Tag Archives: education

Boxed In: the UC system’s ethnicity representation

by Special Correspondent Fatemeh Fakhraie

When I went to college at the University of Utah, there was no box for me to check. There was no “Middle Eastern” and there was definitely no “bi- or multi-racial.” I’d like to think that the U of U has since updated their ethnicity data, but I can’t be sure.

When I applied to graduate school, I practically wet my pants when I saw “Middle Eastern” on the online application. I was overjoyed to think that my regional ethnicity was included. I happily checked “Middle Eastern”, ignoring the line for “Other,” where I could have specified “bi-racial.”

Currently, if you fill out an application on the Oregon State University’s website, there is a drop-down box of ethnicities, with an almost exhaustive list. They divided “Middle Eastern” and “North African” to make sure all ethnicities within these groups were covered, and the lists were fairly inclusive. Hazaras, Maronites, Baluchis, and other under-represented Middle Easterners were under “Middle Eastern.”

However, there is still no option for multi- or bi-racial.

Last March, several Middle Eastern UCLA student groups began a lobby to expand the University of California application ethnicity check boxes to include ethnicities such as Arab, Persian, Afghan, etc. It’s mind-boggling that the UC system would still not have up-to-date ethnicity representation on its applications, especially since California has high concentrations of West Asian diasporas in California (they don’t call it “Tehrangeles” for nothing).

The University of California system updated its ethnicity check boxes in 2007, when the Asian Pacific American Coalition (APAC) started the “Count Me In!” campaign, intended to break down the different groups pushed together under the category “Asian/Pacific Islander.” The campaign successfully put 23 new ethnicities on the application, including Samoan, Pakistani, and Hmong, and aims to improve census and research data on these specific groups’ college attendance patterns, financial aid packages, and student representation.

The first thing I thought when I read about the previous campaign was, “Lots of West Asian ethnicities are technically Asian because regionally they are on Asian continent. Why weren’t any of them included in this campaign?” Erin Pangilinan, a member of the APC  campaign, stated that the campaign’s ethnicity representations were based off California Assembly Bill 295 (which included a call for “state entities that currently collect demographic data regarding the ancestry or ethnic origin of Californians to also make a separate category and tabulation for specified Asian and Chamorro, Indonesian, Malaysian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan, Taiwanese, Thai, and Tongan”) and the 2000 U.S. Census, which stated that the aforementioned specific ethnicities have the largest populations in the United States. She stated that the campaign “was not intended to be exclusive, instead it is starting point to have a more inclusive and comprehensive admissions policy.”

The second issue that arose was that many of the “ethnicities” on the list were not actually ethnicities, but nationalities (Pakistani, Taiwanese, etc). Pangilinan explained that the campaign focused on ethnicities provided by the Census, which brings up more questions about ethnic representation in governmental processes. Constructing nationalities as synonymous with ethnicities creates troubling deficiencies in ethnic representation within nations, erringly homogenizing the ethnic populace.

This led me to question the inclusivity and strategy of the current campaign. I spoke with Faisal Attrache from UCLA’s United Arab Society. He said that the campaign is not aiming for a “Middle Eastern” designation: “We are attempting to gain representation of Middle Eastern minorities, but we do not want it to be under the heading of ‘Middle Eastern’ for many reasons.  It is a term with an unclear meaning and sometimes excludes several groups that we would like to include in the campaign. Ideally, we would like all the categories to standalone and not be grouped under ‘Middle Eastern’ or ‘Near Eastern’, because after all, the region we represent stretches from Central Asia to Western Africa.”

The campaign’s aim at a designation other than “Middle Eastern” is a relief: “Middle Eastern” is a term that’s left over from the colonial period, and is fairly misleading ethnically. “West Asian” includes much of the Middle East, including Arabs, but leaves out North Africa, a region which is heavily ethnically Arab. But I do have a fair skepticism at the stand-alone designations: if every other group has overarching categories, these ethnicities will most likely have one, too.

