Millions watched a disagreement between pairs of Arizona State University students that was captured on video last week, with the clip showing two white male students being asked to leave a multicultural space.
The confrontation, which spread quickly on social media, took place in ASU’s new multicultural zone, a large hall in the student hall of the Tempe campus.
Two female students of color, who had championed and helped organize the multicultural space, approached the two men and filmed the interaction, which quickly escalated, video clips show.
A man had a sticker on his laptop that read ‘Police Lives Matter’, which the students say sparked the incident. The other man wore a shirt with a message that read, “Did not vote for Biden.”
A video clip posted on Twitter had 5.5 million views on Wednesday.
ASU student groups have advocated for multicultural spaces on campus for several years to provide space for students of color, underrepresented minorities, LGBTQ students, and others to meet and discuss problems.
The effort culminated in a protest last summer where groups of students marched against racial injustice on campus and expressed frustration at still not having such a center, among other concerns.
ASU President Michael Crow announced shortly after that the university would establish a multicultural space on campus as part of a broader series of initiatives to support black students and employees.
The new space opened this semester and quickly caught the eye.
What happened in the video
The women who filmed the interaction told the men, “This is our space” and said they were making the area uncomfortable with the police sticker. A multicultural space means white men “are not centered there,” the women said, according to video clips.
The women were later identified as Sarra Tekola and Mastaani Qureshi and one of the men as Chase Beckerman.
When the other man says, “White isn’t a culture? Tekola replies: “No, it is not a culture. White is not a culture.
Things got hotter. Qureshi said they were not chasing the men away, but asking them to leave if they “had any regard for people of color”.
The women took offense with Beckerman’s “Police Lives Matter” sticker, saying he was racist, then told him he was racist because the sticker was a response to the Black Lives Matter movement.
The men sometimes seemed surprised at the situation and said they were just trying to study on campus.
Beckerman tells them, “I’m sorry, I wasn’t trying to offend you.”
The interaction continues, but turns to shouting and swearing from both groups. The men finally seem to leave.
Tekola turned the camera to herself and said, “We had to protect the space because ASU wasn’t…. We fought for this space. It was years of organizing, and we’re not going to let a few white supremacists change that…. Multiculturalism does not mean “Oh, we all get together and hold hands”. It means you are providing space and protecting the most marginalized.
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ASU speaks with students about the incident
The confrontation caught the attention of university administrators.
The dean of the student body will discuss the incident with those involved, according to a statement from the university. It’s happening now, but a spokesperson declined to elaborate, citing student privacy.
“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 college experience. The university expects respectful dialogue among students in all engagements,” says the press release.
The women in the video said they had worked for five years to get ASU to establish a multicultural space on campus and were trying to “defend” it. They pointed out that they did not ask the students to leave because they were white, but because of the police sticker.
“The video that the conservative part of the internet has taken takes sides and doesn’t contextualize it,” Tekola, a leader of the Multicultural Solidarity Coalition, told The Arizona Republic.
“We are not just students in this space who were offended, we are the organizers of this space, we are the reason this space existed. When ASU did not put staff in this space, because that we feel personally responsible for this space, we then had to take care of it ourselves.
The coalition, a student group that has advocated for these spaces, wants ASU to do more to add staff and resources to the rooms and make it clear that this is a space for students. of color.
“We didn’t expect it to go viral or anything,” said Qureshi, the other student in the video. “We expected ASU to make tougher decisions about how to make sure this is a safe space.”
Beckerman, the male student with the laptop sticker, said in a statement provided by his attorney that he was “devastated that this misunderstanding is being highlighted by others in a way that perpetuates the continued racial divide. in this country”.
He said he supports people who want to end racial and social injustice, as well as constructive dialogue.
“I hope what has happened can instead be a springboard for a constructive and collaborative discussion on issues that have divided us for too long so that we can all come together as instruments of meaningful change.”
ASU campuses feature multicultural spaces to “help provide a sense of belonging and support for students of color” by helping to “enhance, enrich, and elevate the identities of all historically underrepresented students” , according to the university’s website.
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