Student group combats prejudice

Danielle Directo

Standing Together Opposing Prejudice (STOP), a new multicultural student organization, held an interactive speaking event yesterday in front of Jerome Richfield Hall in order to raise awareness about discrimination and encourage students to stop using racial slurs in their everyday speech.

Speech professor Monica Turner addressed the crowd that gathered to listen before the student group members took turns speaking to the audience about their experiences in facing discrimination.

“Our progress depends on you,” said Prof. Turner, who has been mentoring the students in their efforts.

The group also handed out fliers that read, “Boycott the N-word” and put up an installation lined with caution tape and poster boards for students to write personal accounts of how they have been discriminated against.

Craig Coleman, a graduating communications senior, was walking by the event when he and another friend stopped to see what was happening. The presentation was an educational one that “opened his eyes,” he said.

Victoria Randall, a freshman English major, stopped at the poster boards and added her own story. She felt it was important that STOP was educating the community because some people don’t realize that problems such as racism still exist.

Sophomore biology major Ashkan Foroudhi said some students might not be aware that incidents like Butler’s still occur in this day and age and admitted that he himself “would fall into the category of people oblivious to these things.”

“I don’t think a lot of people realize that this stuff happens,” Foroudhi said. “(The event) might just be an eye opener to a lot of students,” he said, as well as a “supportive statement” to those who have experienced discrimination. Other students who have been harassed may not know that there are others who have gone through similar experiences, and Foroudhi said the event was a way to show that they are not the only ones.

Foroudhi said that the group is promoting the eradication of racial slurs because the more people use them, the more acceptable they seem.

“We can’t change the way people are going to talk,” he said. “We’re just encouraging them (to use them more frequently).”

STOP originally began as a letter writing campaign on the behalf of undecided freshman Eric Butler, who was called racist names by a customer while he was working at the Vons grocery store located at the corner of Nordhoff and Reseda.

It was a usual day of work, he said, and he had gone out into the parking lot to collect shopping carts. He asked one customer, an older white male, if he wanted help returning his cart, Butler said. As he approached him, Butler said the man yelled, “Get the fuck away from me, nigger.”

“He seemed very dangerous and I felt so unprotected,” Butler said. When he reported the incident to his manager, he was instead criticized on his appearance and his work ethic, he said. Upset by the manager’s indifference to what had happened, he wrote a letter to the company but nothing has been done, he said. Butler now no longer works at the store.

When other students heard about Butler’s story and the lack of support he received from his workplace, they decided to write letters to Vons to bring awareness to the situation. Their efforts quickly snowballed into a student-founded organization aimed at raising awareness and promoting equality in CSUN community, said Prof. Turner.

“He was shocked that people cared, and that says a lot about the state of our humanity,” Prof. Turner said.

“They’re really taking the initiative,” said Prof. Turner about the students. In academics, “we do a lot of theorizing and not a whole lot of actualizing, and (STOP) is a merger between theory and practice,” she said.