At Pitzer College in Claremont, California, there's a wall on the side of a dormitory that's reserved for free speech artwork and messages.
Recently, some Latino students painted the message, “White Girl, take off your hoops!!!” — or more precisely "your hoop earrings" — according to a student publication, the Claremont Independent.
But when a white student was confused by the message, the paper reported that Alegria Martinez — a resident assistant and active member of the Latinx Student Union at the college — jumped into an email thread to the entire student body and explained that the wall message stems from frustration over cultural appropriation:
[T]he art was created by myself and a few other WOC [women of color] after being tired and annoyed with the reoccuring [sic] theme of white women appropriating styles … that belong to the black and brown folks who created the culture. The culture actually comes from a historical background of oppression and exclusion. The black and brown bodies who typically wear hooped earrings, (and other accessories like winged eyeliner, gold name plate necklaces, etc) are typically viewed as ghetto, and are not taken seriously by others in their daily lives. Because of this, I see our winged eyeliner, lined lips, and big hoop earrings serving as symbols [and] as an everyday act of resistance, especially here at the Claremont Colleges. Meanwhile we wonder, why should white girls be able to take part in this culture (wearing hoop earrings just being one case of it) and be seen as cute/aesthetic/ethnic? White people have actually exploited the culture and made it into fashion.
Another Pitzer student, Jacquelyn Aguilera, joined the email thread and said she was part of the message's creation — and shot off some stern orders:
If you didn’t create the culture as a coping mechanism for marginalization, take off those hoops, if your feminism isn’t intersectional take off those hoops, if you try to wear mi cultura when the creators can no longer afford it, take off those hoops, if you are incapable of using a search engine and expect other people to educate you, take off those hoops, if you can’t pronounce my name or spell it … take off those hoops / I use "those" instead of "your" because hoops were never "yours" to begin with.
Martinez and Aguilera declined requests to elaborate on their comments, the Independent said. But a number of folks did so in the article's comment section — and many weren't kind to the two students.
"Alegria Martinez and Jacquelyn Aguilera can’t use computers, can’t drive automobiles, can’t watch television, can’t ride trains, can’t use electricity, no electric lights, no airplane travel, no internet — discovered/invented by Americans and Europeans," one commenter wrote. "If they use them it’s 'cultural appropriation.' ”
Another commenter said: "Please don’t dye your hair blonde or straighten it. BTW in America hoops are for anyone that desire to wear them. Telling people what they can’t do will make them all do it. I can’t stop laughing."
"I guess being a kook is part of Pitzer’s admissions criteria," another commenter wrote. "Will take this college off my list."
Yet another commenter declared the following: "If I was a white girl at this school, I’d wear my hoops to every class."