If Scripps College is the most racist college in the United States, then its neighbor Pitzer College comes in a close second. After a few of its students refused to room with their white peers earlier in the school year, a new controversy arose when anonymous students spray-painted the following on the free wall at Mead Hall: “White Girl, take off your hoops!!!”
When a student emailed the whole student body about what this meant, Alegria Martinez, a Pitzer College Resident Assistant (RA) and a member of the Latinx Student Union, wrote the following:
[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 student, Jacquelyn Aguilera, followed Martinez’s email with her own tirade:
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.
Contrary to what these girls suggest about hoop earrings being a staple in non-white cultures, they have been a staple in ancient cultures like Greece, Rome, Egypt, and Sumer. According to a thoroughly researched article by Susan Ward of LoveToKnow:
In antiquity, earrings were one of the most popular forms of jewelry. The crescent-shaped gold hoops worn by Sumerian women around 2500 B.C.E. are the earliest earrings for which there is archaeological evidence. By 1000 B.C.E., tapered hoop (also known as boat-shaped) earrings, most commonly of gold but also of silver and bronze, had spread throughout the Aegean world and Western Asia. In Crete and Cyprus, earrings were embellished with twisted gold wire, clusters of beads, and pendants stamped out of thin sheet gold.
In the first millennium B.C.E., Etruscan and Greek goldsmiths brought new refinement and artistry to earrings, which were valued as both an adornment and a sign of wealth. Variations on the hoop were the so-called leech earring, a thick tube secured by a hidden wire, and the Etruscan box-type earring, which encased the earlobe in a wide horizontal cylinder. Disk earrings, with pendants in the form of amphorae (ancient Greek jars), figures of Eros, and decorative beads and chains, were another popular form, joined about 330 B.C.E. by twisted gold hoops with animal-head finials. All of these forms were stamped out of thin sheets of gold and decorated with fine palmettes, scrolls, and flowers in twisted wire and granulation; such earrings were fairly light in weight, but gave an extremely rich effect.
Roman earrings were similar to Etruscan styles until the first century C.E., when new styles with disks and pendants mounted on s-shaped ear hooks appeared. Colored stones and pearls were favored, and earring styles proliferated to satisfy the Roman taste for ostentatious display. At its height, the Roman Empire had the effect of standardizing styles of jewelry over much of the known world; after the center of influence shifted to Byzantium (Constantinople) in C.E. 330, and Roman influence began to decline, local variations once more emerged. Characteristic Byzantine earrings were plain gold hoops with multiple pearl pendants hung on chains, and crescent-shaped earrings of gold filigree.
By the logic of these Pitzer students, they are engaging in cultural appropriation by taking hoop earrings as their own since they originated in ancient Western and Middle Eastern civilizations. However, these students are deliberately lying about the history of hoop earrings and they do not care. In their mind, as long as they feel morally superior and righteous by telling white students what to wear and how to dress, they will justify their racism until they are blue in the face.
“If you didn’t create the culture as a coping mechanism for marginalization, take off those hoops.”
Jacquelyn Aguilera, student at Pitzer College
Pitzer College claims that diversity is one of its community values. Given their student body’s penchant for racism, this claim seems to get lost in the facts.