On February 26, 2021, Black Power Matters held their third annual public event: Black Power STILL Matters. They focused on how, now in 2021, Black power still matters even after the recent political change, COVID-19, and unremitting police brutality. Due to the ongoing pandemic, the event was held online on the commonly used platform: Zoom.
Anyone who wanted to use their voice in this event and have powerful conversations were welcome, but unfortunately there were some individuals who decided to use their presence to interrupt this event by Zoom bombing. According to the TechTarget website, “Zoombombing is a type of cyber-harassment in which an individual or a group of unwanted and uninvited users interrupt online meetings over the Zoom video conference app.” In this case, an unwanted group of individuals had come into this event to racially harass those who were there to talk about how Black power still matters.
“There were a couple people who were in there spamming the chat and constantly saying racial slurs which caused us to have to disable the chat and disable the microphones,” said Jaimee Ellison (senior, Kinesiology) who was a speaker at this event due to her role as the co-founder of Turlock Black Lives Matter. “Personally, it didn't really bother me. I think the thing that bothered me the most about it was having to adjust everything.” Jaimee followed up with, “I’m just so used to all that stuff [racial discrimination], it was like whatever, another day, but the thing that annoyed me the most was just having to basically mute everyone and not have it open as I wanted it to be. So I think that's what made me a little sad and mad. Not necessarily the Zoom bombing itself.” This upset a lot of the event goers not only because of the interruption but the fact that now this event no longer had a free open discussion. With mics being turned off and the chat disabled, you now had to use the Zoom function of raising your hand to speak and then you would get your mic turned on.
Stanislaus State is not the first school to experience racial discriminatory Zoom bombings. Penn State, Rutgers University, University of Wyoming, and Salt Lake Community College are just a few examples of schools who experienced Zoom bombings, and most of these took place during Black History month.
“I was horrified, deeply saddened and angered that members of our campus community and others were subjected to such despicable acts that were committed during a gathering that was meant to be a safe and affirming environment where those who’ve been marginalized and disenfranchised and their allies could come together to joyously celebrate Black History Month,” said President Elllen Junn in response to this incident. “I also reached out to our Chief of Police to learn if we were able to identify the perpetrators and hold them responsible for the cyber-racist attacks.” Cyber attacks have now become the norm in this new age of technology and strictly online settings. People are online more than ever, and with that comes this new threat of Zoom bombing.
After this incident occurred, President Junn stated that she wanted her first course of action to ensure our black faculty, staff, students and community members and allies felt supported. She also provided resources to address any feelings of fear, anxiety, rage, shock, or confusion they may experience as a result of this situation. “It was important to me to communicate with our campus community members, especially those who participated in the event, to let them know the vile actions that took place are reprehensible. The disruption and trauma caused was inexcusable and antithetical to Stan State’s central values and commitment to fostering a welcoming environment that is diverse, equitable and inclusive,” stated President Junn.
So what does this mean for future events such as this one? Jaimee advises people to continue with events like this. What she hopes to see is better monitoring of people and maybe not having these events so open to the public, perhaps by having people register to attend the event instead. President Junn advises people, “We must continue to stand strong and united against these appalling incidents and show that our community will not tolerate hate-filled attacks. I encourage our Warrior family to reach out to each other, listen, connect and embrace your colleagues and peers across campus.”
“When you're a person of color, it's pretty much an experience you know already,” Jaimee says, reminding us that this isn't a new occurrence. Yes, Zoom bombing is a new age term with everything being online, but before, these events would be held at an open space where anyone can just walk in and cause the same problems. This isn’t a new problem. Racial discrimination has always been here. Jaimee closes her sentiment with a message to the people who hijacked this event saying, “What did that accomplish? It is just so weird to me that someone would take time out of their day to do that. So why? There is so much effort put into the Zoom bombing for what outcome? It honestly just gets old.”
Currently the school has not released any updates in regards to this event, but in the meantime, President Junn advises both students and faculty of Stanislaus State, "If anyone witnesses or experiences cyberattacks, please speak up and report it. Finally, we encourage campus community members to increase their understanding of preventive technology to try to reduce the ability of attackers from accessing our virtual classes, meetings and events.”
For more information on securing future Zoom events, you can visit the information given from the Office of Information Technology on the Stanislaus State website. For those affected by this event or situations like this in general, you can visit the Psychological Counseling Services on the Stanislaus State Website as well.