On February 10, students at the UCLA School of Law — the number 17 law school in the nation — posted a video in order to “raise awareness of the disturbing emotional toll placed upon students of color due to their alarmingly low representation within the student body.” More specifically, the group decried the fact that there are only 33 black students in a student body of roughly 1,100.
Despite being students at one of the most elite law schools in the world, black students in the video, along with one Muslim student, said that they felt marginalized, left out, and disregarded in class and on campus by virtue of their minority status.
“I am so tired of being on this campus every day and having to plead my humanity, essentially, to other students. I feel like an outsider constantly,” one woman said.
Several students said that being part of such a small minority put a lot of pressure on them. “It feels like there’s a lot of pressure on me to do well, which I don’t necessarily mind, but it’s hard,” one man said.
“It feels isolating, it feels horrible, it feels like there’s a lot of pressure, a lot of weight,” said another.
Many students contended that if only there were more minorities on campus they would not suffer from the same loneliness, and even feelings that they are not safe.
“I think if I could look around my classroom and see faces that I identified with I wouldn’t feel so alone, I wouldn’t feel so afraid being there,” said one student. Another added that if only there were more black women in a class — maybe four more would do — she wouldn’t feel as ignored by her professor and peers.
To put it in a more academic tone, one student said that UCLA, as a reflection of society, still has people who “suffer from thinking about other people in the lines of mental constructs from the colonial era.”
UCLA has been plagued by perceived racism for almost the entire school year. In November, junior and African-American-studies major Sy Stokes decried UCLA’s race relations and the lack of minority students on campus in a Youtube video. A week and a half after Stokes posted his video, students in UCLA’s Graduate School of Education staged a sit in during a class, claiming that “grammar lessons” and the “barrage of questions by white colleagues” created a racially hostile environment.
But unlike Sy Stokes, these law students don’t explicitly argue that the university should actively seek to increase black enrollment. Instead, the students focus on the mental health difficulties facing members of minority groups who feel as if they can’t be a full part of a school that doesn’t have more members of their race or religion.
“It’s so far from being a safe space,” one law student said, “that it almost feels like staying at home would be better for my mental health.”
— Alec Torres is a William F. Buckley Fellow at the National Review Institute.