In the Feb. 27 issue of the Vanguard, Community Development Major Justice McPherson, a self-identifying student of color, alleged that when Student Body President Mary Cunningham argues that raising the GPA requirement to get into PSU would disproportionately impact communities of color, she perpetuates the stereotype that people of color are intellectually inferior. I am afraid that Mr. McPherson’s inability to see the way that people of color are consistently shut out of higher education may be due to the fact that he is blinded by the bright sun shining off all the white faces we have here at Portland State.
I urge Mr. McPherson to look at the demographics of our school: PSU boasts the highest percentage of students of color in the state of Oregon, but the number of Chicano and African American students here is drastically low when compared to the number of people from these backgrounds living in this state. People of color are even more sparsely found in faculty and administrative positions. These disproportions are true of colleges all over the county, not just here at PSU.
I, too, am a student of color and will not tolerate anyone questioning my intelligence or legitimacy because of my racial background, but I also know that not pointing out institutionalized racism where it does exist disempowers my community and me. When we ignore realities like racial profiling, hate crimes, underfunded inner-city public schools, class stratification, English-only laws, lack of political representation, the prison industrial complex, the exploitation of migrant farm workers, gentrification and community displacement, racially-biased standardized tests and the rest of the bullshit we deal with on a day to day basis, we cease challenging the status quo and end up embracing all of that things that have oppressed our communities.
Mr. McPherson has taken it upon himself to speak on behalf of all people of color, while his stances represent those of an extremely minute population within our community. He and the other sell-outs like him back themselves into a dangerous corner when they claim, “we minorities should pull ourselves up by our boot straps.” This mentality assumes a couple of things: First, that we haven’t been trying, and second, that doing things like challenging a GPA requirement that will limit the ability of members of our community to receive a college education isn’t doing this.
When we cease to acknowledge that institutional barriers that bar access to higher education for people of color do exist, the only argument left for us to explain the disproportionately low representation of people of color in college is intellectual inferiority. So, Mr. McPherson, the question is: Are you ready and willing to accept this bigoted statement on behalf of our entire community?
ASPSU Multicultural Affairs