On Sunday, Latino Rebels received the following email from Maria Cotera of the University of Michigan:
Last week, incoming University of Michigan Latinx students and their families were subjected to an event that is symptomatic of these troubled times. They were taking part in Assisting Latina/os to Maximize Achievement (ALMA), a student-run orientation program that the Latina/o Studies Program at UM has supported for many years. One of their activities was to paint “the rock” (on Washtenaw and Hill) a tradition that (white) students have participated in for generations. This was an important symbolic gesture, meant to convey to them through that time honored space-marking act, that they too belonged here. Unfortunately overnight, someone (or a group of people) decided to send a different message to these incoming freshmen: they covered ALMA’s message with white paint and the words: F*ck Latinos and MAGA (Make America Great Again).
This event reminds us that no matter how often University administrators champion diversity, there are still individuals and groups on campus and off who would prefer that we not exist, indeed who believe that “Making America Great Again” requires removing all those who do not fit with their understanding of what “America” is.
Cotera’s email included a Facebook post from La Casa, a University of Michigan group for the university’s Latinx community. The post said the following, “It’s disappointing and hurtful to see our incoming and returning LatinX students be disrespected by these slurs and slogan as they seek for a higher education at University of Michigan. This just shows how the work we do here is necessary and important. We need to come together more than ever and support each other. La Casa stands with you and supports you. It is a shame this only occurred within 24 hrs of the first picture and no response has been made by the University.”
The post also included this photo:
On September 2, the university’s Vice Provost for Equity & Inclusion wrote this letter in response to the graffiti:
To the Latinx Community at the University of Michigan,
As many of you know, an incident occurred near our campus yesterday where a racist statement, directed toward Latinos, was written on the Rock.
First and foremost, I’m sorry for the pain and anger that has occurred by this expression of hate. These actions do not represent our University and have no place in our community. I personally denounce the incident and the individual(s) who painted this hateful message.
Although it appears this message was in response to the work of the U-M student organization ALMA (Assisting Latinos to Maximize Achievement) and their efforts in building a welcoming and supportive community for Latinx students, faculty, and staff—we will not let it overshadow these extraordinary efforts.
While the incident is despicable and disappointing, it will not impact my, or my office’s efforts in continuing to create a diverse, equitable and inclusive University community, one where all members, including our Latinx community, have an opportunity to reach their absolute potential.
Our unwavering commitment to these efforts signifies our unity in achieving our mission and goals, as well as our resistance towards messages of hate. I hope each of you will take a similar position.
While you have persevered through far greater obstacles, please take comfort in knowing this is your University, which includes a community of individuals who support you.
Dr. Robert Sellers
Vice Provost for Equity & Inclusion
Chief Diversity Officer