An Educated Latino For Civil Rights

Stop CA Prop 16 and Save Civil Rights!

I contemplated whether I wanted to write this essay, but we are living in a new era. I think the common person must speak up against the direction of today’s society, yet to speak the truth is to be courageous and dangerous when it should be the norm. We live in a society where equality is important, but we can’t be called equal if I am unable to tell you that you are wrong. I believed that objective truth was the paramount value of humanity, but I have come to realize that humanity is moved more by narrative rather than data and facts. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a bad thing, but bad narratives do exist and it’s important to be able to tell the correct narrative.

In June 2020, the California State Senate and State Assembly approved of a proposed constitutional amendment now called CA Prop 16 and California citizens will be expected to vote Yes or No on the November 3rd General Elections. A vote of Yes will REPEAL CA Prop 209 which states that the California state government shall not discriminate or grant preferential treatment to people based on race, color, ethnicity, national origin, and sex for public employment, education, and public contracting. A vote of No opposes this amendment and will ensure that these State Civil Rights remains in the California constitution. Every California Democrat and one Republican voted to approve of this amendment while almost every California Republican voted to disapprove of this initiative so that Prop 209 remained unchallenged within the constitution.

So, why did the California Democrats decide to cut State Civil Rights at the knees? Well the problem, therefore the correction in the form of Prop 16, is the unfortunate reality that the University of California and the California State University systems don’t emulate the racial make-up in a proportionate matter that reflects graduation rates of high schools and the California population at large. They believe that by taking away certain Civil Rights it will help students, particularly Latino and Black students, who continue to see themselves underrepresented within these institutions of higher education. They believe that by taking away Prop 209, the universities will be able to fully incorporate Affirmative Action and that the California State Courts will be able to leave them to their own devices.

If you are confused about what I have said thus far I must encourage you to do your own research and create your own opinions. I would certainly love to go through the complete history of Prop 209 and Prop 16, but this legislation is so appalling that I can’t remain unbiased in my opinion on this matter. Civil Rights are on the line and we might be the generation to dismantle these rights that serve as an important hallmark in our society.

Now, allow me to tell my narrative and why I’m adamant in my opposition against CA Prop 16. I believe that voting Yes on CA Prop 16 would be an utter betrayal against my past self and my own lived experience of having to crawl through an underserving K-12 program within the Los Angeles Unified School District. I will specifically discuss my high school years and my experience in college.

When it came to the faculty and the student body in my high school, we had the stereotypical out-of-touch principal, teachers who were more interested in putting on a video than giving a lecture, rowdy students with the occasional event of two students exchanging punches during class. We even had a brawl of 40+ students during my freshman year. Academic excellence was only desired by students who had the aspiration to get into college and would fill in the seats of AP or Honors classes, but those students were a minority within the school. Everyone else was stuck taking Regular classes where these issues were more occurrent. These students were not academic achievers, nor did they care to become one, I mean how can they with all the trials and tribulations they undergo outside of school in the surrounding city.

During my freshman year, my school got divided up into three different schools on the same campus - strange to think about even now - due to greater policy changes from LAUSD lead by a new principal that got hired to clean up the underwhelming academic record at the time. This plan brought a lot of confusion where teachers had to decide or were assigned to enter one of three schools full time. Students had to choose which school suited their interests and specific classes had to be accommodated within these schools. I say that students chose their schools due to interest but many of them chose their schools because they believed they chose the “easiest” school. If a certain class/course wasn’t available in your school, you would have to go through administrative processes to get into that desired course and that’s only if space would be available for you in the first place. This affected students who desired to go to college in that your school may not have the Advanced Placement (AP) class that could help you get into your desired major in college. Each school had its own teachers, administrative workers, and principals exclusive to only one school.

The current statistics about the school’s student body and student academic performance don’t accurately represent my time at my high school as I graduated in 2015 but it’s a close approximation to what I’ve witnessed in my own years and so we will use this data. Please note, I will not be revealing where I went to high school nor reveal any identities within this writing.  About 70% of the student body was considered economically disadvantage and 71% of them participate in either the free or reduce lunch program. Minority enrollment of the student body is 96% where 51% are Hispanic/Latino, 21% are Black, 17% are Asian, 6% are Pacific Islander, 3% are White, and the rest are of other minorities.

When it came to the academic performance of the school, we earned a score of 19.9 out of 100 in the College Readiness Index. Out of the entire student body, only 39% of the student body took one AP exam but only 14% out of the entire student body managed to pass one AP exam. The school had an 89% graduation rate with only 20% of the student body being proficient in mathematics and 47% were proficient in reading. I suppose we were decent readers due to the strong English program we had at my specific school which was led by brilliant teachers. The only saving grace of this insufficient school. 

