A recent editorial by the UCLA Daily Bruin, “Charleston shooting forces students to look at on-campus racism,” cites several “examples” of racism supposedly found on campus today.
Here’s their evidence: that not all students championed the “Black Lives Matter” movement at UCLA, and that stickers posted on the Afrikan Student Union stated Freddie Gray should have followed the law.
While what occurred in Charleston is nothing short of a tragedy and an act of terror, when we as college students and as a nation at large address the issue of racism, it does no good to employ hyperbole.
With that in mind, that the editorial board accuses the UCLA student body of being morally complicit in the Charleston shooting is utter nonsense.
They reference the negative student reaction to a Black Lives Matter protest a few months back. In that instance, students booed a group of protesters who blocked the entrance to a dining hall. The editorial board characterized this as students not caring about the death of Michael Brown.
“The implication of the dining hall incident is that just saying racism is a problem, even if it delays dinner by a few minutes, elicits jeers rather than rage against a nationally endemic issue,” the Bruin bemoaned.
Shame on you, hungry college students, for not dropping your trays and obeying the narrative like the puppets you should be, you insensitive bigots.
The editorial also references stickers critical of Freddie Gray.
The Bruin had reported “two versions of the stickers feature a policeman holding a sign. One reads, ‘If only Freddie Gray had followed the damn law, he’d still be alive,’ and another reads, ‘Stop whining and start following the goddamn law.’”
The Bruin whines that the administration did not launch a full-scale investigation and campuswide conversation over this vandalism, which ipso facto means the whole campus is systemically racist.
The stickers were obviously a crude, insensitive method of presenting an opinion. But the Bruin has shifted the problem away from the person doing the act onto the abstractions behind it. It is these types of witch-hunts that drove Red Scares in the past, destroying innocent people in the process.
Secondly, the sticker might have originated from an off-campus source. Outside organizations and individuals frequently come to campus proclaiming all sorts of radical ideas, from the Westboro Baptist Church to Socialist Revolutionaries. And these groups are not above putting up controversial posters to stir the pot. As a result, the sticker may not even be the product of UCLA’s alleged racism or insensitivity.
Underscoring this thinly constructed editorial, the Bruin links the Charleston massacre to events at UCLA, writing:
“A pattern has arisen that starts with student outcry and unfavorable headlines, and ends with rote responses from the administration. The attitude seems to imply more the commitment to prevent incidents of bad publicity, and less acts of racism.”
“Nine people were killed because of this long-standing stain on the American consciousness, and it would be a betrayal to them to let the conversation about racism peter out when time eases the sting that we now feel so acutely in our hearts.”
They follow up by implying that if we made a set of societal and governmental policy changes, we could have prevented this tragedy, citing “widespread epidemics like racial profiling, police brutality against blacks and race-based exclusion in higher education” as all things that exacerbate the problem.
The merits of these policies can be argued, but to imply that they are somehow the reason that a racist, deranged killer did what he did is flat wrong. It is especially wrong when it comes to the “race-based exclusion” (read affirmative action) phrase the board tossed in.
There is no evidence that college admissions counselors are excluding people of color from universities, and in fact the reality is quite the opposite – students that come from the majority groups of college applicants face harder admittance rates than those from minority groups. If anything, affirmative action is working for those of minority status, not against them.
The editorial board may have been successful in subtly implying the need for race-based affirmative action in the UC system, but the connection between affirmative action policies and preventing racial massacres seems disingenuous at best.
Racism does exist. It all too often rears its ugly head, and the world would be a better place without it. Yet, when making arguments and pushing solutions, we dishonor those who have suffered and lost their lives by making unwarranted comparisons and fabricating narratives.
IMAGE: Chris Radcliff/Flickr