Opinion

OPINION: 50 Years After Racialized UCLA Gunfight, Diversity Derangement Prevails

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Lloyd Billingsley Policy Fellow, Independent Institute

January 17, 2019, will mark 50 years since members of the Black Panther Party and the US Organization shot it out on the University of California at Los Angeles campus. Panthers John Huggins and Alprentice “Bunchy” Carter perished in the gun battle over control of the school’s fledgling black studies programs.

Fifty years later, campus conflicts center on “diversity” and “inclusion.” And, like the gun battle, the back story has been forgotten. Here are a few chapters in this enduring drama.

UC Davis medical school reserved slots for blacks and Hispanics, but in 1973 and 1974, the school twice rejected Vietnam War veteran Allan Bakke, in current parlance a person of no color. His academic qualifications were outstanding, and he had never discriminated against anyone, but school officials rejected his admittance because of race. In 1978, Bakke sued and won, but the University of California continued to discriminate.

In 1996, voters passed the California Civil Rights Initiative — Proposition 209 — which barred racial and ethnic preferences in state education, employment and contracting. Despite furious opposition from the quota lobby, the measure passed by a vote of 54.6 percent vs. 45.4 percent and the disaster that opponents predicted never occurred.

As Thomas Sowell noted in his 2013 book, “Intellectuals and Race,” the number of African Americans and Hispanics graduating from the UC system increased and the number graduating in four years with a GPA of 3.5 or higher rose 55 percent.

But despite that progress and state law forbidding discrimination, the UC system has bulked up on “diversity” bureaucrats such as Jerry Kang, UCLA’s Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.

“I am a leading scholar on implicit bias, stereotype threat and the law,” Kang proclaimed when UCLA gave him the job in 2015. “My collaboration with mind scientists gives me cutting-edge insights on how to counter the biases we all tend to have.”

UCLA has always been a model of diversity, so there was no banned group for Kang to suddenly include. But on Kang’s watch, there has been a notable exclusion.

UCLA student Keith Fink won three national debating championships. After earning a law degree, Fink returned to the campus in 2008 as a professor. His course, “Sex, Politics, and Race: Free Speech on Campus,” was popular with students, but not with campus diversity bosses.

“The fact that I use current events at UCLA as teaching examples to illustrate free-speech principles likely bothers the administration,” Fink told the Chronicle of Higher Education. He charges that the administration downsized his classes, made it difficult for students to enroll, and rigged the evaluation process against him.

UCLA’s Daily Bruin ran articles in favor of Fink, and students circulated an open letter, “Keep Professor Fink AT UCLA,” calling him “one of UCLA’s greatest, most popular, and influential professors.” The nine voting faculty deadlocked, and in 2017, interim Dean Laura Gómez made the final call against Fink, whose supporters soon found themselves under fire.

UCLA teaching assistant Justin Gelzhiser wrote a letter in defense of Fink. As Gelzhiser told the Daily Bruin, campus officials threatened him with a sexual harassment claim if he didn’t leave his teaching position. The department, Gelhizer said, “wanted to get rid of me because they had just got rid of Fink.”

For Fink, like Allan Bakke a person of no color, the process looked more like an ideological purge than any kind of inclusion. He would like to see Kang’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion department abolished. As Heather MacDonald notes in “The Diversity Delusion,” Kang bags a salary of $444,000, so eliminating that useless department would save money. As MacDonald shows, “implicit bias” theory isn’t exactly scientific.

Meanwhile, UCLA never hosted another shootout between the Black Panthers and the “United Slaves,” as the Panthers called them. US Organization founder Maulana Karenga was formerly known as Ron Karenga and Ronald McKinley Everett. Karenga is the creator of Kwanzaa and professor of Africana studies at Cal State Long Beach. As they say in Swahili, Matunda ya kwanza — first fruits of the harvest.

Lloyd Billingsley is a policy fellow at the nonprofit Independent Institute. He is the author of Bill of Writes: Dispatches from the Political Correctness Battlefield, and the new crime book Lethal Injections: Elizabeth Tracy Mae Wettlaufer, Canada’s Serial Killer Nurse.


 The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.