Two Sets of Racist Graffiti Found on Campus

On Feb. 7, Diablo Valley College police were notified that racist graffiti disparaging Latino people had appeared in the men’s bathroom of the math building. Three days later, on Feb. 10, police learned that a second piece of hateful graffiti had showed up on a bench beside the lake, this one targeting African Americans. 

In her response to both incidents, President Susan Lamb assured students that, “these markings are not reflective of our values and our commitment to celebrating a diverse and inclusive environment.”

“Incidents such as these compound the trauma that communities of color have experienced for generations,” she wrote to the campus community. “Let’s all work together to ensure that we are supporting each other in creating safe and supportive spaces that promote belonging.“ 

In the month since the incidents occurred, no suspects have been identified.

“There’s really not a lot that we can go on,” said DVC’s Police Lt. Kathryn McDonald. “Something like this [is] what we would refer to as a ‘cold crime.’”

Cold crimes, according to McDonald, are incidents in which police possess no solid description of their subject, a wide time frame in which the crime could have taken place, and no pattern of crimes to track the perpetrator’s behavior or location.

“We’ve had ones in the past, years ago, where we were seeing a repeat pattern in the same bathroom,” said McDonald, referring to prior graffiti at DVC. “But this is a one and done, so we don’t have all that to go on.”

While police said there’s no indication that the two acts of vandalism are related, they’re the latest in a yearslong trend of racist graffiti targeting students at DVC. 

A similar form of vandalism in 2019 sparked student walkouts that led to the creation of the school’s Racial Justice Task Force. A second incident that occurred that same year prompted the district to expand its use of security cameras.

As far back as 2016, members of the hate group Identity Evropa were known to put up white supremacist posters on campus. 

McDonald as well as some longtime DVC faculty members told The Inquirer these types of incidents happen once a semester, on average. 

“As far as I know, it began before I even began working here,” said Anthony Gonzales, an English professor and coordinator for the Puente program. 

“This is my tenth year teaching here at DVC, but some of the stories I’ve heard [are that] there were racist and even racially charged incidents before then.”

Students expressed mixed reactions to last month’s vandalism. Jordan Martinez, a public health major, said he still felt safe on campus despite the jarring messages of racism.

“I see it as pretty cowardly,” Martinez said. “You write it, but you won’t say it to someone’s face.”

He added, “The whole reason why they do it is because they want it to bother you. So, it’s like, if you don’t give them that thing that they want you to give, then they’re not doing anything.”

Malia Perry, a kinesiology major, said she was unsurprised by the attack, which indicated persistent racial distrust in the community. 

“I feel like there’s definitely a bubble and people really need to say stuff,” Perry said, “and I just feel that people are not willing to really press on the issues that are happening all around us. 

“Just because you’re in a nice, (somewhat) rich area doesn’t mean that racial issues can’t occur.”

Dr. Sangha Niyogi, a sociology professor and co-leader of DVC’s Social Justice Program, shared similar concerns and tried to offer insight as to why racist incidents keep happening at DVC.

“We’re the home of the Black Panthers, the Third World Liberation movement, how can it possibly happen here? It reveals that we are in our bubbles, and that to some extent you do see the pendulum swing,” Niyogi said. 

“You have moments like the mobilization after the George Floyd murder, where you saw thousands of people marching in the streets, and then the backlash,” she added. 

Gonzales said students and teachers alike can move forward from events like these by engaging more deeply with the issues.

“The consistent messaging in these incidents of vandalism at DVC is that certain people aren’t welcome here,” he said.

“That’s the message that they’re trying to convey, and that’s not based on any policy. It’s somebody’s beliefs, somebody’s ideology that they’ve been taught, and so I think it’s up to us to un-teach that.”