Commentary: “Black Bruins” Find Shame in UCLA’s Diversity

Arthur Ashe’s cousin shines spotlight on public university that has pushed Black males to the margins.

Posted: 11/15/2013 12:11 PM EST

The "Black Bruins" of UCLA have a point, and they seem to have all the evidence to back it up.

Oh, so you haven’t heard of these activist brothers with their old-school ways, have you? Here’s their story: They’re committed Black males who’ve dissected some admission numbers at UCLA and didn’t like the way those numbers looked. For those numbers told them that to attend UCLA as a Black man you were more likely an athlete than an ordinary student.

In 2012, UCLA enrolled 19,838 male students. Of those numbers, 660 of them were Black; inside these statistics was a more troublesome fact: 429 of the 660 were athletes. For the incoming class of 2013-14, 48 of the students were Black males.

We all know that Black males educated Black males are an endangered species. Society’s hopes for these men are minimal, aside from pushing them into athletics or music. Build another basketball court (or recording studio) and they will come.

And they do come … to colleges north and south. They come with expectations of turning their athleticism into riches the sort of million-dollar contracts they hear men like Kyrie Irving, Michael Carter-Williams or Nerlens Noel sign.

But no multi-million-dollar contracts await at the end of their rainbows. What is there, absence an education, are the realities of life: the backbreaking 3-to-11 gigs that put grits and bacon and eggs on the breakfast table.

The brothers at UCLA seemed to understand such circumstances. Behind the leadership of Sy Stokes, a junior who is a melting pot of races, the Black Bruins are asking no, they’re demanding that the university’s admissions officials take the same aggressive approach to finding Black male students that their athletics counterparts take in finding Black athletes.  

Don’t call what Stokes and his Black Bruins are demanding “affirmative action” because affirmative action doesn’t exist in California’s college system. Admissions officers can’t use race as a yardstick for bringing a diverse student body to campus.

So Black males with academic shortcomings who might have been admitted two decades ago are denied admission. From those rejections, they’ve discovered a hardheaded reality: They don’t matter to society.

OK, that’s not altogether true. Black males have great value. Their athletic skills fill arenas and stadiums year after year, and if their skills aren’t good enough to land a college scholarship, Black males seem to have two options to the game day cheers they crave: three hots and a cot in the California penal system; or rapping.

Stokes, the cousin of the late Arthur Ashe, finds such prospects unsettling. We all should.

College ought to be the place where prospects for the Sy Stokes turn into a wide range of careers careers as accountants, lawyers, investment bankers, economists, physicians, educators and, of course, U.S. presidents.

And college can.

UCLA is just a microcosm of a widespread problem, which plays out on college campuses large and small in America.

Everybody knows it’s smarter and cheaper to open more college classrooms than to build an additional prison cell. But we’ll be building plenty of these cells until we take more interest in preparing Black men to turn pro in fields other than sports and music.

The Black Bruins know this better than any of us do.

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

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 (Photo: Sy Stokes via YouTube)

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