A student-operated publication at Santa Rosa Junior College.

The Oak Leaf

A student-operated publication at Santa Rosa Junior College.

The Oak Leaf

A student-operated publication at Santa Rosa Junior College.

The Oak Leaf

BSU students encounter racism

Editor’s Note: After careful deliberations and consultation with the SRJC Black Student Union, Oak Leaf editors decided to include potentially offensive language in the following article.

Members of Santa Rosa Junior College’s Black Student Union encountered a spate of racism and bigotry while on a retreat with members of the Sonoma State BSU Nov. 10 at a bowling alley in Rohnert Park.

As BSU members left Double Decker Lanes at closing time, a group of a half-dozen white, college-aged people shouted racial slurs and yelled, “Go back to Africa,” according to five BSU members who attended the retreat.

A female patron of the alley then shoved BSU member Darika Ramsey, called her the n-word and refused to get out of her personal space, BSU members said.

The woman told Ramsey and the rest of the group they were stuck in the past and continued spewing racial slurs as her friend dragged her away from the BSU group, Ramsey said.

When the group of SRJC students started to leave the parking lot, the assailant’s friends drove up in two cars and began yelling and taunting the group, according to Steven Covarrubias, a BSU member who witnessed the events.

A man standing up outside of one vehicle yelled, “You fucking niggers. Go back to Africa,” according to Covarrubias and other members of the group. The taunting lasted several minutes, until the two cars sped away.

“This is mind-blowing that this is happening in our time,” Covarrubias said. “It’s just crazy, how it’s 2014. Our president’s black, come on. It felt like I was in Alabama in 1955.”

The BSU students were shocked to be targets of such bigotry and racism. They were discussing the incident a minute later when four Rohnert Park police officers arrived on the scene.

Tre Webber, an employee of Double Decker Lanes who worked that night, said there were no problems with the 20-plus BSU students in the bowling alley and that the first he heard of any trouble was when someone from the alley told him that five to 10 police cars were outside. By the time he made it outside, the hostilities were over.

According to the students, the police acted in an aggressive and hostile manner towards the black students, and one officer even took his baton out and held it in a menacing manner while approaching the BSU members.

When the students attempted to report the assault and the hate speech, they said police officers told them to go home and that the bowling alley was closed. Other officers asked white patrons of the alley what happened, according to Elias Hinit, a BSU member who witnessed the police actions.

As the students protested their innocence and the injustice of police ignoring them after the confrontation, the police became more aggressive and cleared the students from the scene. One officer told Hinit that he didn’t care if they were assaulted and they needed to leave.

Hinit said the students have since filed a personnel complaint with the Rohnert Park police about the incident. When asked for comment, dispatchers at the police department declined, stating it was a personnel matter that would be dealt with by senior officers.

California Penal Code 422.6 makes it a crime for someone to “willfully injure, intimidate, interfere with, oppress, or threaten any other person in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him or her by the Constitution or laws of this state or by the Constitution or laws of the United States” based on that person’s “disability, gender, nationality, race or ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or association with a person or group with one or more of these characteristics.”

Janae Crosby, an SRJC student and BSU member who was present during the altercation, said she was shocked by what happened. “I’ve let [racial slurs] slide before, but now that I joined BSU, it’s kind of like why would I let it slide? It’s not acceptable,” Crosby said. “If I do hear it, I will tell them straight: ‘Do not call me that.’”

Jasmine Landry, a BSU member who also attended the retreat, said the whole situation was unfair. “No group should ever feel like [that]. They have the right to go out and enjoy their night; they don’t have to constantly be in fear.” Landry admitted the incident has stuck with her days later.

The SRJC students who spoke with the Oak Leaf about the incident agreed that to change the way our society deals with issues like racism and bigotry, everyone has to be a part of the solution.

“It’s all about dialogue and education,” Hinit said. “We see the bigger picture. This is just a product of the racist system that we are living in.”

Hinit said it is hard to make the necessary changes, because we talk about incidents of racism, but then they still happen the next day. “It is everybody’s responsibility to talk about this,” he said.

“Racism doesn’t come with your genetics; it is taught,” Ramsey said.

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JoshuOne Barnes
JoshuOne Barnes, Staff Writer

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  • K

    Kevin JohnsonNov 28, 2015 at 8:34 pm

    There is no doubt that the immature kids that were harassing the B.S.U. students were way out of line. I feel it is very accurate to say they’re “still living in the 1950’s…” This type of hate is something I have personally seen many times in and around Santa Rosa. In fact, there will always be ignorant close-minded people that will verbally attack others (as a coping mechanism to make themselves feel superior, or worth a damn), and while this may seem hilarious to them, and make them feel cool, to most educated and descent human beings, they only look like the fools they are. In regards to the police officers on the scene, I would suggest to look at the situation in a different light. I am not a cop, and even though I wasn’t there, and may not know all the facts, I can only imagine the amount of pressure the cops must have been under, during a time where they are heavily scrutinized for all of the unjust kills on African American or Latino boys recently. A cop should be able to approach the scene without having to first worry about what precautions he needs to take in order to ensure that he won’t be on the ten O’clock News, or end up on the front page of the newspaper for pulling out his gun at the wrong time, and more importantly on the wrong race. It is no secret that the majority of the prison population is filled with Hispanic and Black males. So, is it so wrong to approach the scene of a potentially dangerous situation, alert and prepared for anything? I feel that today’s society has grown accustomed to the idea that all policemen are perfect. However, like everyone, and everywhere else in this world, there will a combination of good and bad. I just feel that perhaps there is too much pressure being put on the cops these days, especially when dealing with Hispanic and African American subjects. Not all of them, but most of them are responding to what is expected..

  • C

    Chief Nate Johnson, Ed.D., SSU PoliceDec 16, 2014 at 6:36 pm

    I was made aware of this today and forwarded this story to the RPDPS Public Safety Director as well. I regret that in such an advanced society such incidents continue to plague our progress as a people.

  • M

    Marsha Vas Dupre, Ph.D.Dec 10, 2014 at 12:06 am

    This is a deplorable situation. As a former SRJC Trustee, I know that our students have the right to feel safe on our campuses and activities that are SRJC sponsored. Both my children grad. from SRJC and SSU and that security applies to both institutions. If I were a parent of these students, I would be outraged at the treatment they endured both by the individuals who had also been bowling, and by the Rohnert Park Police. I hope that a report will be presented to the Rohnert Park City Council as there needs to be transparency in this flagrant miscarriage of justice.

  • M

    Mike SjoblomNov 26, 2014 at 10:39 pm

    this is absolutely ridiculous how can we be going backwards in time?
    We need to do something about this how can a law enforcement be doing this to us in this day and age and ignorance they have come on people get it together
    Elias fight this I will support you 100 percent
    Mike s

  • A

    Alcina HorstmanNov 22, 2014 at 10:02 am

    This was very upsetting to read. I live in Santa Rosa and my kids used to go to the bowling alley all the time when they were younger. I am very sorry this happened , and can’t understand the backwardness of the folks who harassed the BSU students. I am doubly upset that, according to this story, the responding officers appear not to have taken a report, and even seemed to exacerbate the bad experience of the students. I will be calling the Chief of Police on Monday to ask about this. Finally, BSU students, you are correct that we all need to be a part of the solution!