This essay tracks the instability of race as a political signifier in the California student movement, with a particular focus on the racial critiques of the politics of direct action and the escalation of hate crimes directed at communities of color over the course of the 2009–2010 academic year. The essay explores the conflict between various multiethnic political groups attempting to lay claim to the radical legacy of 1960s-era Bay Area ethnic movements and address the catastrophic impact of the state budget cuts on underrepresented communities of color. The essay goes on to reveal deepening conflicts within and between these communities, as institutionally funded student groups of color, deploying a rhetoric of multiculturalism and managed diversity, clash with unsponsored multiethnic organizing groups espousing a more confrontational antiracist politics. The simultaneous mobilizations of multiethnic organizing groups with radically dissimilar political and educational agendas have exposed the limits of widely promoted institutional discourses of cultural diversity.

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