Workers Vanguard No. 1047
30 May 2014
For Free, Quality, Integrated Education for All!
Racist Bigotry and Liberal Nostrums at UCLA
(Young Spartacus pages)
On February 10, black students at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Law published a video talking about their isolation there, with only 33 black students in a class of roughly 1,100. Shortly after the video was released, one student received a note telling her to “Stop being a sensitive n----r,” and flyers and posters of the Black Law Student Association were ripped down. This racist backlash to even modest complaints about the segregation of higher education is no aberration, but only part of the barrage of assaults, provocations and humiliations that students at UCLA have been subjected to over the past several years.
In 1996, California’s racist Proposition 209 banned all affirmative action across the state. Since then, tuition has skyrocketed over 350 percent, pricing black and working-class youth out of the University of California campuses. In the five years after Proposition 209 passed, black undergraduate enrollment at UC Berkeley plunged 27 percent. Earlier this year, California’s proposed Senate Constitutional Amendment No. 5 (SCA 5), which would have repealed the portions of Proposition 209 prohibiting affirmative action in public education, was killed in the California legislature, preventing voters from taking it up. The defeat of SCA 5 and the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last month that further decimated affirmative action nationwide are the latest attempts to eviscerate all that is left of one of the minimal gains of the civil rights movement. As we explained in “Supreme Court Knifes Affirmative Action, Again” (WV No. 1045, 2 May 2014):
“In the face of racist attack, the remnants of affirmative action should be defended. But even at its height, this tokenistic measure never made a dent in the deep-seated oppression of the mass of the black and Latino population. Now, as public education funding is slashed, tuition costs explode and families drown in debt, the top state and private campuses are becoming even whiter and more elite.”
Especially in the wake of the economic crisis, the bourgeoisie increasingly considers the mass of black people in the inner cities to be a surplus population, no longer needed as the “last hired, first fired.” In this context, racist pigs have been increasingly emboldened to threaten and harass those few students from minority groups left on campus, and black people in particular.
Recent controversies have brought to light the depth of racial bigotry that pervades UCLA. In July 2013, UCLA finally settled a lawsuit with Dr. Christian Head, a black surgeon at the medical school who was subjected to a grotesque series of racist slurs, including a slideshow featuring his head Photoshopped onto a gorilla. In October, the administration released a report detailing the ways in which minority faculty members felt under the gun, with the usual tepid promises of more “education and training” in the future. The next month, Sy Stokes, a junior at UCLA, produced a YouTube video “The Black Bruins” detailing UCLA’s low black enrollment—with fewer than 50 black males in the incoming class of freshmen. This video touched a nerve, with over two million views to date. A few days later, minority students in the Graduate School of Education organized an in-class teach-in, responding to what they described as “microaggressions,” supposedly innocuous racist actions and comments.
Demonstrating exactly what these students were protesting, students at the UCLA School of Law then paraded around campus in T-shirts they had made up for a softball competition reading “Team Sander.” Richard Sander, a white professor at the school, is notorious for his vile books and research claiming affirmative action is bad for black students, and for a 2012 report he released claiming that UCLA somehow surreptitiously practices affirmative action simply because it is still accepting more black students than he thinks it should. According to one report, black students placed in Sander’s class were told by the administration to suck it up and “channel our anger/emotions into ‘proving his research wrong’ and performing well,” and now, black students simply aren’t placed into his classes (“Racists’ T-Shirts on Campus? Only if You Bother to Think About It,” abovethelaw.com, 22 November 2013).
This is not just about one or two overtly and obviously racist “incidents,” but an atmosphere in which the few minorities that remain are pervasively treated as outsiders who don’t belong. After Sander published his 2012 report, UCLA’s student paper, the Daily Bruin, ran a reactionary opinion column urging the university to “rethink” its admissions policy. At a rally held by minority students in response, the cry was rightfully raised, “How close to zero do they want us to get?”
It is precisely this sort of climate that fosters outright racist violence. In one case, from August to October of 2013, a black student at San Jose State University was terrorized by Nazi-loving dorm mates who wrote racial slurs and hung a Confederate flag in their common space, then assaulted him, forcing a bike lock around his neck. Other students interviewed about this said that these were simply “college pranks.”
Capitalist Divide and Rule
In early February, a flyer was delivered to Asian student groups at UCLA and University of Southern California (USC), in racist phony “black” English and adorned with a Nazi flag, declaring (among other things) that “asian C--ts are RACIST! They only Date Honkie white boy!” Whatever its origins, this unhinged sexist, racist rant, written against Asians and in a “black” voice, was a clear provocation. It also intersected the debate over SCA 5.
A contributing factor in the amendment’s defeat was a massive lobbying campaign spearheaded largely by conservative Asian groups, resulting in three senators with heavily Asian constituencies withdrawing their support, on the utterly false grounds that affirmative action constitutes anti-Asian discrimination. In fact, the very ruling class that has attacked affirmative action is responsible for hideous crimes against Asians, such as the mass incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II under liberal icon President Franklin Roosevelt.
