Wednesday, February 24, 2010
UC San Diego administrators stage a campus-wide "teach-in" today about a recent spate of racially-charged incidents against African Americans on campus. Black student groups plan to hold a news conference before the campus-sanctioned event. The students believe these incidents reflect a deeper sense of racism at the university.
SAN DIEGO UC San Diego administrators stage a campus-wide "teach-in" today about a recent spate of racially-charged incidents against African Americans on campus. Black student groups plan to hold a news conference before the campus-sanctioned event. The students believe these incidents reflect a deeper sense of racism at the university.
African American student Bijon Robinson is a top scholar and athlete at UCSD. Dozens of colleges tried to recruit her. Now she regrets her decision.
“We (her family) came from struggles and this was an accomplishment being here. But I would prefer to go somewhere else than to be here, knowing that I have to look over my back because people want me dead,” Robinson said.
Robinson is referring to a note found at UCSD last week that read "Compton lynching." The note surfaced about a week after a group of UCSD fraternity members organized a party to mock Black History month.
Students were invited to the so-called Compton Cookout. The invitation told women to come as “ghetto chicks” with “nappy hair” and “a very limited vocabulary.” Malt liquor and watermelon would be served.
Some say the Compton Cookout was just meant to be a parody. But Robinson and her bestfriend Eliz Diop are not laughing.
“The whole party was planned to dehumanize our culture,” Diop said. “They chose to emphasize the parts of our culture we have no control over. Who wants to live in the ghetto?”
Many minority students have said the incidents speak to a larger problem. African Americans make up only 2 percent of UCSD’s student population. The majority are whites and Asians. Plus, one small group of students has exacerbated the racial tensions by publishing inflammatory material in an alternative newspaper called The Koala.
Those students also appeared on a student-run TV program using racially offensive words in support of the Compton party. Now there’s a freeze in funding for student TV. Kris Gregorian is Koala’s editor in chief. He ducked an interview with a joke.
“The Koala communication protocol dictates we do not provide statements to the press unless beer is provided. The overarching goal is beer,” Gregorian said.
This kind of joking around is a sign of new generational trends, says San Diego State University sociologist Jean Twenge. She’s the author of Generation Me. She says her research shows young people today are increasingly self-absorbed – and few have any grasp of what something like the civil rights movement meant.
“They (students) maybe don't even have a lot of understanding of the history. They saw this as another group, and some of the people in this group do some things that they could have some fun with. And they don't understand the deep pain and the prejudice and discrimination that has happened in the past,” Twenge said.
A group of black community leaders hang their heads in prayer on a Saturday afternoon in Southeast San Diego. Many of them lived through the civil rights era. Now they’re meeting to discuss the problems young black people face today.
Baye Kes Ba Me Ra is with the Pan African Association of America. He says the problem at UCSD is bigger than just a few students.
“Its not just what the students did. It's a reflection of the individuals who run the institution,” he said.
Penny Rue is vice chancellor of student affairs at UCSD. She says the university has been trying to make the campus a more hospitable place for minority students. For instance, UCSD does send many admission letters to black students, but many don’t accept. They go to other schools like UC Berkeley. She says it’s a dilemma for UCSD.
“There are things that make it difficult. One is California law. Prop. 209 prevents us from using race in any way as a level of analysis,” Rue said.
Proposition 209 was the end to affirmative action in California. Rue says the university is trying to increase the number of underrepresented students on campus using other strategies.
And last week, black student leaders presented a list of 32 demands to help fix what they call a “racial state of emergency.” Officials say they will meet many of their demands. Minority students say the real test comes after the campuswide teach-in and once the media scrutiny fades.