Thursday, January 28, 2016

UC Irvine Black Student Union Says Abolish Campus Police

This is so sad. The Black Student Union at UC Irvine is demanding that the UCI Campus Police be abolished. Today's Orange County Register has the report.

As a part-time teacher at UCI since 1998, I have a few observations.

First of all, I have had a lot of contacts with the UCIPD over the years of my activism on campus. I have occasionally been critical of them. However, I will state that they are professional and dedicated to handling incidents and volatile situations in a manner that does not lead to violence. In addition, they are diverse and representative of society in general.  Any call to abolish them is nonsensical. It should be rejected out of hand by the administration. No discussion, no negotiation. It is a non-starter.

There are not very many blacks at UCI. There was an unfortunate incident a couple of years ago when a (Asian-American) fraternity made a black face video. It was not done out of malice, rather out of ignorance, and when the facts and history of black face in America were pointed out to them, they apologized profusely.

Contrary to what was stated in the letter, I do not believe that black students at UCI are suffering. Unfortunately, the administration has already given in to certain demands, most notably the building of a black residence hall. Imagine that. A segregated dorm. What is this, Mississippi in the 1950s? Are we to have separate water fountains as well?


Siarlys Jenkins said...

Segregated dorms... that's actually a tough issue to resolve. One result of twenty generations of enslavement and Jim Crow is that people of African descent have a certain understandable defensiveness, and a natural tendency to huddle together for self-defense. If people really have been out to get you for 200 or more years, all the reflexes don't fall away because most people are not any more, especially when a few loud-mouths are. So, when a relatively small number of "black" people who have grown up surrounded by a lot of other "black" people find themselves in a large institutional environment with very few "black" people, its not ludicrous that they feel kind of exposed and at sea, or, shifting metaphors, like a fish out of water. Thus, I wouldn't write off a black dorm out of hand. I enjoyed the Doonesbury cartoon about black students demanding their own water fountains, but it hasn't actually happened. Hopefully such institutions will be transitional, rather than institutional, and certainly should be an option, not a mandate. There is a difference between, I want to sleep and brush my teeth and shower and get dressed and have midnight snacks around people I'm comfortable with, vs. "you are unfit to be in the company of superior being such as ourselves."

Squid said...

These "Black Student Union" members are making demands that do not fit with diversity. Their comment: "The students are concerned that the new Black Resource Center, for example, will cater to non-blacks" smacks of segregation. What would Rosa Parks say about this? We know what DR. Martin Luther King would say.


Siarlys Jenkins said...

We know what Squid would say. Martin Luther King would have sat down and talked with the students before he said anything. And he probably would have changed minds on both sides of this one.

elwood p suggins said...

What would be said if a white group called for segregated white dorms on campus?? Or segregated black dorms, for that matter??

Siarlys Jenkins said...

elwood, anybody can say anything. Its in the First Amendment. Now, what would be worth saying, or listening to, that's a different question.

If it was mandatory policy that all students shall be segregated by race in dorm assignments, then we have a violation of a number of laws, and it should be squelched. If we have a small group of students that wants a dorm where everyone plays chess, or everyone is black, or everyone is in ROTC, there should be some flexibility for individual choice. We can't schedule classes on that basis, of course, but living is a bit different. What if a small number of white students wanted a white dorm? Sure, it makes me queasy, because I'm pushing the notion "stop being white" in opposition to "Whiteness studies." But, I'm not sure its worth saying no. Probably wouldn't fly in our current atmosphere, and I wouldn't fight over it either.

elwood p suggins said...

Siarlys--to use your phrase, apples and horseapples. People of many races play chess and are in ROTC. Black and white dorms are racially motivated however you want to cut it.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Of course elwood... if you want a dorm full of ROTC officers, race will not be a question. If you want a dorm full of people raised in one of the many African American sub-cultures who have somewhat darker skin, there will be those who play chess, and those who do not.

elwood p suggins said...

Well, of course Siarlys. Unlike the ROTC or chess dorms, if you want a dorm full of people of African-American (or all-white)heritage, race will still be a question whether or not they play chess.

You referenced the chess dorm, the black dorm, and the ROTC dorm in the same breath, and the white dorm in essentially the next. I really couldn't tell if you were trying to equate them or to differentiate between/among them.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Of course its a touchy subject and a difficult call elwood. Malcolm X once said "We don't want to be segregated BY the white man, we don't want to integrate WITH the white man, we want to separate FROM the white man." As a matter of self-determination, that's not an entirely unacceptable choice. It foundered on many factors, one being the sheer logistical impossibility of the separation (the same reason Abraham Lincoln had to give up the notion of American free slaves migrating to another continent), another being the fact that Americans of African descent don't unanimously agree on WHAT they collectively want, nor is there any reason they should. So-called "white" people don't. Mexicans don't. Latinos certainly don't -- I once heard a young Puerto Rican man in Santa Ana refer to "these Mexican n****s." I hear Argentinians hate Cubans too, among many other divisions.

But, I've lived around people of African descent long enough to know that there are some real reasons they feel more comfortable having the support of people of a common cultural background and, since the cultural divisions are derived from America's unfortunate history with race, people who share a similar skin color. Generally, "white" people don't have that problem. I don't buy into all this infatuation with "privilege," as you should know by now, but we live in a culture that still has a residual overtone that "white" is the norm.

Believe it or not, a measure like this just might help black students focus academically, get their grades up, and be more confident and comfortable in the many transactions they will, of course, have throughout the day with faculty, staff and students, a good portion of which are non-black. I don't write it off, and I don't look for a perfect symmetry of "black" dorms and "white" dorms. If race hadn't been such a big deal in the evolution of America, then this would be a moot point, but it has been, unfortunately. The road out of this swamp is not a straight line.