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UC Irvine starts ‘Black Thriving Initiative’ to combat the ‘existential threat’ of anti-blackness

Not wanting to be left out in the face of just about every other university launching race-based programs since George Floyd’s death, the University of California Irvine has begun what’s known as the “Black Thriving Initiative.”

According to The Orange County Register, the BTI will deal with “systemic anti-Blackness as an existential threat to the mission of the university.”

The Initiative aims to make UC Irvine “a first choice for Black students” by promoting “Black student success, degree completion and advancement in academic programs,” the university announced last week.

History professor Douglas Haynes, leader of the Initiative and UCI vice chancellor for equity, diversity and inclusion, said the entire campus will be “mobilized” in BTI’s “holistic approach.”

“[The] initiative speaks to three areas: cultural change, leveraging the research mission and engaging the Black community as a whole,” Haynes said.

From the story:

The university “will intensify efforts” to recruit more undergraduate students from often overlooked high schools, Haynes said. “There are a lot of talented young people out there. It’s important to understand the landscape of student achievement.”

Haynes said the initiative likewise will focus on retaining Black students all the way through graduation: “We need to provide more scaffolding for student success.”

Also, the initiative is about raising awareness of “anti-Blackness” – often unrecognized racism that is directed at Black people.

“Witnessing the murder of an unarmed Black man by police officers is explicit racism –  there’s no mistaking it,” Haynes said.

“Far more sophisticated is an understanding of how we have become so habituated to seeing Black people murdered – or how we have come to tolerate that Blacks make up 6% of California, but 30% of our prisons,” Haynes added. “Understanding systemic racism shifts responsibility from particular individuals to society.”

Haynes, who’s “particularly interested in understanding the relationship of medicine and science to imperialism,” claimed that if colleges do not “come to terms with anti-Blackism,” they won’t be able to accomplish their missions.

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