Who gets to study at the University “System” of Maryland?

The history of my campus is replete with racism. Most of the presidents of the university were decisively racists. Segregation of students based on whiteness/color had been a constant. In a timeline I helped prepare for my office, we discovered even more startling facts, some too gory to carry online.

Well, what’s new, one would say, when ‘everyone was doing it basically the same’ way up until 70’s. You know, folks actually get away with that loose canon. Of course it absolves the guilt of the guilt. The blacks, the asians, the hispanics had no place in white colleges back then, after all.

Back then sounds like a clichéd history. Except that we oftentimes fail to recognize how hysterically historical our contemporary society even is. The majority of population surrounding my campus are Blacks and Hispanics. Indeed, there are scores of communities of Latino population just outside the campus area (less than 100 meters away). Miles of stretches of apartments are inhabited by Latinos and Blacks. It’s like the invisible America of the national Capital.

After all, the visible are the big cities, not their population. The buildings, not the workers. Powerful sites like Washington DC, New York City or Las Vegas. Invisible are their makers: the cheap labor force. Behind all the glory of the Capitol streets, all glitz of the Times Square and glamour of Nevada casinos are the footmarks of the Blacks and Latinos. ‘They’ construct the roads and buildings and yes keep them darn clean.

Same goes with the giant ivory tower of the University of Maryland. The College Park campus alone is located on 1,250 acres of rolling land. The communities surrounding the campus are predominantly Latino. At least 80 percent of them are! Eighty freakin percent! The PG County which houses the College Park university is predominantly black. About 63% of population in PG County are Black (whereas only 27% are White). Likewise, the adjoining Washington DC –the state that houses the most powerful maniacs in political history—has a population of 60% blacks and only 30% whites.

Now let’s look at the largest campus of the area, the flagship public university and how diverse it is—which basically means how much does the university attempt at recruiting from the population that is represented in the area. How reflective is it of the reality and how contrasting are the statistics when we compare between the people who make up the area and the ones who get the elite tickets to higher education. We are not even talking of the rates of retention which is pathetically lower when it comes to students of color. For the purpose, we are to talk only of the recruitment (colored students who at least showed up—no matter if they left the place owing to the great mismatch between lived reality in their living neighborhood and the classroom incongruence).

Here it is, among the undergraduates: White students: 68%! Asians: 14%. Blacks: 12%. Latino: 5.7%.
And among the graduate students: White students: 83%! Blacks: 7%. Rest: 10%

So what we have here is a complete contradictory picture of what is real outside and what’s reflected inside. This is true of all major universities of the US. All big cities are predominantly inhabited by people of color. Just look at the statistics, from the US census: Latinos comprise 27% of New York City, 46% of Los Angeles, 26% of Chicago, 37% of Houston, 36% of Dallas, 30% of San Jose, 59% of San Antonio, 77% of El Paso, 25% of San Diego, and 34% of Phoenix.

Likewise, Blacks comprise, 28% of New York, 44% of Philadelphia, 37% of Chicago, 26% of Houston, 27% of Dallas, 82% of Detroit, 65% of Baltimore, 62% of Memphis, 61% of Washington DC, and 68% of New Orleans.

Now add these figures for all the major cities of the America. Even if we don’t count the Asians, these numbers alone are staggeringly so high that the reality is, the great big cities of the world are actually great because of the contributions of the hard-working people of color who comprise the majority here.

So where are the 77% of Whites of American population?
Well, a small minority of them are in the big cities, alright. And they clout the elite institutions –courts, universities, business empires in major proportions. They don’t deal with the slum problems since they have got people to build huge buildings for them already. They don’t have communities or neighborhoods. Only towers shrouded by private forests where paparazzi have to make a living of. The majority among the rest of them also take a break and don’t have to deal with the problems of the colored people—leading eventually to real segregation of the great contemporary America—one of the lesser pondered truths of modern times.

Huge majority of whites do not reside in the working class population that constructs the modern monuments. The one that is the invisible America in the Hollywood movies (again an example of mismatch—between who appear on screen and who live in Los Angeles), and the invisible America amidst the homeless millions of New York and DC.

In the cities that control the rest of the country, the ones who control the cities are a small minority White population. And that is the grim reality even to this date. And control they do, remotely. Living luxuriously in posh bungalows in richest counties which either exist side by side the largest slums (consider the fact that the country’s 10 richest communities are in the Washington metropolitan area only—where even as less than one-third are White!) or completely are way off in less dense states, demarcating the lines of segregation.

This is called the classic contradiction of capitalism in the political economy. The majority work hard to make the civilizations, for the minority to rule. The class society reinforces a social divide, uses overpowering instruments—dominant religions, mainstream education, standard work ethics, negotiable law and order—to normalize the illusions. It feels good to assume its one country, one America blessed by a Christian God, one culture where we have reduced the indigenous to less than 2 percent, one power fighting one war of terror outside the country and one superpower solving the world’s problems since we are not supposed to have any.

And it certainly makes most of us also forget –to choose sides in the exceedingly polarized two worlds of modern America—the Haves America, and the Have-nots America.


Author: Saswat Pattanayak

Journalist, Generalist, Atheist, Poet, Lover, Photographer, Communist, Third wave Feminist, LGBT ally, Black power comrade, Peacenik, Anti-capitalist, Critical media theorist, Radical film critic, Academic non-elite…

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