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Tensions boil over racist 'Compton Cookout' at UC San Diego

Back to Black

By Reginald James
On March 14, 2010

Racism is a toxin that has polluted this country for too long. One area that is most infected is education.

It was once illegal to teach an enslaved African how to read. Public education was created to educate the formerly enslaved, but segregation forced Black people into "separate and unequal" schools until the mid-20th century. To maintain that order, Blacks were regularly lynched.

The vestiges of institutionalized racism in higher education continue. And today, they aren't any more apparent than at the University of California--San Diego.

The campus has the lowest percentage (1.3%) of African American enrollment in the nine campus UC system, and has a hostile atmosphere after a series of disgusting racist incidents.

Last month, a fraternity decided to have an off-campus party mocking Black History Month. The "Compton Cookout," promoted racial stereotypes and degraded Black women.

Female invitees were asked to be "ghetto chicks," meaning wearing gold teeth and cheap clothes, starting fights and having "short, nappy hair." They were also encouraged to use a "limited vocabulary."

Watermelon, chicken, malt liquor and a purple sugar-water potion called, "dat purple drank" was publicized. (Hot sauce not included)

Days later, a group of students on the campus' Student Run Television Program (SR-TV) spoke in support of the racist event referring to the members of the UCSD Black Student Union (BSU) who protested as "ungrateful niggers."

Then a female student left a noose hanging in the campus library. She was suspended after confessing, saying she "didn't think leaving a noose was an issue," according to a campus official.

Besides resorting to slave era stereotypes to degrade their classmates, these students likely thought it would be funny, a way to live out their ghetto fantasies.

Hollywood films have long reinforced such plantation-era images of Blacks as watermelon-eating, chicken stealing, ignorant coons.

Considering the Civil Rights Project found that public schools are more segregated today than there were in 1952--when U.S. apartheid education was outlawed--those students probably haven't met any Black folks in real life and thought it was an appropriate way to portray Black people. Anti-racist activist Tim Wise said during his Black History Month presentation at Laney College that white supremacy permits the dominant group to offend people without experiencing the pain.

But as stupid as their actions were, it is inconceivable that a college student wouldn't know that nooses were used to lynch Black people after emancipation, and used to intimidate them today.

Unfortunately, this is the type of environment students of color must survive and thrive inside in a post-Proposition 209 environment. In 1996, California voters eliminated affirmative action in higher education admissions.

The campuses' BSU has held a numerous protests in response, holding the university accountable.

"The University is allowing the African American students to be racially demoralized by a group of students on this campus," the BSU said, adding that the broadcast was at taxpayers-expense.

The behavior of these students illustrates why effective Ethnic Studies classes should be mandatory. If the university really wants to address racism in higher education, it will work allocate resources to ensure that more Black and minority students enroll.

Until then, keep your chicken and liquor for your own mental plantation. We just want education. Besides, watermelon ain't in season.

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