Pitzer College, located in Claremont, CA, lets students freely express themselves on its free speech wall, quite literally, a brick wall where people can spray paint, draw, or write their feelings out in the open.
Three students — Alegria Martinez, Jacquelyn Aguilera, and Estefania Gallo-Gonzalez — did just that, in defense of their culture. The ladies painted the words "White Girl, Take Off Your Hoops!!!" in yellow on the wall, which of course received both praise and lots of criticism.
The Claremont Independent first discussed the mural and its meaning, and dangerously published the artists' names without their consent. The three women later clapped back in an article for Latino Rebels, where they cleared up any confusion on the meaning of the message. "The mural, a free speech piece of art, was not about banning white people from wearing hoop earrings but rather highlighting how women of color feel about cultural appropriation and the invisibility of institutional issues they face," they explained. "The true meaning of the mural was to reflect the discrimination that women and nonbinary femmes of color face on college campuses when they are rendered invisible. The mural was not meant to police white women but serve as a form of education."
The ladies continued by explaining WOC need to conform to higher education's standards, or a norm previously set in place.
"As long as we conform to their standards, our existences can be legitimized, our voices can be heard and our contributions can be deemed as worthy by the white classmates and faculty that dominate academic spaces," the letter explained. Thus, these groups feel as if they are considered subcategories: "Women and nonbinary femmes of color are overlooked as the institution dismisses the severity of their issues and refuses to prioritize their social and academic survival. There is a lack of established clubs or spaces that acknowledge, center, and uplift women of color, queer women of color, trans people of color, and nonbinary femmes of color."
The artists' letter certainly was triggered by the hoops scenario, but means much more. The jewelry represents how the school used "women of color to promote diversity through publicizing our achievements for institutional benefit." Luckily, the ladies proposed some solutions to the ongoing issue, such as "an establishment of institutionalized spaces for working class women and nonbinary students of color."