While I’m overjoyed that we (meaning underrepresented West Asian groups) might finally be included on the applications, I still worry about all those who aren’t being represented, and won’t be unless they lobby (or someone lobbies for them). Attrache mentioned that student groups at UCLA representing these ethnicities coordinate the campaign, and so Arab, Persian, Afghan, Armenian, and Assyrian students will be included. But no conclusive list has been agreed upon at this time, and so it’s difficult to say whether ethnicities that don’t have a large student presence on campus will be represented accurately or at all, especially if they are a significant minority in their home region. Because of the numerous and varied ethnicities in these regions, it’s almost certain that someone will get left out, which feels wrong in the current “We’re here, we’re [insert ethnicity], get used to us!” climate.

There’s also the fact that the box system itself is flawed, not just because of any possible lacks in representation, but because it historically leaves out bi- and multi-racial individuals. While the bi- or multi-racial designation could appear with a line for clarification, universities that use a drop-down box format have no way of collecting data about bi- or multi-racial students because the students cannot specify their racial makeup.

A blank line would illustrate better how people define themselves through their ethnicities and would be less likely to pigeonhole respondents into a group they don’t feel they identify with. It would also be welcoming for bi- or multi-racial students (much better than check all that apply).

The difficult logistics aside, this is an important campaign, just like it was two years ago. Not only will it give university statisticians and financial aid operators a better idea of the population indicators, but it can help the community at large gauge where it is on the local university scale in terms of representation, participation, and inclusion. It may also lead to an overall overhaul of the ethnicity system, recognizing differences among ethnicities under other categories previously bunched together (“Hispanic”, anyone?) and inaccurately represented.

NCLR Report Finds Latino Students are “Missing Out”

by Latoya Peterson

The National Council of La Raza has released a new report called “Missing Out: Latino Students in America’s Schools.”

The intro explains:

The rapid growth of the Latino student population has not been reflected in a corresponding improvement in their educational outcomes. The collection of statistics that follows suggests that Latino students are missing out on many educational opportunities and are not being effectively served by the current U.S. education system. One of the country’s most significant challenges in the coming years will be to improve the American educational system such that it adequately meets the needs of all children.

Moreover, a particularly urgent task is to ensure that our nation’s public schools and universities improve their capacity to adequately serve Latino students and ELLs [English language learners], given that this population will constitute nearly one-third (30%) of our total adult population by 2050. These statistics provide a summary of the key data on Latino students, from prekindergarten through postsecondary school. Understanding who these students are is critical to creating policies and programs that effectively address their unique position in America’s schools.

Some findings from the study:

  • There is a greater likelihood that White and Black three- to five-year-olds will be enrolled in center-based preschool education than their Hispanic counterparts, especially those living in poverty. During the 2005–2006 school year, 60% of White children and 62% of Black children participated in such programs, while only 50% of Hispanic children participated (see Figure 3). Furthermore, among Hispanic children ages three to five living in poverty, fewer than 36% were enrolled in early childhood care and education programs. In contrast, 45% of White and 65% of Black children of the same age group living below the federal poverty threshold* were enrolled in these programs.
  • Hispanics and Blacks are significantly less likely to complete high school than their White peers. Although the 2005 high school graduation rate for White students was 78%, only 58% of Hispanic students and 55% of Black students who entered ninth grade completed the twelfth grade and graduated with a regular high school diploma.
  • Latino and Black students are more likely to attend schools that serve a large concentration of low-income students. Among elementary and secondary school students during the 2005–2006 school year, 34% of Hispanic and 32% of Black students were enrolled in schools with the highest measure of poverty, compared to 4% of White and 10% of Asian/Pacific Islander students. Moreover, there is a strong relationship between poor and minority student populations. Hispanic (46%) and Black (44%) students composed the vast majority of students attending school in high-poverty urban areas, while fewer than 10% of their White peers attended such schools (see Figure 5*).
  • Hispanics and Blacks constitute only a small proportion of undergraduate students in the U.S. Latinos and Blacks compose a large percentage of the college-age population, at 17.4% and 14.1%, respectively. However, only 10.8% of all 2005 undergraduate students were Hispanic and only 12.7% were Black, while 65.7% of undergraduates were White (see Figure 6).

Go here to download the full report.

Denied kindergarten for being Native?

by Guest Contributor Jessica Yee, originally published at The Shameless Blog

This story actually made me cry.

