Friday night, I wasn’t really feeling well. I didn’t really feel like going out and socializing, and my friends had asked me to help with them with a workshop for the womxn of color conference since I didn’t submit my workshop on time. I went over to my friend’s place, on the early block of Segovia Road, and we were eating and working on our workshop with the door open, playing music.
Fireworks are really common in Isla Vista, I always hear them and get scared because loud noises freak me out, I usually think something bad is happening. I don’t know why my body didn’t react like usual to these noises in the background, maybe because I was so invested in the workshop or our music was loud, but the noises were getting louder. I then got a call from my friend telling me that there are gunshots and he needs to get to my place. I live right by a lot of sororities, but I wasn’t there at the time and he happened to be on the street I was on, so I texted him the address to come. He called me again telling me there were too many cops and he couldn’t get to my place.
Just like the riots last month, I ran outside to see. I don’t know why I do these things, but I did. I saw the cops, heard more gunshots, and walked inside and closed the door.
Then I saw a slew of Facebook posts alerting everyone to stay inside. I didn’t really know what was going on, until a few hours later when I saw a video about how a man wanted to kill women for not sleeping with him. He started talking about his “Day of Retribution” and it slowly dawned on everyone in the room what was happening.
“This is going to be national news tomorrow.” And we all stayed up for the rest of the night going in and out of discussions on how these are the men we’re surrounded by, how we can’t do our workshop at a conference where womxn of color are all congregating, how we can’t go to sleep without being all next to each other. A lot of us still can’t.
The weekend was a whirlwind of media distortions, white feminists, and triggering Facebook posts. The candlelight vigils were held by people we had protested for upholding rape culture two nights before, the resources were provided by institutions that had triggered us, and the increased police and media news truck presence in Isla Vista were all representations of how this level of violence has been morphed and distorted by the people in and outside our community.
My friends and I haven’t been able to go on Facebook without seeing his face and quotes about how he feels about women, my friends and I haven’t been able to pass through our town without seeing news trucks or crime scenes, and people who are outside our community are commenting on it as if they’re experts.
They’re not. They don’t understand that two days before the shooting, our Associated Students swore in their new officers, officers that had continuously silenced many of us in discussing rights and representations for survivors. They don’t understand that our campus has continuously ignored the needs of marginalized students and families, and it’s not any different now. Where are the accessible resources for the Spanish-speaking families in our town? Where are the safe spaces for survivors? Why is no one listening to the feminists in IV when we tell our experiences? Why is no one listening when we’ve been dealing with violence and trauma in this town, where are you all when that’s happening everyday?
This town was never safe. And the scariest part for me is not only that it took dead bodies for people to start talking about whiteness and male entitlement, but that this killer isn’t the only man in our town who believes this. He’s not the only man in this country who thinks like this.
The people looking in at what has happened, who are painting him as a senseless madman, are stigmatizing millions of people who have mental health issues, many of which are created by acts of violence like this.
To all the people on the outside looking in, how can you be in solidarity with us?
– Get out of our town. Unless you’re here to stay and help us heal from this, leave. I don’t know when I can walk back into IV, when I can go back to IV deli mart or get a donut from 7-11 again, but it’s not any time soon, and you’re going to be onto the next story. You don’t understand what that’s like.
– Stop taking opportune times to care about the violence in our community. Care about gun control always. Care about racism, misogyny, and male entitlement always, and respect those who have continuously been doing work to end it. Listen to womxn and listen to survivors.
– Stop commenting on our academic integrity. This goes for UCSB folks, too. That’s incredibly classist and problematic. Violence that happens in lower income schools, in schools that are not prioritized and don’t have access to upholding academic integrity, is just as important.
– Please respect all of these people equally. Please stop lumping the API men together as one while treating the three other people as separate entities. These were 6 different human beings.
– Please don’t be hesitant to call this guy a terrorist because he’s white/white-passing. This was an act of terror, and this is a terrorist attack on our community.
– Stop praising the police as much as you are. Yes, there were first responders and people who addressed this immediately, but the way the police acts in racialized and gendered matters made them not catch this guy when he was first called in as a threat by his own family. These are the same police forces that are putting a gang injunction on our community, where black and brown folks are delegated threats with no real backing. These are the same police that are very unsupportive of survivors of sexual assault, of queer folks and trans* folks, of all (not white-passing) people of color, that enact violence on students all the time.
I also would like to say, as a disclaimer, that there are many people from within the UCSB community that are going to write about how this article is trying to push social justice agendas, and while I find that inappropriate, that’s fine. My analysis of this event isn’t to push an agenda, it’s in line with how we create a society that lets men get away with these acts of violence, and I’m upset that my friends and I have been so silenced in our activism that we have been given little power to change it.
I cringe every time I hear sirens, I can’t be alone for long amounts of time, but I get exhausted being reminded of the violence in our communities. I haven’t had a good night’s sleep and I don’t think I will for a while. A real tragedy hit our community. Our town is small and this act of violence and trauma is going to be felt for a while. But what’s more of a tragedy is that all eyes that are on us right now are going to move on in a few days and this might very well happen at another school sometime soon. What’s more of a tragedy is that violence isn’t new to Isla Vista, it’s just hidden behind a beachy exterior.
To George Chen, Katie Cooper, James Hong, Chris Ross Michaels-Martinez, David Wang, Veronika Weiss, and all the people still healing in the hospital:
I’m so sorry that our society grew a man like Elliot Rodger. I’m sorry we couldn’t stop him. I’m sorry that you invested yourself in UCSB and weren’t able to properly finish. I’m sorry to your friends for losing you without them being able to tell you goodbye. I’m sorry for how the world is watching your family heal. I’m sorry to your parents, the ones that invested in this expensive education, the ones that immigrated, ripped their world in two, to create a safe life for you. I’m sorry for contributing myself to media scrutiny and capitalism. And I’m sorry that despite all the memorials, flowers, lit candles, and tears shed, the truth remains that your lives were still taken way too early.
I hope that this isn’t like the rest of the tragedies that look like this, that this won’t happen again, and I hope that we, as the IV community, can do you all justice.
Rest in power // love and solidarity.
Written by Anisha Ahuja
Cover image courtesy of the LA Times, body image courtesy of the author