A Chicano student group is reeling after receiving a racially offensive email purportedly associated with a local business.
UC Berkeley’s Chicano Architectural Student Association received the email Sept. 30 after reaching out to Downtown Berkeley’s Sachi Landscape for a tour of its facilities. An emailed response said it was “not interested in assisting anyone from a Latino based org.”
“Its racist to even ask,” the email continued, “and frankly my business has (been) ruined by fucking illegal immigrants. … If there weren’t so many damn illegal immigrants in this state, I would have work for myself.”
The email was sent to Vanessa Hernandez, president of the association, from a sender listed as Sachi Well. The incident gained attention from the organization’s alumni after Hernandez circulated the email’s contents on social media.
Lalo Alcaraz, a CASA alumnus who graduated from UC Berkeley in 1991 with a master’s degree in architecture, reached out to the landscaping firm on its Facebook page Thursday, asking if the firm was responsible for the email.
“hi mr. alcaraz, this gmail acct was accessed without our authorization after using a public computer and some logout problems,” a message from the Sachi Landscape Facebook page said. “sorry for any confusion we are in the process of securing our acct. thank (you).”
The Facebook page was deleted soon after Alcaraz received the message. Sachi Landscape phone lines were also disconnected in the last week.
The company could not be reached for comment. Alcaraz, meanwhile, was skeptical that the landscaping firm was hacked.
“Even in the unlikely case they were sabotaged by another racist landscaper who managed to get ahold of their email account somehow, there’s still a clear problem,” he said. “Someone needs to apologize.”
Soon after receiving the email, Hernandez contacted academic advisors and forwarded it to CASA’s board members.
“I was at home, and I opened it and was like, ‘Wait, is this even real?’ ” said CASA social chair Itzel Torres. “I couldn’t even describe what went through my mind — it was just so much pain and hurt. I started thinking, ‘This is my community and this is my family, and how can you hurt someone in that way?’ ”
CASA alumni have been spearheading efforts to produce an apology from Sachi Landscape.
“I think it’s exceedingly unfortunate when our brightest students of color, looking to shore up their academic experience with exposure to their professions, are confronted with such racist vitriol,” said CASA Alumni co-founder Roy Hernandez in an email. “Of course, a self-assessment of the firm’s business model, products, services would be more productive — but it’s much easier to blame illegals invading the country.”
CASA members said dismissing the email as a hacking incident is problematic. Multiple members of the organization said they wanted an apology.
Procuring an apology from Sachi Landscape is the first step toward addressing the situation, said Omar Ramirez, academic adviser in the UC Berkeley College of Environmental Design. Vanessa Hernandez reached out to him last week, after she first received the email. The second step, Ramirez said, is for the campus administration to acknowledge the incident.
“I’m hoping the college will work to support our students, to publicly say that they are still supported and wanted in our college, to encourage them to continue doing their work despite this hateful message they’ve received,” Ramirez said.
CASA held a community meeting Monday evening to discuss how to move forward. In the meantime, students expressed that they are still coping on a personal level.
“I haven’t told my family, because I feel like they would worry about me too much, especially since they’ve gone through things like this in the past,” said CASA finance chair Adrian Garcia Hernandez, who immigrated to the United States seven years ago. “To know that their kids are still going through these things would be so hurtful to them.”
Executive news editor Sophie Ho contributed to this report.