Five year old Adriel Arocha is being blocked from attending school in a Houston-area school district.

The reason?

As an Apache, he has long hair that he has been growing in his Native cultural tradition that “violates” this school’s dress code rules.

The kicker though is that the school board is willing to make exceptions on religious or other “proven” moral grounds, but doesn’t think that being Native American cuts it. Continue reading

Mocking Black Names in Covina: How “Liberal” are Our Youth?

by Guest Contributor Joe R. Feagin, originally published at Racism Review


There seems to be no end to mocking of the language and speech of people of color by whites. A Los Angeles Times article recounts some mocking of the names of black high school students, likely from a white high school student:

Administrators at Charter Oak High School in Covina are investigating how a student on the yearbook staff was able to get fake names for Black Student Union members, including “Tay Tay Shaniqua,” “Crisphy Nanos” and “Laquan White,” into the published yearbook.

Beyond this hateful racist mocking there are deeper issues. Whites and some others do not seem to understand that many working-class and middle-class black parents provide their children with nontraditional first names to provide them with something special and distinctive–and not with the “white” first names that are commonplace in society. (Adia has made this point to me in discussion.) Such naming is often a type of resistance to whiteness and white folkways. Historically, whites have done a lot of mocking of the language and speech of all Americans of color–African Americans, Native Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, and others—and name mocking in the Covina case seems in this tradition of negative racial framing of Americans of color. Mock Spanish and mock Black English seem to be esp. popular these days, including on the Internet. There are many websites mocking the speech of other Americans of color. Whites often say such mocking is “just joking,” but as we have known since Freud, racist joking is often far more than joking. Continue reading

The Other N Word

by Racialicious Special Correspondent Latoya Peterson

The most provocative ideas seem to fly out of nowhere.

I was listening the community discussion of Jabari Asim’s new book The N-Word: Who Should Say It, Who Shouldn’t, and Why and I was enjoying the depth of conversation explored by the attendees. One woman, when recounting her experiences made an interesting and illuminating comment.

As a Caucasian woman raising a biracial child who identifies as black, she explained having a lengthy discussion with her child about his casual use of the N-word with his multicultural group of friends. The woman’s son informed her that the n-word was no longer a stigmatized term. What was worse, the son explained, was the “other N-word.”

Puzzled, I leaned forward in my seat. As I shivered in the aggressively air conditioned meeting room, I did a quick scan of my mental word bank to figure out another n-word. Nothing. The woman continued.

The other N-word was nerd.

Damn.

The discussion continued to swirl around me, but that phrase stuck with me for the rest of the evening.

The following day, I attended my younger sister’s high school graduation. A graduate of Charles Herbert Flowers High School (focusing on the Science and Technology program) I am pleased to share that my younger sister graduated in the top 5% of her class.

However, she was outdone by both the class valedictorian and salutatorian, both of whom boasted advanced GPAs, (4.8 and 5.2, I believe), SAT scores, college level course work (one of them had completed Calculus 3), and numerous community service projects.

Both of these young men confidently approached the podium and spoke of opportunity, achievement, and success. As they spoke, I wondered if they had already felt the sting of the “other n-word.” Outwardly, they were both attractive, seemingly popular young men. What were their lives like? Did they feel penalized for the intellect? Did they feel the burden, the unrelenting pressure placed upon those deemed young, gifted, and black?

After the tassels were turned, I fought through the throng of graduate families to find my younger sister. After giving her my congratulations, I asked her if her valedictorian and salutatorian were ostracized for being so smart. Continue reading

Harvard students call cops upon seeing black people

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

Wow. This is priceless. Thanks Wayne for the tip! From Gawker:

—–

This weekend, on the bucolic Quad at Harvard University—typically, the site of a casual game of Ultimate, or perhaps an afternoon reading of some Shakespearean sonnets before English class—an unusual and, to some, frightening scene was played out. There were people throwing things! And running! And jumping! And most scary of all, every single one of them was black. So the Harvard students watching from their dormitory windows, growing increasingly agitated at the sights below, did what any normal, white Harvard student would do when they saw a large, seemingly unruly group of black people: They called the cops!

