BERKELEY, Ca. – Administrators at the University of California in Berkeley announced on Friday that beginning January 15, 2019, students will be barred from separating white and colored garments at all campus-run laundry facilities.
The stunning decision comes on the heels of a three-week sit-in at the university’s administrative offices where more than four hundred students called for an end to the longstanding tradition of washing white and dark-colored clothing separately on the grounds that doing so violates federal civil rights laws and encourages racial discrimination.
“The fact that we’re still separating whites and colors in 2018 says a lot about us as a society,” Rebekkah Bernstein, a nineteen-year-old sophomore at UC-Berkeley, told the San Francisco Chronicle. One of the key organizers of the sit-in, Bernstein said she felt compelled to take a stand after witnessing an encounter at a campus laundry facility in which a white university RA “chastised” a young African-American woman over her failure to properly separate her laundry by color. “It was absolutely appalling,” Bernstein recalled.
While the act of separately washing white and colored clothing remains a standard throughout most of the civilized world, students at UC-Berkeley say the continued practice triggers memories of a darker period in American history. “It’s no coincidence that the washing machine was invented in 1850 when slavery was still alive and well in this country,” Jayce Peterson, a twenty-year-old social justice major at UC-Berkeley, told Real News Right Now. “Every time you make a conscious effort to separate your whites from your colors you’re essentially pouring salt on a four-hundred-year wound.”
With UC-Berkeley’s rules on laundry separation scheduled to go into effect at the start of the upcoming 2019 semester, university officials issued a stark warning to the student body this week: “Effective January 15, 2019, any student caught segregating laundry will be expelled. If you want to do that, take it off campus. Here at University of California-Berkeley there is zero tolerance for that kind of behavior.”