This is Rini Sampath, Student Body President at the University of Southern California.
As Sampath walked home on the night of September 19, a student yelled "You Indian piece of shit!” at her through a frat house window and then proceeded to throw his drink at her and her friends.
The next day, Sampath posted her story on Facebook. Here it is.
Last night, as I was walking back from my friend's apartment, a student screamed out at me through the window of his fraternity house, "You Indian piece of shit!" before hurling his drink at my friends and me. Once his fraternity brothers realized it was me, they began to apologize. This stung even more. Today, as I try to unpack these events, I couldn't quite figure out why their after-the-fact apologies deepened the wound. But one of my friends explained it to me the best this morning: "Because now you know, the first thing they see you as is subhuman." And that's the first thing some students on our campus see when they look at anyone who looks like me.
This was the same fraternity that kicked out a peer of mine from their tailgate after calling him a "fag." That's sickening.
She went on to explain why she felt it was important for her to speak up publicly about her experience:
I'm going public with this because this can't continue. Some people don't believe racism like this can happen on our campus. Some people continue to doubt the need for safe spaces and the need for expanded cultural resource centers or the need for gender neutral bathrooms or the need for diversity in our curriculum or the need for diversity in our professors or the need for diversity in dialogue. And to those who continue to believe we're just playing the "race" card, I ask you this — what's there to win here? A sense of respect? A sense of humanity? A sense of love and compassion for others regardless of how they look like?
This isn't an isolated incident. It happens everywhere. Last week, individuals in a pick-up truck yelled racial slurs at Mizzou's Student Body President, Payton Head. Who knows what will happen to someone who looks like me today?
"You Indian piece of shit" is the type of language attackers have used before brutally murdering someone. Just look at Inderjit Singh Mukker. "You Indian piece of shit" are words used to humiliate someone for who they are. "You Indian piece of shit" continues to ring so loudly in my ears I still can't shake it from me.
Whether racism or sexism or homophobia or transphobia happens on the internet, or behind closed doors, or in a small group setting, or as "just a joke," it's not okay. It's never okay.
I was surrounded by nearly ten of my friends when this happened last night. I'm glad I was, because I don't know what I would have done if I was alone. They consoled me by telling me, "Whatever you do the next morning will be the right thing."
Well, I really don't know what to do. For now, this is my public plea. I don't know if what I have written here is enough, because there aren't enough words in the world to summarize the experiences of people who look like me and what they go through every, single day.
We lost a football game last night, SC. But I think there's something bigger, much bigger that we're losing here. And we have to get it back.
Sampath immediately received an outpouring of support.
Just three days after the incident, Sampath has channelled her experience to start a campus-wide discussion about hate crimes and how to eradicate them. She posted:
We are staring in the face at some of the issues our campus advocacy groups have been fighting for years now. But with the national spotlight upon us, in addition to the dialogues we have started, we must find tangible solutions – and we must continue this process together. Here's my question to you: What can we and what can our administration do on our campus to change this culturally embedded problem?
Please email me at email@example.com with your thoughts so we can continue to create the kind of environment that we all deserve to live in. As we coordinate efforts through various departments and offices, this must be our thought process. Many people have asked how they can help. This is it. We must rise from these moments together. Our student government and I want to hear from you.
Read her full post here:
In a message to BuzzFeed India, Sampath emphasized that her story is a universal one.
This story isn't about me. This story is about the experiences and daily lives of the students and individuals whose voices often do not get heard. These incidents are prevalent on college campuses across the nation within classrooms, in hallways, and more. But many times, we stay silent. Those stories must be heard.
She went on to describe her next steps, as Student Body President, in ensuring safety for students of colour on USC's campus.
Next week, our student government is hosting a forum for our peers to express their own experiences. We can't solve these problems overnight, but by starting a dialogue and encouraging action instead of a bystander attitude, we can move one step forward in creating a cultural shift.
On a policy level, once our student community formulates what institutional changes they would like to see – whether it's more professors of color or more resources for marginalized communities --, our university administration must act to implement it. I encourage all institutions of higher education and all communities to take a look the systems we have set in place that tolerate this type of behavior.