Except, well, oops—turns out it was just the Harvard Black Men’s Forum and Association of Black Harvard Women:

As members of the groups played games of dodgeball and capture-the-flag in the Quad as part of the annual “BMF-ABHW Challenge,” Cabot House residents fired off a string of impassioned e-mails questioning students’ presence on the public lawn—and whether they were students at all. Eventually, the Harvard University Police Department was called about the commotion, and officers asked the students to “keep the noise down,” according to police spokesman Steven G. Catalano.

Perhaps croquet would have been more appropriate?

Of A Split Mind: Thoughts on Affirmative Action

by Special Correspondent Latoya Peterson

I’ve been reading and reading and reading about Barack Obama and his views on affirmative action.

First came this Washington Post Op-Ed analyzing Obama’s comments on ABC’s “This Week.”

Eugene Robinson, the author of the piece, compares Obama’s statements:

Obama has repeatedly gone on record as a supporter of affirmative action. But “if we have done what needs to be done to ensure that kids who are qualified to go to college can afford it,” he said in the ABC interview, “affirmative action becomes a diminishing tool for us to achieve racial equality in this society.”

He seemed to side with those who think class predominates when he said, “I think that we should take into account white kids who have been disadvantaged and have grown up in poverty and shown themselves to have what it takes to succeed.”

Robinson ends by discussing other issues in college education – like legacy admissions – and notes his own views on race and class.

After reading the Op-Ed, I came across another interesting post. Written by dnA of the Too Sense blog, he address the original issue in this post, and then revisits the topic in yesterday’s post.

dnA summarizes his views by stating:

Obama seems to be suggesting that AA is needed only for those people for whom “race and class still intersect.” That black middle class folks who are the first generation in college need AA, “as opposed to fifth or sixth generation college attendees.”

Empirical research bears out that race still matters in hiring practices, regardless of class, which means that black folks of all classes need Affirmative Action, not just those who are poor and are first generation college attendees.

Saying otherwise is suggesting a significant change in Affirmative Action as we understand it.

Obama is obviously between a rock and a hard place on that one. There is no right answer – at least, not one that will please a large group of people.

I wish I could supply an answer, but I cannot. On one hand, I understand Obama’s sentiments – most of the obstacles I have had in life have resulted from being poor, not being black. The boost I received from programs rooted in affirmative action were predominantly to overcome financial barriers. I remember sitting in my AP classes, listening to my friends discuss SAT prep programs like Kaplan, expecting their parents to cough up the $700 (it was much more expensive in 1999) it would take to increase their SAT scores by 200 points.

I remember being silent during those discussions, knowing that in my household a free $20 was hard to come by. I earned all my own money in those days, and $700 might as well have been seven million. Paying the reduced fees on my AP tests broke my pockets enough, along with all of the extra expenses involved in being an extra-curricular superstar and trying to maintain some semblance of a social life. Thank goodness for my pre-college programs. They gave us PSATs and SAT prep every year, paid for up to five college applications, and allowed us access to internships, interviewing skills, and summer school and job opportunities that my friends took for granted.

Still, I understand Obama’s position. Broke is broke. Poor white kids are at just as much of a disadvantage as poor black kids, right? Continue reading

Clemson University students also throw “gangsta party” on MLK day

clemson university blackface ghetto gangsta party

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

I’m with Philip on this. These pictures make me want to vomit. As if the head-to-toe blackface wasn’t enough, some girl had to stuff the seat of her pants to give herself an exaggerated butt?

According to this article, the students did not realize their “gangsta theme” party would coincide with MLK day and shocker, they did not realize this would be offensive to anyone:

Students who organized the party have come forward to school officials to express a desire to reach out to those who were offended by the event and the pictures posted of it, said Robin Denny, the university news services director.

“The students said this was not intended to be offensive to anybody at all and (they) did not realize it would be,” Ms. Denny said.

I’d like to hear from students of color at Clemson or any of the other universities that have thrown these “ghetto” or “gangsta” parties. I can’t imagine what it would be like to know that my classmates are indulging in this kind of racism.

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clemson university ghetto gangsta blackface party