My complaints about my K-12 experience are long but I did have a handful of inspiring teachers who truly gave me the tools for me to progress and go the distance when it came to my educational and career attainment. However, most of those teachers were in my last two years of high school when I started to take AP courses and two years of a decent education can’t make up for a whole K-12 experience. My AP Biology teacher gave, what is perhaps, the most important talk that I have ever heard from any teacher. He told us in a straightforward manner that we had been underserved by the educational system of LAUSD. He was just being honest with us which was something that too few teachers were ever willing to do; that our K-12 experience set us up for failure at worst and at best those of us that chose to go to college would have a difficult journey compared to our college peers who were better prepared for this level of educational attainment. The conversation was one of those hard-pill-to-swallow discussions that I doubt any teacher would be allowed to say in today’s political environment. The nature of that talk wasn’t political, it was one of tough love and that if we don’t pull ourselves up as individuals, we will fall short of our aspirations. At the time, I didn’t fully comprehend his message until I got to college.

In 2015, I started my college career at UC Santa Barbara as an incoming freshman. My experience in college was one of accomplishments and defeats, the former would be less than the latter. My first two years of college would be best summed up as a time where I had to continuously adjust and re-adjust myself to the difficulties of my courses within my Biology major program. Where in high school I achieved great feats, in college I couldn’t even be the average, I was consistently below the average in grades and test scores, I had to repeat several courses, and I almost didn’t get into my major. I was placed on academic probation twice and I was ready to drop out of college at the end of my freshman year. However, my stubbornness wouldn’t allow me to surrender, and against the odds, I obtained my degree in Biological Sciences. I was not unscathed by the trial of having to exhaustively play catch up in my college courses and the lack of academic confidence plagues me to this day. While I did achieve a college degree, my career goal is to become a scientist and that would one day require me to go to graduate school. It’s going to be a long road, right now I ponder daily how exactly I’m going to achieve this feat. Cs get degrees, but they don’t get you into graduate or medical school. They might not even land you that dream job after college.

I do blame myself for the lack of achievement within my college years, but this doesn’t take away from the fact that I was a product of a broken K-12 LAUSD school system. This is a huge issue and the reason for my opposition against Prop 16. Our Democrat political officials within the State Assembly and State Senate really want to see the racial demographics of our colleges to be proportionate to the racial demographics of the California population, but they don’t realize that the most important aspect of ensuring that our Black and Latino students are for them to be prepared for college in terms of academic performance. The largest Mexican descendent population in the United States comes from Los Angeles. While LAUSD has some promising schools that compete at a high level within the state and the nation, they are only a few of such schools. The best school within LAUSD is called Harbor Teacher Preparatory Academy where about half of that student body consists of Latino/Hispanic students and ranks as the 7th best school in California with a college readiness index score of 82.8 out of 100[1]. These students are the ideal college applicants and it’s because they attended an amazing high school. This high school in which the minority enrollment is at 96% shouldn’t be an outlier, it should be the norm within California in terms of academic performance and college readiness. What was the norm for me during my time in high school?

As stated earlier, during my freshman year the school broke out into chaos when about 40+ students engaged in a brawl that ended with around four students having to be hospitalized, three students arrested for assault with a weapon, and seven were cited for fighting on a public school campus. The police didn’t catch every involved student in this storm of chaos. The media reported to had been racially motivated, but it was the spill-out of violence from competing tagging crews. Not the most climatic situation but let me tell you that teenagers are children with almost adult bodies. This event was nothing to scoff at if you know to have seen worse, perhaps you have, but when you witness teenagers brutalize each other to great lengths your idea that humanity is purely good and have no natural inclination to harm another goes out the window. Perhaps you are of the belief that people, if the conditions remain good, can be perfectly good people and I would only partially agree with such a statement.

The brawl began in the morning break period where students were allowed twenty minutes of time to refresh themselves, eat, and talk with friends before going into the next class. It was almost like a domino effect in which perhaps a small group of students began to fight, then the next group, and so on throughout this break. One of my friends almost got pulled into one fight until they got pulled back by some dean of the campus, but that dean immediately got a jab in the face the second he entered the circle by some other tenacious student. The bell rang early to signal students to go their assigned class and as the crowds were forcibly dispersed by security guards, faculty, teachers, and any available adult I saw a student getting walked away with a busted nose that drips blood through his hands as he covered his nose. I would like to say that the walk back to class was cautiously urgent but it was more like if you don’t go to your class in five minutes the security guards and school police will detain you so get your ass in your class sort-of-vibe.

