On February 17, 2020, Brianna Ghanbari, age 21, and a current UIUC student, posted a series of screenshots regarding a private conversation between several KAMS workers. In this conversation, one of the (now former) employees is shown describing Hispanics as “rowdy” individuals and people who are too “cheap/ broke to pay $6 for a modelo.” He also belittles those not involved in Greek life referring to them as “geeds,” a slurred and derogatory term used to describe the non-Greek affiliated members on a college campus.*
Being a former employee herself, Brianna still had access to this group chat, and chose to make this conversation public in order to inform her friends of the kinds of people KAMS, a bar very rooted in the UIUC campus “life-style,” hires, and the treatment permitted towards people of color, specifically towards Hispanics/Latinxs. She states that his “remarks were unnecessary” and many on social media expressed the same thing.
Many also called for both the university and KAMS themselves to take action and to punish this individual. Others also started a Facebook event [ROWDY (HISPANIC) TAKEOVER] in direct protest of what was said. And (to my surprise) KAMS released a statement yesterday, Feb. 19, stating that the individual was terminated and apologized for the incident:
While behaviors like this are not new to many people of color, these situations highly impact the safety of students on campus, especially on one that promises inclusion and diversity. Just last semester there was another “public” incident where a noose was found in the elevator of Allen Hall. While the individual involved did get arrested, many were angry at the fact that this incident happened, but it was even more disturbing the amount of time the university took to release any form of a statement, and whether the individual was officially expelled was kept private.** While this time it may have been only “one” person, this sort of behavior deeply impacts the way marginalized groups of people succeed in higher education and later on in life. While this specific event did go more “viral,” there are countless incidents other students on this campus experience everyday that go unreported and contribute to the overall feeling of exclusion people of color endure.
I expect the university to not release anything, as they have a tendency to neglect these behaviors. But as students on this campus, these racist behaviors should be called out, whether the way Brianna did it, or simply writing your opinion (like I’m doing here). Fortunately, some actions were taken against Fernandez. Even though he was the one saying these racist comments, those who theoretically let him did not receive any punishment at all. This perpetuates a complacent behavior that’s just as bad as Fernandez’s actions. This week while we continue to celebrate the Latinx/Hispanic impact on campus through the Mural Installation (article here), we must also realize that the same fight still continues.
* Geed. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=geed.
** Rubio, K. (2020, February 19). Students plan Kams boycott over "racist remarks" from employees. Retrieved from https://www.wcia.com/news/students-plan-kams-boycott-over-racist-remarks-from-employees/.