The People’s Caucus response to ‘Zoom-bombing’ incident

May 17, 2020, 11:09 p.m.

As part of our campaign for the Associated Students of Stanford University (ASSU) Undergraduate Senate elections, the People’s Caucus planned a virtual rally on Saturday alongside the ASSU Executive candidates, Munira Alimire ’22 and Vianna Vo ’21, and another student running for Senate, Danny Nguyen ’22. We planned this rally with the intention of engaging directly with the members of our communities so we could better represent and serve them. The members of our caucus put a great deal of work and energy into this event to ensure it would be exactly what we envisioned. With the anticipation we had during the week leading up to the event coupled with our excitement to engage with our community, we all joined the call, ready to enjoy the rally. 

However, shortly after we began the event, we were “Zoom-bombed” and interrupted by a group of individuals who said, wrote and drew racist slurs and images across everyone’s shared screens — including but not limited to informing us that they “hate [N-words]” and drawing swastikas. We quickly stopped the session and restarted it a few minutes later, only for one of the individuals to start a mobile screen-share and display automatic weaponry. It was a shocking and traumatizing experience that cut our rally in half and left some of our members unable to continue with the event. We decided, as a caucus, to move forward with a webinar-style call, where the features for non-panelists were restricted. Although we adapted to the situation, the event did not feel the same. Members of our caucus found it hard to focus, and we needed to take time after the webinar to debrief and check in with each other. 

We recognize that this is something that happens to Black people, other marginalized community members and those who shed light and fight the various injustices we face. It was meant to intimidate, silence and demoralize us, as students who refuse to accept social and institutional inequalities. It is very unfortunate and saddening that we had to experience this, along with the members of our communities who were in attendance. 

This incident does not exist in isolation: There is a long and painful history of Stanford students being doxxed — having their identifying information released online, opening them to harassment from racists, anti-Semitic, anti-Black people. This includes a recent incident involving members of the People’s Caucus and current senators having their identifying information republished on alt-right websites. 

This has also been a particularly painful time for Black students at Stanford — with the recent public and high-profile murders of Breonna Taylor, Sean Reed and Ahmaud Arbery, the loss of one of our own community members and the incidents surrounding the Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity. 

As we navigate a virtual Stanford, the anti-Blackness we experienced on campus has only magnified. Not only are we exposed to more violent hatred, but we’re unable to escape it. It’s virtually impossible for our students to protect themselves. If these were normal times, we would be able to turn off our devices and take a break. However, these are not normal times. Our lives exist almost entirely online — with Zoom classes and social media communities — and to leave the internet would mean to leave the support systems we still have. 

This bigotry and similar incidents that have occurred is exactly why the People’s Caucus was formed and why we each are running for ASSU Senate. Black students and students of color at our university and at many other universities experience countless and constant targeted attacks against their personhood, in attempts to scare them away and stop them from pursuing their dreams. Many members of our community believe that anti-Blackness only exists in extreme instances like this, but that simply isn’t true. Anti-Blackness is a structure that shapes the experiences of Black people at Stanford University and around the world — and anti-Blackness is the driving force in microaggressions, stereotypes, bigotry, ignorant comments and other things Black students experience. Experiences like this should not — in any shape or form — become the new normal at a virtual or on-campus Stanford.

However, incidents like this are treated like they’re normal: When we talk about our daily experiences as Black students on campus, many do not care, and the taxing emotional labor of responding, reacting and changing these institutions falls onto Black students themselves. This shouldn’t happen — we are students who have to deal with the worries and fears that all of us are navigating. The students who were affected in this situation shouldn’t have to navigate this situation by ourselves — there should be more robust ways to report hate crimes and receive support when racial violence and attacks occur. 

We need our administrators to stand with us and against hateful actions fueled by anti-Blackness, antisemitism and racism, and to take the necessary actions to ensure that this does not happen again. In addition, we need to hold those who commit acts of racial violence accountable and issue the proper disciplinary actions to show that the Stanford community will not accept any form of racial violence. While we do not know who committed these actions or whether they were Stanford affiliates, we have alerted the necessary authorities who will investigate this for us.

Right now, we are taking the space to process and heal from this, and we hope you are able to as well — below, we’ve listed out some resources that we will turn to and hope you can as well. While we are hurt, we will remain resilient and continue to fight for the end of racial violence and hatred at Stanford. We are determined to ensure attacks like this against our communities at Stanford are completely eliminated. We are so grateful and appreciative of the outpour of love and support that we’ve received from the Stanford community, the ASSU and the Black House, and we will continue to fight until students like us no longer have to experience things like this. 

In solidarity and power,

Daryn Rockett ’23 (she/her)
Emily Nichols ’23 (she/her)
Munira Alimire ’22 
Vianna Vo ’21 (she/her)
Micheal Brown ’22 (he/him)
Alexis Mack ’22 (she/her)
Kobe Hopkins ’22 (she/her)
Princess Vongchanh ’23 (she/they)
Gabby Crooks ’23 (she/her)
Michaela Phan ’23 (she/her)
Alain Perez ’23 (he/him)
Lenny Defoe ’21 (he/him)
Danny Nguyen ’22 (they/them)

The People’s Caucus is a slate of 10 students of color running for ASSU Senate to advocate for social change and the safety of marginalized groups on campus. Follow us on Instagram @thepeoplescaucus_.

Available Resources:

Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS)  is available for students 24/7 at (650) 723-3785 and this link. Students who are off-campus can still contact CAPS as a resource.

CAPS Connects for the Black Community:  You can make an appointment through the Vaden portal to speak in confidence with a Black CAPS staff member for 30 minutes.

The Bridge Peer Counseling Center offers counseling by trained students and can be reached over Zoom.

Black Community Services Center:  This is a resource for any social or academic support. The Black House is a safe space for reflection and dialogue with others.

Reporting an Act of Intolerance can be done at this link.

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