UCLA student says “Stop pretending that the wounds of our past have healed. We’re not asking for a handout, we’re asking for a level playing field.”
In his video, UCLA student and Spoken Word artist Sy Stokes highlights depressing numbers that demonstrate how little racial diversity exists among his classmates. In 2012 only 3.3% of the males enrolled at UCLA were African American and of those, 65% were athletes. But the numbers are just numbers. They are useful insofar as they highlight just how bad we’ve let disparity get. In a related petition that Stokes started a commenter suggested that UCLA’s African American population is lower now than it was in the 1960s. The most important part of the video comes at the end. After previously referencing affirmative action as a means to address educational inequality Stokes hits the core historical component of racism in America:
Stop pretending that the wounds of our past have healed
We’re not asking for a handout, we’re asking for a level playing field
If you read the comments on the Youtube video, you will find people saying there are bigger problems in the world, that racism isn’t a big deal, that these men are lucky to be at such a prestigious university and if we just eliminated the identification of race from college applications altogether, that would eliminate racism.
In Brene Brown’s infamous TED Talk on shame almost in passing she identifies shame as a major component of the continued presence of racism in the United States. That’s why Stoke’s historical reference to the unhealed wounds of slavery is so important, and also why the Youtube comments are so off base. Most of us that benefit from our racist past, present and future are so ashamed we can’t even acknowledge that it still exists, and since it’s not as overt any more a la Stokes’ reference to responsibility in his line “Because no snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible,” we feel best served by ignoring it and pretending it doesn’t affect us.
But as men re-imagining what it means to be a man in the 21st century many of us have learned the hard way about the pain perpetuated and exasperated by bottling up our emotions. Here too we need to wake up to address our pain, separate our past actions—or inactions—from our identity and let go of it so we can make better actions now and in the future, for our African American brothers and for ourselves, because racism doesn’t only affect people of color. This should be obvious if you recognize the interdependence of the economy and are aware of the projections that show whites losing majority status in the United States as early as 2043. We need everyone to be on equal footing so we can all work well together, and that begins with providing equal opportunities in education.
The YouTube commenters are right that it’s time to move on, but they’re forgetting that it’s often not possible to move on and change without recognizing, acknowledging and working through the past, something we all need to do now, in the present.
Filmed by Justin Janes & Steven Ng
Written and Performed by Sy Stokes
Music Composed by David Teel
Editing and Post-Production by Justin Janes
The Black Bruins:
Davontae Foxx Drew
Mike Bailey Jr.