Confederate Monument on Broad Street

The Soldier's Monument stands in downtown Athens, Georgia, on Tuesday, August 22, 2017. The monument commemorates the Athens soldiers who died in the Civil War. (Photo/Kristin M. Bradshaw, k@kristinmbradshaw.com

The news has been filled with the college admissions scandal that shined light on the glaring inequities and corruption of American higher education. Children of wealthy elites have benefited from this system of bribery since its inception, and it’s by no means a new phenomenon. The strings attached to generous donations are not always visible, but that does not mean they are nonexistent. That the system not only benefits the wealthy but fosters continued corruption should be no surprise.

Yet the revelations of beloved Lori Loughlin, who played Aunt Becky on “Full House,” and others bribing their kids’ way into elite colleges has raised several important questions about representation and diversity at American colleges and universities -- elite or not. They’ve shown that U.S. higher education’s lack of diversity is symptomatic of a larger system of white supremacy.

Twitter exploded with statistics showing the lack of diversity across college campuses to remind us that college education is not rigged solely for the very well-to-do, and it’s not only cheating and corruption denying well-deserving students a place at the table. As a white man, even from a working-class background, I am a beneficiary of this system.

College is just one small part of the rigged political and economic landscape that disproportionately benefits white Americans. We have grown used to the “revelations” of systemic racism, whether in statistics about mass incarceration, police shootings or in the makeup of our schools.

The University of Georgia’s undergraduate population in fall 2018, for instance, was about 70 percent white, followed by 10.5 percent Asian and less than 8 percent African American and 6 percent Hispanic. Contrast this with Georgia’s 2010 census breakdown of 60 percent white, 30.5 percent African-American, 9 percent Hispanic, and 3 percent Asian.

These discrepancies are the effect of structural inequalities endemic in the U.S. and do not inherently reflect explicitly racist policies made by the university, which attempts to foster greater diversity through several programs. Among these are Georgia DAZE, which encourages the enrollment of underrepresented students, and the LEAD Diversity Fellows Program.

What makes these inequalities difficult to fight, though, is their purposeful “invisibility” due to “colorblind” policies. But the structures of white supremacy are not always so hidden.  

Indeed, one glaring example is the prevalence of Confederate monuments, which have likewise filled the recent news cycle. But what does this have to do with the college admissions scandal and issues of unequal representation in American colleges?

For that, we must turn to Athens’ own Confederate monument on Broad street, a monument that has already received much attention in these pages. The monument to Athens’ Confederate dead sits right in front of the famous and treasured Arch, the gateway to the University of Georgia. Historians at UGA have linked the monument to the Ku Klux Klan, yet students must pass this monument to enter campus between the pillars supposedly representing wisdom, moderation and, most importantly, justice.

Again, I write this from a privileged position, but many people have expressed their feelings of isolation when they look around a classroom to see very few, if any, people that look like them. We should take this seriously, and we should strive to change societal structures of racism that facilitate such a glaring lack of diversity. This is no easy task, and there is not one society-changing panacea, but there are some small steps we can take here at UGA.

First, we need a more honest accounting of the history of slavery at the University, an issue on which we are seriously behind other schools. We, as students, should lead this initiative. Second, UGA (students and administration) should take a more active role in removing the Broad Street monument and fight state policies that prevent these monuments’ removal. We cannot sincerely claim to support diversity when we allow a symbol antithetical to diversity to stand across from UGA’s most recognizable symbol and gateway. I think UGA has a lot to be proud of. But we have a long, long way left to go.

As the college admissions scandal and the questions it raised about diversity have shown, UGA and other schools represent and uphold a larger system that explicitly and implicitly says who belongs and who does not. We should seriously consider, then, the message that a Klan-funded symbol of white supremacist injustice sends to our student body, many of whom may already feel out of place or unwelcome. This is not the sole responsibility of UGA or even of Athens; it is everyone’s responsibility (especially white Americans) to own up to our extremely troubled past of racial injustice. Only then can we actually, truly address present injustices.

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(2) comments

ugatiger26

I'm having a tough time taking seriously the opinions of someone who failed to link the correct reference material in their article. You do realize that the Georgia Census document you linked does not contain any demographic information? And while the demographics you listed are close enough (why refer to Georgia's 2010 census when you could've used 2018 data from the U.S. Census?), you fail to explain why UGA's white population is inflated by about 15% from the overall state population while UGA's Asian population is inflated by over 50%. If anything, UGA's admissions and enrollment stats indicate that it has an "Asian Supremacist" issue. Or are we counting Asians as "white" now; an utterly insulting and demeaning sleight of hand which erases the beautiful intricacies of Asian culture and denies them the reality of their own truth and cultural heritages?

Historians at UGA have linked the monument to the KKK? Please do tell. I'm curious what these links are. It's hard to believe that you'd omit such obvious ties when you had an excellent opportunity to educate your readers. But I think I know why. I believe you meant to say "A historian at UGA - who happens to be my major professor - holds the opinion that the monument ambiguously references the Klan; an excellent anecdote to drop into my article if I disguise its origin."

But the biggest issue I have with this article is that you failed to live up to the headline. Nowhere did you describe how the celebrity admissions scandal has anything to do with race (probably because it doesn't. It obviously had to do with money, unless you have evidence that the "fixers" involved in this scandal refused to "do business" with non-whites). You just threw it out there, and expected us to take you at your word. I think you just perceived the scandal as an opportunity to shoehorn this article into a publication.

Last note, because this is what truly confuses me. You accused UGA of making "explicitly racist policies" right before referencing Georgia DAZE and LEAD. Did you mis-write this part? Are you saying Georgia DAZE and LEAD are "racist policies?" You say they are UGA initiatives designed to foster diversity and encourage minority enrollment. Are you saying UGA has racist policies immediately before saying that it is encouraging minority enrollment? That's sort of confusing, no? You may want to re-write this section, because it's hard to figure out what argument you're trying to make.

bbarnes30

Thank you for your comments. This is the author. I did not provide the links for UGA enrollment or the census that appear in this column. Here are the sources I used.

Census: https://factfinder.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?pid=DEC_10_PL_QTPL&prodType=table

Enrollment: https://oir.uga.edu/factbook/enrollment/S04EnrP21/

On the census, it is only taken every ten years, the last time being in 2010. There is indeed, an estimate for 2018, but it is nevertheless an estimate. For transparency, though, here is the link to the 2018 estimate. https://factfinder.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?src=CF

Additionally, the staff of the Red & Black came up with the title and the log line. The purpose of my discussion about the admissions scandal was to show how it raised larger questions about diversity in American colleges.

Lastly, you misread the sentence from which you are quoting. Please re-read it. Thank you again.

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