Students at California Baptist University gathered on campus Oct. 9 to send a counter-message to a racially charged viral video they say is giving the private Christian school controlled by the California Southern Baptist Convention a bad name.
According to the campus publication The Banner, the gathering was organized on Twitter in response to a social media firestorm that began when two Cal Baptist students were identified in a video showing one of the women throwing a beverage on two African-American men at a preseason Los Angeles Lakers game Oct. 4 at Citizens Bank Arena in Ontario, Calif., a half-hour drive from Riverside, where the university is based.
The assailant is heard using profanity and telling the men “this is for the national anthem.” The video caption reads: “‘Take a kneel for the land of the slaves.’ Disrespect that flag and our country and that’s how we’ll react.”
According to the Riverside Press-Enterprise, the two men refused to stand during the national anthem prior to the game and exchanged words with a group of men who were sitting in seats that actually belonged to them. Security intervened and everything was calm until the end of the fourth quarter, when a woman threw a drink on them while walking by on her way out of the arena.
The men said they didn’t see the woman’s face but saw her and another woman running upstairs and chased them outside the arena. There they were accosted by a white middle-aged man, ordered to sit on a curb while police questioned the white man and threatened with arrest if they did not leave. They have retained legal counsel, who are pursuing it as a civil rights issue.
University officials said California Baptist University does not condone or support the behavior depicted in the video, has initiated an investigation and will take “appropriate action.”
University President Ronald Ellis said students found in violation of the university’s code of conduct “are subject to disciplinary consequences that may include expulsion.”
A reported 20 to 30 students responded Monday with a “Kneel on the Seal” demonstration on campus to draw attention to both the incident and racism in general, as well as to pray for the two students who were identified by name and pilloried on social media.
“We were able to explain what it’s like to experience racism to those who have never dealt with it,” event organizer Krysta Hawkins told the Enterprise-Express.
Hawkins, a senior at Cal Baptist, said the school and its students have been unfairly targeted because of a single incident.
“I feel like our school is being judged and being looked at in a negative light, but we want to redirect that into another light,” she told the newspaper. “We’re going to fight back with positivity in our faith.”