Racist Incidents Spur Discussion and Protests at UC Campuses

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March 3, 2010
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A string of incidents at Univeristy of California campuses in recent weeks has generated protests and discussion throughout the university system about racism and intolerance. The highly-publicized incident that sparked the protests was a mid-February party held by UC San Diego fraternities mocking Black History month. Party organizers dubbed the event the "Compton Cookout" and sent invitations via Facebook encourageing men to wear oversized clothes, chains, and show tatoos. Women were instructed to speak very loudly while rolling their necks and waving their fingers.  A few days later, a campus television show aired a segment of the party and used a racial epithet to criticize Black students. On March 1, Governor Schwarzenneger condemned "intolerable acts of racism and incivility" on UC campuses. That same night, a Ku Klux Klan-like hood was discovered hanging from a statue outside the UC San Diego library. Police are investigating the matter.

The population of African American and Latino students at UC schools has historically been low. Black students currently make up only 3.8 percent of undergraduates in the UC system, while Latinos comprise 20.4 percent, whites are 30.5 percent, and Asians 39.8 percent of undergraduates. At UC San Diego, where the most explosive racial incidents have recently occured, African Americans students are less than 2 percent of undergraduates.

The effort to diversity the student population at UC campuses was set back after voters approved Proposition 209 in 1996. That initiative banned affirmative action in all state programs.