Following the #BBUM (Being Black at the University of Michigan) movement on Twitter, the idea of a 10-percent enrollment rate of Black students became prevalent. Many people of all races had a lot to say about this.
Some folks said we brought this upon ourselves by attending a Predominantly White Institution, or PWI, rather than a Historically Black College or University, or HBCU.
Some people asked us questions like, “Why are you mad that you’re the only Black person in your class?”
I analyzed this question myself several times before forming an actual response. But now I finally know the reason why. According to the Lippi-Green folk theory of race, race is biological, not a social construct. Therefore, my discontent supposedly derives from my desire to be around other Black people. That is why I’m assumed to “sit with them in the lunch room.” However, that is not the case for me. I highly value diversity.
The Lippi-Green critical theory of race states that racism is actually a socially constructed, collective system that was created throughout history. And the University of Michigan is a prime example of institutionalized racism and discrimination.
During the #BBUM movement, both white and Black people were saying that if we were upset, we should just transfer to an HBCU. While I have respect for all HBCUs and the students who attend them, if I wanted to go to such a university, I would have gone there my freshman year. I appreciate diversity very much. The problem is that we love being Wolverines; we just want more diversity.
Finally, I will explain why I became upset that there are not Black people in my class, besides myself, by talking about this University. The University of Michigan prides itself on diversity. There are fliers, posters, websites and social media that all show a diverse group of people. However, while attending Michigan, the truth comes out. Just take a look at the enrollment numbers for undergraduate students this past fall.
It’s unusual to find not only Black people in my classes but also any other people of color. The #BBUM campaign demands 10-percent enrollment because right now, Black students make up only 4.65 percent of all undergrads. This number is unacceptable. Now, I understand the backlash about affirmative action being illegal; however, there is a huge difference between “filling a quota” and doing a substantial amount of recruiting — something that the University does not do for people of color.
When I see that I am the only Black person in my class, I see that the University does not care about me. I feel intimidated. Why? There is not a large amount of Black students, which means that they do not desire to have Black students (because if they did, they would make sure that Black students were attending). And if the University does not desire Black people, this means that they do not think there are enough Black people who are “the leaders and the best,” which therefore means that Michigan does not think that there are enough qualified (intelligent) Black students to admit. Hence, this states that Black people are not as smart as other racial groups on campus. That is why I feel intimidated, and that is why I am mad.
Simon Rivers is an LSA junior.