UCLA And The Burden Of Race Consciousness

All my sickness will be over,
When I lay my burden down… 

All my troubles will be over,
When I lay my burden down…

Lord, I’m feeling so much better,
Since I laid my burden down.

(From the American spiritual, Lay My Burden Down)

According to two recent video testimonials reported by Inside Higher Ed, UCLA is a terrible place to be a black student. Last November a group of black male undergraduates complained that “black males make up 3.3 percent” of entering male students and charged that UCLA’s “fraudulent reputation” for diversity “needs to be exposed.” The video ends with a some students “stripping off their UCLA sweatshirts, and standing in black T-shirts instead,” as though UCLA itself were the burden they were laying down.

“Now,” Inside Higher Ed reports, “black UCLA law students have followed with a video [available at the link] called ‘33,’ referring to their number among 1,100 law students. In the video, students describe feeling isolated, stereotyped and unwelcome.” Both videos received extensive online coverage.

It is clear from both videos that black undergraduates and law students at UCLA (at least those associated with the videos) feel their blackness is a burden, most evident in the frequent laments about the “pressure” of feeling that they are — or at least are widely regarded as — the  representatives of their race. What is not at all clear is what they want.

“We are not asking for a handout,” Sy Stokes, the UCLA junior who created “The Black Bruins,” claims in the undergraduate video. “We are asking for a level playing field.” “Level” is never defined, but the pervasive emphasis on numbers in both videos indicates that the students believe that the way to level UCLA is to admit more blacks — for Stokes, more black males and for several of the black women law students, more black women.

Blacks were 3.8% of the freshmen who entered UCLA last fall, and the 33 black law students are 3.3% of the roughly 1100 UCLA law students. According to the latest census data, blacks are 6.6% of the population of California. Thus, by whatever calculus “underrepresented” and “level” are determined, whites are left holding a considerably shorter end of the stick than blacks: they are 73.7% of the population of California but only 27.8%of UCLA undergraduates.

Since the passage of Prop. 209 in 1996 it has been illegal for public institutions in California to give preferences based on race or ethnicity. Since UCLA adopted “holistic” admissions criteria in 2006 it has been difficult if not impossible to avoid the conclusion, amply documented by UCLA law professor Richard Sander in a 2012 study, that “holistic” admissions  has “provided a cover for illegal discrimination by UCLA’s admissions office.” An an article in the Daily Bruin on Prof. Sander’s findings, for example, includes a graph based on his research showing that from 2007 to 2009 blacks and Hispanics with “mid-range holistic scores” were over three times more likely to be admitted than whites with similar scores. Blacks, as Sander concluded in his paper, “were dramatically more likely than whites or Asians with a given holistic score to be admitted.”

In the videos both UCLA undergraduates and law students felt burdened by their role as race representatives, felt “unwelcome,” and complained of being stereotyped. “Diversity,” however, is based upon the toxic, racialist notion that individuals are different based on their race and ethnicity and that it is important for others to be exposed to those differences embodied by the “underrepresented.” Viewing minorities as representatives of their race is thus an inevitable effect of emphasizing “diversity,” as is a certain amount of resentment when it is accompanied by the fact or even reasonable suspicion that minorities are given preferential treatment.

Since the emphasis on racial and ethnic “diversity” itself is the problem, more of it is not the solution.


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