlying jurisprudence for speech is radically incoherent. We avoid that incoherence by denying the fact that speech can in fact injure.”

— john a. powell at the Free Speech Panel held on Sept. 8th, 2017


If your perceived definition of violence is limited to the confines of physical contact, that’s probably because you’ve never had to experience the psychological trauma that comes along with being a Black person in America. I didn’t need to be physically harmed to feel violated by my school Sept. 14.

I want to start by saying that the only perspective I can write from is my own. Although I cannot speak for every beautiful, unique Black student in our community at UC Berkeley, I know that I am not alone in my feelings of betrayal, disappointment and embarrassment that have festered in my heart regarding the actions taken by the UC Berkeley administration involving the events of Sept. 14th and future events to come for “Free Speech Week.”

Black students make up 2.5 percent of the student population on campus, as opposed to 13 percent of the United States population. We are a severely underrepresented minority group on campus. African American/Black students are also one of the main targets of the harmful rhetoric spewed out by various “alt-right” hate speakers who have made appearances on campus under the protection and defense of the campus administration.

UC Berkeley’s Black Student Union has demanded a Task Force sector of UC Berkeley’s administration be devoted to the recruitment and retention of Black students on campus to combat this crushing and shameful underrepresentation of the Black community. But Sept. 14, the administration made it clear that its priorities centered around protecting the rights of a former Breitbart editor at large by allocating hundreds of thousands of dollars for security in efforts to protect a speaker who is known to target communities of color. The administration put Black students and their right to feel safe in their own academic environment on the back burner, while completely failing to acknowledge the trauma associated with the police experienced by the majority of Black students on campus.

In addition, the money spent on a militarized police presence are funds that could have gone to uplifting underrepresented minority groups on campus, whether that be in the form of scholarships, affordable housing, or resources dedicated to solving the problem of our underrepresentation.

The message rang loud and clear on that day: UC Berkeley does not care about its Black students.

Ironically, Chancellor Carol Christ’s welcome statement to the campus commends UC Berkeley as “a place that is steadfastly committed to widening the doors to educational opportunity, a place that sets young people from all backgrounds on a path towards success in their lives and in their careers.” If Christ seeks to widen the doors to educational opportunity for young people of all backgrounds, why then did the administration make the decision to close off the César E. Chávez Student Learning Center and Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union? Both of these spaces house resources utilized by students of color not only for emotional support but for academic support as well. What would Chávez and King have to say about buildings named in their honor being closed down at irregular hours to accommodate speakers who have done nothing but belittle and degrade their legacy and sacrifice?  

Classes were canceled, job opportunities for students of color were postponed, the Multicultural Community Center — a safe space for underrepresented minorities to gather and do homework — was closed, bus routes were changed, resources were cut off. All for what? Where were these “wide open door to educational opportunity” for our Black and Brown students?

I write this op-ed as a call to action for members of UC Berkeley’s administration as well members of the UC Berkeley student body. Stop ignoring us. Stop silencing us. Listen to us and respect our demands. We have every right to safe spaces on campus and the education that we pay for, and we will not continue to be chased away from our campus.

Shelby Mayes is a UC Berkeley student and the membership development director for the Black Student Union.

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  • BlackConservative

    You guys are nuts, just nuts. I can’t even understand what world you live in? I’ve never seen so many white people so angry for black people. This must make them feel real good that they fight for those less fortunate!

  • BillyBilly

    FIFY: “The message rang loud and clear on that day: UC Berkeley does not cater to emotional infants”



  • Bryan Hopkins

    Attention Shelby Mayes! Please quote the parts of Ben Shaprio’s UC Berkeley speech that caused you “psychological trauma.”

    • lspanker

      Apparently listening to unpleasant truth can cause vaginal pains in some people…

  • Kale Fantastic Fenneman

    If you cannot handle speech you disagree with, than you are the problem. The strength of the US is that the principles it was founded upon, while not perfectly implemented, allow for growth. The money that you lament is spent on these events could be used else where if you didn’t try to meet speech with violence and intimidation. I do think there are principles higher than your feelings and if your feelings are hurt get tougher. People need to say it to you again and again, you cannot be both the aggressor and the victim. Free up resources by not being tyrannical bullies.

  • SMH





    • SMH


      And, actually, the TV news said it was only 15 minutes!

