Seek true ‘diversity’

The University of Georgia long ago rid itself of openly racist policies, and even in the redneck sectors of the student population rarely hear outright racist blather – but to be honest, the strongest link between the university and diversity is that they rhyme.In considering the University of Georgia for graduate school, I heard about the school’s problems with minority recruitment, but I didn’t truly understand until I attended my first football game last year.As my girlfriend and I walked into the student section amid a sea of Anglo faces, I stopped and said, “They’re right. There are no black students here.””Sure there are,” she said.I turned to find her pointing to the sidelines. That’s Sanford Stadium on a Saturday afternoon, with stands packed by mostly white spectators cheering on the Bulldogs, a team of mostly black kids enticed onto campus to provide afternoon entertainment.This, of course, is not a problem for UGA alone. The university’s problems are but a symptom of the larger problem, like a little itch is to skin cancer Subtle racism is rampant across this country. It’s not the hose-’em-down-in-the-streets type of racism we have to worry about nowadays.It’s more the Archie Bunker type, such as when people say diversity at state universities doesn’t matter because there are plenty of all-black schoolsOr when we live in a nation where it is far easier to find black 20-somethings in the county jail than on the grounds of an institution of higher education. Or when Georgetown University says blacks typically don’t pass our admissions muster, but if you’ve got a wicked jump hook, we’ll work something out.Or when Notre Dame says the same if you can run 40 yards in 4 seconds or toss a tight spiral 30 yards on a rope.I’m not saying universities are racist, nor am I saying black athletes are dummies in need of educational coddling.I’m saying it’s interesting how far a university will go for a chance to play football on New Year’s Day or basketball in March.Wouldn’t it be neat if these same universities went to such lengths to recruit kids growing up in the inner city – you know, the kids who are implicitly taught higher education isn’t an option unless they can dunk from the foul line?Diversity is not about creating an African-American studies program on campus.It’s not about computer-planting black faces into pictures of an all-white crowd (as did Auburn and the University of Wisconsin).It’s not about lowering admissions standards (do we honestly want dumber college students?).Rather, diversity is about dispelling a mind-set that tells its beholder college is for white kids. The seed of that thought is planted before kindergarten, but kindergarten may be as early as we can get to them.If a university, not just the University of Georgia, but any university wants to increase diversity, administrators must find ways to reach these kindergartners before they learn to believe higher education is too tall to reach.Black youngsters who want an education will find one, and there are many avenues they can pursue. Universities truly desiring diversity have to find the kids who don’t want an education – before they decide they don’t want it. Eliott C. McLaughlin is a graduate student in journalism at the University of Georgia.