Every day on my campus, hundreds of kids from all over Los Angeles county tour the school. As young as what appears to be ten, these students are given just a glimpse of college life long before even thinking of applying themselves. They stare at us as we walk to class and interact with their friends about who and what they see.
And what do they see? I can imagine their excitement as they load off the bus. College is the equivalent to freedom, by most people's standards. And while I do feel some sense of liberation as I walk the campus I consider home, I am repulsed by the lack of student diversity, particularly Black student presence.
The year is 2019. The school in discussion here is the NUMBER ONE public university in America, the University of California, Los Angeles. I am a proud Black Bruin, but I am one of few. Of the 31,002 undergrads on UCLA's campus, only 1,623 are Black.
I can only imagine the confusion and frustration felt by the young potential Bruins who tour our school each day. A given tour consisting of students from the LA area is more likely diverse than a UCLA lecture hall. As of now, STEM courses are being institutionally directed towards male students and diversity classes tend to be made up of the racial or social group the course is titled after. As an example, of the numerous African American studies courses I've taken, I can easily say more than 95% of each course was made up Black Bruins. Ethnic studies courses are great, but what good do they do when the only people taking the time to educate themselves on other people's cultures are the very people who have been forced to assimilate? Newsflash UCLA, but your ONE SINGLE diversity requirement ain't doin sh*t.
I love UCLA. It has given me a home but frankly, I'm appalled at UCLA's treatment of racial minorities. Just four years ago, a Kanye-Western themed raid hosted by two chapters of the Greek Community turned ugly when students dressed in baggy clothes and padded bottoms, while also using makeup and other materials to alter skin tone and appropriate Black culture. Following severe backlash from the UCLA community, a written statement expressed the intent of the raid's theme was to "celebrate (popular) culture."
My response to that is this: You CANNOT and WILL NOT raid our culture one day, and try to celebrate with us the next.
By the time I came to UCLA, Sy Stokes had graduated, but I hope some young, potential students got to speak with him when they toured the campus during his time as a Bruin. As a Black Bruin, he should be remembered during Black History Month. In a chilling spoken word poem about UCLA's diversity, Stokes reveals glaring statistics about Black male students, or the lack thereof.
UCLA has many amazing feats, not to mention numerous sports achievements. In 2013, UCLA had more NCAA Championships than Black Male freshmen. I'm not against sports. I've been extremely athletic my whole life and I've been to Wooden to workout every day this week. I love belonging to a college community that values athleticism and sports excellence.
BUT, and this is heavy, but (hence the caps), why is UCLA not more racially inclusive towards African Americans?
In 2012, UCLA had 660 African American male students. 429 of them were undergraduate student-athletes. Again, I love sports, but food for thought: what would happen to the Black Bruin population if UCLA had no sports program? I remember when I came to visit campus, almost everyone who looked like me was wearing an athletic backpack. Now in 2019, I am a Black Bruin myself, but I am one of few, and significantly fewer when you don't count the student-athlete population.
I want the kids who come to visit UCLA to feel like they can relate to the students the see and potentially admire on campus. Many students who visit my school have a dream of attending. It was my dream school too. I can imagine the resonance UCLA has on the young kids who visit and tour repeatedly because the school is amazing. Students of all backgrounds should feel represented when they come here.