      $800,000/15minutes = over **$53,000** per **minute**!!

      $1,000,000/15 minute = almost **$67,000** per **minute**!!


  • roccolore

    Fascist Democrats like Shelby Mayes hate free speech.

  • FreedomFan

    OMG! Now snowflakes are experiencing “trauma”!!! So sad. These children belong in kindergarten, not college. Wait…Berkeley…Kindergarten…same thing.

    The Marxist goal, to have Americans hate each other for superficial reasons, is almost complete.

  • Fab Ocho

    Stereotype Threat does not exist. Does not replicate.

  • I agree, I’m part of a mostly black club on campus and we feel we aren’t safe when the administration allows neo-nazi alt righters to hold events here. It’s sickening, and frankly, very frightening.

    • Killer Marmot

      There aren’t any “neo-nazi alt righters” due to speak on campus. There are some conservative provocateurs, but that is all. As an adult, you should be able to handle that, just as conservative students should be able to handle provocative left-wing speakers.

    • lspanker

      I agree, I’m part of a mostly black club on campus

      So you segregate yourself to avoid whites and Asians, no doubt. See my comments above.

    • SecludedCompoundTTYS

      I’m far more scared of you than you are of me because you are willing to go to extremes aka believing in nonsense.

    • Carlo Kane

      Dude, you’re such an emotionally wrought snowflake, that my advice to you is to stay on campus for the rest of your life. The real world is going to be waaaay too tough for you to handle.

    • Nunya Beeswax

      There are people who feel unsafe when black men approach them walking down a sidewalk. Clearly, just because somebody *feels* unsafe doesn’t mean that they *are*.

      Part of being an adult is exercising will and self-discipline against emotional reactions. I suggest you learn it.

    • AnotherLover

      Which neo-nazis have come to speak at UC Berkeley? Which alt-righters?

      • lspanker

        There you go, asking for specifics. Don’t you know that’s a “microaggression”? Shame on you…

    • BillyBilly


  • Man with Axe

    Speech can hurt. That’s why I say that every white person is a racist. I want to hurt their feelings.

    • Hate Speech is violence.

      • lspanker

        If so-called “hate speech” turns people into haters, and “racist” speech makes people racist, we can be sure that all of us become more stupid with every post of yours that we read…

      • Man with Axe

        Is hate speech the same as beating someone over the head with a pipe?

        When your speech against me is violence and my violence against you is speech, civil society breaks down. We are going down a very dark path.

  • Bob

    “Most of the debate around free speech and hate speech or discrimination is predicated on the notion that speech really doesn’t hurt.”

    Speech doesn’t hurt unless you allow it. Mature adults shrug-off insults and disagreeable opinions with little or no effort. And Cal is a university purposed to educate adults so a certain level of maturity is expected of students.

    • Lauren Hughes

      What about children? Are children expected to shrug off discourse, opinions, and external messages that overall define them as second-class citizens? Every person of color was at one time a child that was exposed to such discourse. The psychological effect of that doesn’t just shut off when children become adults, even if one learns to logically recognize the fault in the hatred/animosity. And on top of that the same discourse doesn’t stop at adulthood, either.

      Beyond that, people of color aren’t complaining about isolated incidents of people directing individual insults at them. People of color stand against the intricate narratives that are the culmination of their gross mistreatment, in its many forms, over literally hundreds of years. Economic, societal, and governmental decisions around race irreversibly alter the way society functions. Thus, the impacts of each of this country’s decisions be they slavery, education, voting accessibility and protocol, who can live where, where will pollution-expelling factories be built (and who lives by them), what gets funding etc.—they all make things unequal for different sectors of the population! To turn around and blame all the results on the disadvantaged communities is simply misguided.

      • lspanker

        What about children? Are children expected to shrug off discourse, opinions, and external messages that overall define them as second-class citizens?

        if your children can’t handle certain topics, don’t discuss them with your children. The rest of us are adults – we can make our own decisions without your interference.

      • Bob

        Children are a different matter. Children lack emotional control and they have no sense of proportion or perspective. Those abilities come with maturation. So I am absolutely cautious about my choice of words and topics around kids.

        • lspanker

          Children are a different matter. Children lack emotional control and they have no sense of proportion or perspective.

