Editor’s note: This is one of four profiles that has been published on candidates for ASUC President. Stories on DeeJay Pepito and Jason Bellet appeared in print and online Monday.
While his competitors walk students through Upper Sproul Plaza, pitching platforms in a last-minute attempt to garner support, ASUC presidential candidate David Ramirez Douglass will protest alongside strangers on the National Mall to demand for equality for all immigrants.
Douglass will leave for Washington, D.C., Tuesday in what may seem like a risky move for a presidential hopeful from a party that has never had a candidate elected to an executive position. But for Douglass, who is running with the Defend Affirmative Action Party, it was a natural decision with the best timing — the march is a way to live up to the legacy of being a UC Berkeley student responsible for fighting for civil rights, he said.
“We, as students, have to take action and challenge power and the status quo. We can stand by our own ideas,” Douglass said. “We can stand on our principles and do the right thing, not the popular thing.”
DAAP is a campus political party working to restore affirmative action policies, fight for immigration reform, open the border between Mexico and the United States and make public education accessible to all, among other goals, according to its website.
During his campaign, Douglass has emphasized this legacy of action and protest, saying that he hopes to revive the “youth-led progressive movement.” If elected, Douglass, a film and Latin American studies double major, aims to lead students against fee hikes, advocate for immigrant rights and double the underrepresented minority enrollment on campus.
“We’ve seen a resegregation of higher education with this manipulation of statistics and data when the UC Regents say the numbers of underrepresented minorities are increasing,” Douglass said. “In reality, they’re segregating them to campuses like UC Merced and Riverside, which don’t have the same access and resources that UC Berkeley or UCLA has.”
Douglass compares this “resegregation” to Jim Crow laws of the 1950s American South, saying that the system cannot be separate and equal. He emphasizes a need for integration and affirmative action policies, beginning with the repeal of Proposition 209.
“We just need leadership, and I’m prepared to be that leader for the students,” Douglass said.
Part of that preparation, according to Douglass, comes from growing up in a politically active immigrant family and seeing inequality firsthand throughout his childhood. He remembers hearing stories of the struggles faced by his family, especially his mother, a migrant farm worker from Mexico.
He said that, while in middle school, his friends of color used to tell him they were afraid to walk in certain areas of his hometown, Santa Rosa, for fear of “white supremacists.” Seeing their struggle firsthand, he said, encouraged him to fight for equality.
“Since he was little, he always had incredible things to do,” said Nieves Douglass, his mother. “We always saw a leader in David.”
Additionally, Douglass’ work as a student organizer with By Any Means Necessary (BAMN), a coalition fighting for affirmative action and immigrant rights, has also provided him with experience leading students. Douglass has gone to Detroit with BAMN to fight against home foreclosures and to keep schools open. Two weeks ago, he marched with workers from Fruitvale calling for increased immigrant rights.
According to fellow organizers, Douglass has naturally fit into these leadership roles.
“I think David is an extremely committed and very radical political person who has a deep belief in the power and possibility of oppressed communities of students,” said Yvette Felarca, a national organizer for BAMN and former ASUC senator with DAAP. “I think he’s been the real leader of the fleet and of the party, and the campus needs more leaders like David Douglass.”
However, student groups on campus have expressed their concern about Douglass’ ability and the DAAP platform.
“DAAP’s goals and platforms are worthwhile but beyond the scope of the ASUC,” said Matthew Enger, communications coordinator for CalSERVE. He noted that during the ASUC executive slate forum last Friday, Douglass and the rest of the DAAP candidates had nothing to say in response to questions regarding school policy, instead pivoting to their platform points about affirmative action and immigrant rights.
At the same forum, Douglass mentioned that he would disband the UCPD based on alleged discrimination and would shut down the school to have students march.
“They speak loudly, but it drowns out the voices of the people who actually know what to do and have the plan to do it,” Enger said.
Win or lose, Douglass said he will continue to fight for equality and rights.
“I love the struggle, and I love the fight. It’s through the struggle and seeing a person by your side who is also addressing the issue, fighting with you for what is right, that you understand people,” Douglass said. “I need to fight to combat the idea that there isn’t a progressive movement. It’s exciting to be a part of that.”