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The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

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The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

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Racist remarks causes distress within Santa Barbara community

Claire Geriak
The Garden and Micheltorena street signs glow posted across from the Alameda Park on Sept. 24 in Santa Barbara, Calif. Just a week before, a rally was held outside of a former USCB professors apartment complex, after a video was released of the professor saying racist remarks.

From people traveling all the way from Orange County, to locals from Santa Barbara, the streets of Garden and Micheltorena were packed the night of Sunday, Sep. 17. For two hours, protesters marched and showed their support after a video went viral of a woman making racial slurs towards a Hispanic man. 

Jeanne Umana, a former professor at the University of California Santa Barbara, is seen in the video telling Luis Cervantes, a Hispanic construction worker, “I live here, I am an American, you’re a Tijuanan,” as well as knocking the phone from his hands and trespassing into the property he was working in.

After photos and videos of the protest spread on social media, City College staff and students have shared their thoughts on the incident. 

Leslie Marin Juarez, Dream Center student program advisor, discussed her life as a first generation Latina whose father also works in construction. 

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“I often have conversations with my parents because you never know what might happen,” Juarez said, explaining how because of their language barrier, she tries to explain things they might not understand, like the protest after seeing it on the news. 

“It’s unfortunate that it’s happening, history keeps repeating itself in a way,” Juarez said. “ It’s 2023 and it’s still happening.” 

Juarez works in the Dream Center, a resource for undocumented students and students of color. After the recent events, Juarez hopes to provide resources, like therapy, for students who were affected, and additionally training for allies to help foster awareness.

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“Everyone should deserve the right of belonging, especially on this campus,” Juraez said. “ I try to remind everyone of that, especially first generation students. I try to remind them constantly, that regardless of whatever they have heard in the past, that it’s not true, that education is a place for everyone.”

Juarez grew up in Santa Barbara and Santa Paula, and her life experiences have helped her understand Hispanic students.

“Being American does not look just one way,” she said, expressing how she is glad that the Hispanic community took action. 

“We should continue uniting those who feel comfortable to use our voice, to give a voice to the voiceless,” Juarez said. “To show up against hatred and use their voices to let people know this is not okay.”

Alicia Vargas, the mother of City College graduate Jessica Beltran, received videos and photos of the protest from her sister, who lives just down the street of Garden and Micheltorena. 

“I was upset, I wanted to go out there and be a part of it,” Beltran said, after watching the protest from live streams on Facebook.

Vargas shared similar feelings, being angry and sad at the incident, but grateful for the peaceful protest. 

Vargas remembers protests happening years prior with her daughter, wanting to take her sons to the most recent ones, as well as the street vendors being shut down by cops during the summer. 

“It showed that racism is still pretty prevalent in Santa Barbara,” Vargas said. “They’re just trying to support their kids, their wife, keep a house and keep their kids fed and clothed.” 

Vargas and Beltran, both Hispanic natives to Santa Barbara, know the struggles of keeping a roof over their heads. 

“Even American born Hispanics are down on their luck and the only job they can take is in construction to make a living.” Vargas said. “It’s not an easy job, you’re out there for ten hours every day trying to finish a job in a time crunch.”

The Santa Barbara Police Department released a statement on Wednesday, Sep. 20, referring the case to the Santa Barbara District’s Attorney Office, and recommending Umana be charged with trespassing, battery on a person, and hate crime, but has made no official charges as of yet.

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