Person of Color House, off-campus housing co-op for Berkeley students bans white people from common areas to to avoid ‘white violence’.
Define safe space? Disconcert has come to the fore after an off-campus co-op for students at the University of California, Berkeley banned white guests from entering common areas of a student congregant house.
A list of house rules at the co-op room, ‘Person of Color Theme House’ includes all students trying to sign in to building being asked to declare their race. The unofficial ‘mandates’ according to the Berkeley co-op comes as ‘many POC moved here to be able to avoid white violence and presence, so respect their decision of avoidance if you bring white guests.’
While the student house aims to have an ‘inclusive’ environment,’ the rules specifically state ‘white guests are not allowed in common spaces,’ according to the list, which was posted on Reddit.
The accommodation, which is located close to Berkeley’s campus, is a five-story, 30-room home that can house up to 56 students. The house is owned by a private landlord.
The ‘rules’ which were leaked on social media went on to elicit outrage – with many people slamming the restrictions as ‘racist’ as others came forward and revealed their experience living in the co-op.
It seems a Berkeley student housing co-op, called POC house, has banned white guests from common spaces.
The “house guest rules” explain that many POC members moved there “to be able to avoid white violence and presence.” pic.twitter.com/J0Ye1WQ7Bh
— Sydney Watson (@SydneyLWatson) August 16, 2022
Free reign to create policies without fear of college sanction
One mixed-race Reddit user, who claimed to have lived at the house, said that their ‘presence as a light skinned person was not received well.’
They said house members called them slurs and they were even ‘not allowed to let my dad enter the house because he’s white.’
The house was set up as part of the Berkeley Student Cooperative, a program designed to bring affordable housing to students in California’s Bay-area, and ‘aims to provide housing to low-income, first generation, immigrant and marginalized students of color.’
According to the ‘rules,’ people that live there should ‘avoid bringing parents/family members that express bigotry,’ because ‘Queer, Black, and Indigenous members should not have to avoid common spaces because of homophobic or racist parents/family members.’
Janet Gilmore, Senior Director of Strategic Communications at the University responding to the new rules, told the dailymail the house is ‘not campus operated,’ meaning ‘it is not the role of the campus to comment.’
Gilmore also said the University does have it’s own Theme Programs, but they have ‘no such policies like the one alleged in the Reddit image,’ and stated ‘Cal Housing Theme Programs do not discriminate on the basis of race, consistent with UC and campus policy.’
‘As this involves an off-campus non-affiliated landlord, the campus has no ability under the Code of Student Conduct to discipline the landlord.’
Berkeley co-op bans WHITE PEOPLE from common areas to ‘avoid white violence and presence’ – and all students trying to sign in to building are asked to declare their race pic.twitter.com/Yv8D0sKQbX
— mhdz (@Iatinpatriot) August 19, 2022
Under BSC’s antidiscrimination policy, ‘acts are prohibited if they discriminate against any BSC community members’ on the basis of qualities such as age, gender and sexual orientation.
Stephen Ross, cooperative experience manager for the Berkeley Student Cooperative, told The Fix that the house’s rules are not ‘official policy.’
‘White people can and do live in POC house, but the focus for POC house is providing a safe and supportive living environment for people of color,’ said Ross.
But Ross also said the Person of Color Theme House has it’s ‘own culture and practices,’ and the focus of the house is to provide ‘a safe and supportive living environment for people of color.’
Adding, ‘While the members who choose to live in POC house cannot avoid every racist experience, living in POC house gives the members who live there a safe space to process their experiences and feel supported in their living environment’.
Ross maintained house members purposefully work towards ‘not making Whiteness central to the experience for members living in the house,’ because some members have been traumatized by the ‘white violence’ mentioned in the rules.
Addressing past racism and discrimination with new discrimination?
Underscoring students desire for a ‘safe space’, Ross pointed to ‘racist and discriminatory remarks made by former President Trump’ and ‘daily experiences of covert and overt racism.’
Houses in the Berkeley Student Cooperative are run by private landlords, meaning the University often feels they don’t need to comment on what they do.
The move comes just weeks after public schools and a teachers union in Minnesota agreed that white teachers in the education system would be laid off before those of color.
The deal states that instead of teacher layoffs or relocations being decided based on seniority – as is typical – schools can ignore that protocol and dismiss senior staff members if otherwise a teacher of color would be laid off.
Many have called the deal unconstitutional, and accused it of addressing past racism with more racism.