Under the conditions of decaying American capitalism, the ruling capitalist class seeks to pit each against all, forcing different sectors of the oppressed to claw at one another as though they were starved dogs tossed only a scrap from the master’s table (see letter, page 11). For example, immigrants are taught that black people are themselves responsible for the horrendous conditions of life in the ghettos, while blacks are encouraged to believe that any gains for immigrants come at their expense.
While we have always defended the gains won for minorities, no matter how minimal, our program is for free, quality, integrated education for all! For open admissions, no tuition and a state-paid living stipend! These demands cut against the capitalist rulers’ use of affirmative action to set whites against minorities, and Asians against blacks. The vast majority of working-class students of all races, especially black people, are excluded from the best institutions of higher learning. The capitalists and their agents run the education system to serve their interests, including propagating bourgeois ideology and training the next generation of administrators, CEOs, military officers and Dr. Strangeloves of U.S. imperialism. The working class is to get just enough education so the capitalists can extract profit from its labor power.
The stark truth is that there is no way to overcome entrenched racial oppression within the framework of capitalism in the universities or elsewhere. The fight for free, quality, integrated education for all must be waged as part of the broader struggle for black liberation through socialist revolution.
Democratic Party, Enemy of the Workers and Oppressed
Affirmative action, school integration, busing and other gains for minorities were not the products of a beneficent ruling class taking pity on the downtrodden—they were wrested in the course of the struggle for black rights during the 1960s civil rights movement. But from its outset, the civil rights movement was dominated by a middle-class leadership wedded to the Democratic Party. The liberal-led civil rights movement did not and could not challenge the root cause of black oppression: the capitalist profit system, which in the U.S. was built on the forcible segregation of the mass of black people at the bottom. The Democratic Party’s pretensions to any interest in “justice” and “equality” serve as a safety valve to divert the struggles of the oppressed into harmless electoral channels. Its real purpose, like that of the Republican Party, is to administer the capitalist state, and in so doing, to enforce racist, capitalist law and order.
Today, the Democratic Party, the supposed friend of the oppressed, controls the governorship, as well as both houses of the California state legislature that quashed SCA 5. From strikebreaking former L.A. mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and current L.A. mayor Eric Garcetti (both of Mexican descent) to Obama, the Democrats are the enemies of the working class, blacks, students, women, immigrants and all of the oppressed.
Ally with the Working Class
In response to the racist flyer they received, UCLA and USC Asian student groups called a town hall meeting, overcrowded with angry students. These groups’ approach was to appeal to the University of California administration to demand “prioritization of programs and initiatives that support a truly inclusive campus.” However, the strategy of calling for the administration to ensure an “inclusive campus” is bankrupt.
While UC administrators bemoan their inability to generate sufficient “diversity,” students should harbor no illusions in the administration. The administration acts in the service of its employers—not the “people” but the capitalist class in the guise of the UC Regents—and serves as their watchdogs. The Regents, which banned affirmative action even before Proposition 209 passed, are a rogues’ gallery of many of the most powerful figures in California’s capitalist class, from bankers and top executives to close friends of the governor, real estate moguls and so forth. The current UC President, appointed by the board, is none other than Obama’s former secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, who oversaw a massive ramp-up in anti-immigrant measures, flooding the border with “boots on the ground” and deporting over 1,000 immigrants a day (see “Obama’s Crackdown on Immigrants,” WV No. 982, 10 June 2011). Her appointment, rightly seen as a kick in the teeth to undocumented students and their supporters, has been met with opposition and protests UC-wide.
Indeed, the university administration is the tool of the bourgeoisie within the university and it works hand in hand with the state to regiment and repress the students and workers. On March 4, Jessica Rayside, a black student at UCLA, stopped at an intersection in her car and got into an argument with another driver who asked if she was on welfare and called her “nothing but a n----r.” Later that evening, she and a fellow student chalked “White Supremacy Lives in the System” at UCLA—chalking being a common and accepted practice. The UCPD handcuffed and detained them. The response of the Afrikan Student Union to this was an initiative to “work with various underrepresented cultural groups to create a UCPD-Student Taskforce” in conjunction with the director of Police Community Services, the chief of police and the vice chancellor of Student Affairs. Their call fosters the dangerous illusion that the cops can be made to serve the interests of black students and the working class. To the contrary, the job of the police is to protect private property and exercise force and violence to uphold the will of the capitalist class. This means terrorizing the ghettos and barrios, smashing workers’ strikes and repressing student protest over racism and war.
Confronting the material basis of black oppression in America means ripping up the entire edifice of the capitalist profit system, root and branch. Thus, any struggle for the rights of the oppressed must not base itself on appeals to a party that serves the bosses’ interests. Instead, students should ally with the multiracial working class, the only class that has the social power to smash the racist capitalist system. The fight against black oppression is a strategic question of the American socialist revolution. There will be no social revolution in this country without the united struggle of black, white and immigrant workers led by their multiracial vanguard party, just as there is no other road to eliminating the oppression of black people than the victorious conquest of power by the U.S. proletariat. The Spartacus Youth Clubs, youth auxiliaries of the Spartacist League, fight to build such a party. Join us!