Students rushed to their class and I, unfortunately, had a class in a building on the second floor so going upstairs didn’t appear daunting at the time. However, now that I think back on that event, I can’t believe someone didn’t fall back and knock back a whole group of students while going upstairs. Everyone ran upstairs. Almost at the top, I looked down at the swarm of students pushed against each other trying to make their way up the stairs. A classmate of mine who was behind me, who happens to be Black, looked at me while grasping tightly on the railings and shouted “GO, N***A, GO!” He smirked while saying it but honestly, we were both stupid teenagers, it wasn’t until I got to college and reflected on my past that I realize that this was a dangerous event. One wrong step and some person above me or below me could have taken us down the flight of stairs.

During class, students talked with one another about what they witnessed, and the teacher didn’t bother lecturing, but he did walk around asking students what happened in the courtyards. I assume he did us a favor to cool down our heads and try to process what we saw during these twenty minutes of mayhem. As the class was almost dismissed, the PA system was turned on by the school and student leaders voiced their pleas for the student body to stop participating in the violence. The class talked through the message only paying half attention, but I was close to the speaker, so I was able to decently listen to their speeches. The class got dismissed for lunch and a few minutes in the brawl restarts with more involvement of students who found out that their friend or family member got jumped and sought good ole’ fashion restorative vengeance with their fists. The event resulted in four students being sent to the hospital, three students were arrested for assault with a deadly weapon, ten were cited for fighting, and several of these students were handed expulsions from the school. Around half a dozen cop cars came to the school with around a dozen cops attempting to restore order and the next day they would come back with security guards from other schools coming into my school to keep the thin peace. I believe the next day a gang banger got caught trying to jump over the school fence looking for a student who had beaten their family member, but I’m not totally sure it’s been nine years so that could totally be false.

Fighting on school grounds was a common occurrence in my high school years. Honestly, it was a source of entertainment and a source of annoyance as it became a drag to constantly witness so much violence but, hey, I still stood on the sidelines to watch teenage boys rip each other apart and teenage girls pull the hair out off each other scalps. Many weaves were indeed lost. Some weeks were bad followed by more weeks of relative peace but then the fighting would spike again, it was very cyclic.  

So, that was quite a not-so-fun time. This brawl, while it only occurred once really set the tone as to how my next three years of high school would be like due to the natural consequence of living in a relatively low socioeconomic city, poor leadership within the school administration at all levels, a lack of an installation of a moral compass within the student body, and teachers who couldn’t be bothered to care about anything.

It’s a personal embarrassment of mine that I’m not completely fluent in Spanish, just enough to have conversations but not at a high level. I can barely read and my writing skills in Spanish are practically non-existent. I took two years of Spanish and one year of AP Spanish for which I miraculously passed with a score of 3 out of 5 in the AP exam. My Spanish teacher for those three years was a decent person but she was inept in her teaching skills. Her temper and patience with rambunctious, misbehaving students were short. During my sophomore year, she once shouted at the whole class but it wasn’t the regular sort of shouting you might imagine, it was like she used every ounce of strength she can muster in her vocal cord and diaphragm to create a shout that would shake a person’s core. My suspicions and some classmates shared my opinion were that she probably suffered from some sort of mental illness. She would occasionally give some cues that she wasn’t necessarily well collected but I’m very sympathetic. Mental illness is a serious problem, one shouldn’t laugh or scoff at the suffering of a person trying everything to maintain their mind and spirit. Teaching can be a rough occupation and teachers are human, all humans are flawed in some aspect, and that’s okay. However, as sympathetic as I was or as much as I did like her class, school is meant to educate not solely to enjoy the time. It was a shame since she was perfectly qualified to teach, and she had a complete mastery of the language. If my memory serves me correctly, she was college-educated in Spain and Spanish was her first language. I believed her talent in educating students had all but worn out as well as her stamina to do this important role.