          Hmm, that DOES describe some Cal students these days…

          • Bob


      • SecludedCompoundTTYS

        You guys have been pumped up by Obama’s purposeful racist rhetoric that was used to divide us. No one is outside being more racist today than they were 15 years ago. Just go for a walk and maybe look at how many white people are killed by cops or who creates the most crimes. The statistics are astounding and I want to fix those problems. Not complain about phantom problems. I want to know why liberals are against school choice?!??! I want to know why they are for the LGBT community but support Islam. I want to know why everyone who doesn’t agree with them is labeled something nasty?

    • Lauren Hughes

      There’s all of that^ but honestly though at the end of the day: why is it so angering to suggest we take a step back, listen to people who are different from ourselves, and work to change what they all say is so incredibly distressing to them? Who loses when society fuels less conflict?

      • lspanker

        why is it so angering to suggest we take a step back, listen to people who are different from ourselves

        You mean like liberals listening to what conservative speakers have to say before smearing them all as “racists” and beating people up, right?

      • Bob

        Are they really distressed or are they using negligible daily annoyances to legitimize forcing others (esp. white people) to believe, speak, and behave as they direct. Or perhaps to obtain extra benefits not available to other students. If they’re going to claim that racism can be found under every rock, they better lift a few rocks to prove it. I am empathetic if what they say is true, but merely accepting what they say as truth seems ripe for abuse. We need some middle ground.

  • lspanker

    If freedom of speech and the open exchange of ideas on the Cal campus facilitates trauma in certain black students, aren’t you suggesting that maybe those black students don’t belong at Cal in the first place?

    • SecludedCompoundTTYS

      Are we kind of Daily Cal best friends now? lol…

      • lspanker

        You know, confident, secure, intelligent black students pursuing their STEM undergrad degrees @ Cal must be absolutely embarrassed by the frothing loonies in BSU who claim to “represent” them. The depths of idiocy being pursued in these lunatic screed posing as “editorials” is just appalling…

        • SecludedCompoundTTYS

          It truly is, its amazing. The cognitive dissonance is amazing. I remember when I thought I knew it all when I was 21, but man, do they have very strong conviction about their ideas and being right. I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s very interesting to follow the Daily Cal as we both know.

          • Go back to Breitbart!

          • lspanker

            I don’t even follow Breitbart, but thanks for reminding us that you’re demonstrably incapable of responding with anything more than a single sentence retort. But then again, your comments make it quite clear why some (not all) black students feel threatened and traumatized by free speech. It’s because “diversity” admissions and social promotion in the K-12 public schools have resulted in college students who lack the academic grounding and mental horsepower to engage in discussion and convince others of the moral and intellectual superiority of their positions.

            No surprise there, we all see how certain black students act paranoid and hysterical, run around accusing others of concocting racist plots against them, and self-segregating themselves through black studies majors, black-themed dorms, black-only graduations. It’s the abject fear that others will figure out what they instinctively know but can’t articulate. Many black students are traumatized simply because they are well aware that they are over their heads academically and intellectually on a college campus, and are too simply ashamed and embarrassed to admit it.

            Now DeAndre, should you disagree with what I have stated above, you’re certainly welcome to respond to me in kind, and I will do my best to keep our discussion civil and impersonal. Let’s see if you can step up to the plate and address any of the points I have made here…

          • cadcam

            Like it or not, there is some evidence that this is true. See academic research paper:

          • SecludedCompoundTTYS

            and the answer is NO. But he will call you racist, I guarantee it! Which you are because they have changed the definition of racism to be anything critical of a minority group even if you are looking at facts to try to help the minority group rather than just trying to get votes.

          • SecludedCompoundTTYS

            Breibart is lame, you should say daily wire. i’ve never followed that. Or you could say Drudge but that’s just a news aggregate.

          • You support nazis

          • Carlo Kane

            The only intolerant Nazi I’m reading here, is YOU!

          • lspanker

            You make silly comments you can’t back up, which only makes the argument that I submitted previously, that you are one of those individuals who lacks the academic ability and intellectual capacity to benefit from college.

        • You two should head back to Breitbart.

      • Bob


    • Corey Alexander Walker

      Back at it again promoting racism, I see. Every time Daily Cal talks about black people, you’re on here talking crap about our community.