Race has been the primary issue of debate on Michigan’s campus recently, but it’s also just as contentious a topic on campuses across the country – from Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas speaking about race at Palm Beach Atlantic University, to a spoken word video gone viral at UCLA.
At Michigan, the recent Black Student Union protest demanding various race-based special treatments for minorities yielded compliance by both administrators and the Central Student Government.
Last Monday, when speaking to students at Palm Beach Atlantic University, Justice Thomas took a shot at political correctness and hypersensitivity towards race, noting that our current society is more race conscious than during his youth in pre civil-rights Georgia.
“My sadness is that we are probably today more race and difference-conscious than I was in the 1960s when I went to school. To my knowledge, I was the first black kid in Savannah, Georgia, to go to a white school. Rarely did the issue of race come up,” remarked Justice Thomas.
“Now, name a day it doesn’t come up. Differences in race, differences in sex, somebody doesn’t look at you right, somebody says something. Everybody is sensitive. If I had been as sensitive as that in the 1960s, I’d still be in Savannah. Every person in this room has endured a slight. Every person. Somebody has said something that has hurt their feelings or did something to them — left them out.”
Thomas also said that he faced greater discrimination from those in the North, rather than from the South, which is stereotyped as being more discriminatory and racist.
“The worst I have been treated was by northern liberal elites. The absolute worst I have ever been treated,” Thomas said. “The worst things that have been done to me, the worst things that have been said about me, by northern liberal elites, not by the people of Savannah, Georgia.”
On the west coast, at UCLA, The College Fix‘s Josh Hedtke reported on a video from November of a student group called “The Black Bruins” who express their misfortunes and victimization in spoken word.
“The video is prefaced by a slide reminding or enlightening us of the assassination of two black students on the UCLA campus in 1969. It then jumps to black students standing in a group lodging their grievances openly on campus, behind their head spokesman, Stokes, who is currently working on a degree offered by an Afro-American Studies program that may soon become its own independent department at UCLA” reports Hedtke.
The student in the video cites low graduation rates of minority students, as well as underrepresentation and marginalization, among other “racist” inequities.
Hedtke argues “different groups of people are simply represented unequally in different endeavors. It’s what happens in a diverse society where people are free to pursue their own goals. Professional sports, such as basketball and baseball, provide illustrative examples of this.”
UCLA has an even more diverse student body than Michigan does, and white students are actually more underrepresented than black students, according to Hedtke.
“In 2012 in California, the total percentage of the black population was 6.6 percent, and the total percentage of the white population was 73.7 percent. In contrast, the percentage of white student at UCLA is 27.8 percent and the percentage of black students at UCLA is 3.8 percent.
In effect, white students are actually severely “underrepresented” compared to black students: the white percentage at UCLA is only 37.7 percent of the total percentage of white residents in the state, whereas the black percentage at UCLA is 57.6 percent of the total statewide percentage of black residents–a 20 point difference!”
More so, UCLA is extremely proactive in creating a diverse and inclusive study body population. There are 112 student groups that contribute to diversity at the institution, Hedtke writes. Not to mention 16 ethnic or cultural study programs and other initiatives that induce diversity.
“Many of these groups receive funding from the UCLA student government. We have 16 ‘___________ studies’ majors ranging from Chicano Studies to Gender Studies to Israel Studies. UCLA has an actual written ‘Strategic Plan For Diversity.’ In the 2011 ‘UC Accountability Report,’ an annual report that addresses subjects such as ‘Affordability’ and ‘Undergraduate Student Success,’ the longest section, totaling 22 pages, is devoted to ‘Diversity.'”
The University of Michigan is comparable to UCLA, both in its academic rigor and its pursuit of diversity through various programs, organizations, and departments. Michigan houses over 18 centers that are devoted to studying various cultures, races, and globalization to foster a diverse learning community – not including all the programs and majors that are housed in such centers.
Michigan also has a whole portal dedicated to diversity, as well as a provost dedicated to diversifying the Wolverine student body and an administrative position similar to UCLA’s that is dedicated to spearheading diversity: the Vice Provost for Education and Equity.
In a letter to the Michigan community, Provost Martha E. Pollack wrote, “This position will have responsibility for providing strategic leadership that results in increased access and success for all students, the recruitment and retention of diverse faculty, and the development and expansion of academic programs that prepare all students for success in a diverse world.”
Hedtke writes further about so called “transgressions” committed against minority students by faculty members, one being a distinguished professor of education who instigated a sit-in of a lecture.
“Among the 81-year old professor emeritus’s alleged transgressions are repeatedly requiring students to write “Indigenous” in lowercase form instead of uppercase form (consistent, by the way, with its not having proper noun status as can be discovered readily in any standard dictionary), requiring students to capitalize “white” if they also choose to capitalize “black,” and my personal favorite: requiring the students to use the Chicago Manual of Style instead of the style standards of the American Psychological Association.”
Seemingly, minority students at UCLA have similar woes to those at Michigan, both calling for more diversity and inclusion while administrators of both institutions strive to comply with students’ concerns and demands.
Read Hedtke’s full article at The College Fix.
This article was originally published in The Michigan Review.
Derek Draplin | University of Michigan | @DDraps24