Within my school, we had three academies and each academy had its own high school counselors. Our high school counselor was perhaps one of the most unliked, to say it lightly, administrators at the school. She was known to be a lazy counselor who would put students in classes that certain students wouldn’t need or didn’t want to take for the semester. People were put in honors and AP classes that they didn’t want to take and/or weren’t even prepared to take in their course load. Occasionally, people had conflicting classes or students would have to approach her to enroll them in the proper course for their graduation requirements. She was one of the administrators who teachers would avoid interacting with but would talk about her in hushed tones. Students would complain about her whenever she was brought up, usually to complain about her mistakes in their class schedules. Whenever I had to interact with her, she seemed very aloof and her disinterest was painfully obvious as we talked about my situation. When she noticed that I was quite a high achieving student, she seemed relieved as she understood I knew what classes I wanted for the next semester, I gave her an easy day. When she got pregnant and took her parental leave, a substitute counselor stepped into the role. The differences between both were night and day, the substitute was very engaged with our conversations when I discussed my plans for the next semester. Every student liked her in comparison to the other, a frequent topic that people discussed was if she was going to stay in the school and finally replace the original counselor. Students, teachers, and other administrators all hoped for the substitute to be the replacement, but alas it wasn’t meant to be, and she would eventually come back to the school after a long leave. Why couldn’t she have been fired from her role? Well her father was a higher-up within LAUSD and nepotism is a hell of a job security assurance. Nepotism was a word I was introduced to because another student told me about it when I asked her why she seemed impossible to be fired from the job. Honestly, I think many students at my school got introduced to the word through this situation of a terrible, impossible-to-fire school counselor.

My freshman biology teacher got fired for smacking a female student behind her neck. I scored 104% in his class, he was a pretty boring teacher when he lectured but he was very friendly and would crack some funny dad jokes. However, he was very friendly, and every male student realized that he was particularly friendly towards the female students. No, I don’t believe he was a pedophile, but he was a child in a grown man’s body. He was the type of person who probably missed his high school days perhaps a bit too much and he decided to partake in a game that every high schooler is familiar with, the game called Neck. You see at my school we played this game by blatantly smacking the person’s back of the neck. This game was mostly played between friends, sometimes it was just a plain bullying tactic. Some people would place their hand right behind the neck and would simply clap their own hands together to startle the victim. Others would smack the hell out the person leaving a red handprint of shame, and this was the case of the teacher. He smacked a female student and she wasn’t entertained, she reported him, and he was fired I believe during my sophomore year. No Teachers Union can protect his job. 

I believe that during my junior year, I remember during a break period where a classmate went up to me with a smile on his face held up his backpack, and said “Ulysses, look at my CO2 gas cartridges!” I looked down his bag where he had a dozen cartridges in his backpack. For those of you who don’t know, CO2 gas cartridges are used frequently for machinery and temperature control of spaces. These cartridges can explode if mishandled, damaged, or placed in a high-temperature environment. He had these cartridges sitting in a dark-colored bag on a very hot spring semester day which he tossed to the floor just to open it up and show the items as if they were for show-and-tell. Not sure if the school policy would consider this an explosive, maybe it should classify them as such. Not a minute later a security guard walked by, he saw the cartridges, overheard him say that he wanted to show the cartridges to me, came up to him told him to hand them over, the dumb-dumb lied to him said that he didn’t have anything in his backpack! The security guard, who stands six feet tall and had a big build over us two five foot five tall - or short- students, perhaps necessarily, said to him “You either give me them to me or I kick your ass.” He quietly took out each one and handed the security guard all the cartridges. The security guard walks away, the student walks away, I walk back to my class not really giving too much thought about what happened other than that security guard meant some serious business as I’ve known him to be quite a laid back and jocular person. Years later I find cartridge explosion videos on YouTube and thank my lucky brown stars that the guard, by chance, happened to be there at the right time.

During the first class of the day, everyone would listen to announcements on the PA system. This memory really stuck with me, for reasons I’m not entirely sure, but there was a time in which a student sitting next to me had his chair kicked repeatedly by some other student behind him, he didn’t like it so he told the other student to stop kicking and shaking his desk. The kicker responded with a kick powerful enough to push the desk and in which the first student responded by smacking him at the side of the kicker’s head. They got up quickly and startled me, I was about to get caught in the crossfire. The teacher went up to them and simply told them with his hands sliding in between the students “Stop the confrontation! Stop the confrontation!” It worked and they calmed down, they sat down, and the tension ceased, and the class went back to doing whatever they were doing at the time. We’ve all seen this too many times, even though the school would like to report otherwise. Someone escalates a situation, the other retaliates, it goes into a mauling between students, security or the police stops them, they get suspended or an expulsion.

I played on the high school’s soccer team in my sophomore and junior year. During my sophomore year, I was at practice and our team was in a scrimmage game when we heard a gunshot at one side of the school. What happened was that two people who were alumni of the high school had encountered each other by chance near the school. These two people had problems with one another during high school and some good ole’ fashion restorative vengeance was in order. One of them pulled out a gun and shot at other person, nobody died that night, from what I can remember, but the arrests were made by the police. The next day the soccer team and baseball team were called to go into the auditorium of the school were the coaches, principals, and other administrators talked about the situation that transpired that night. The two people who were involved were previous soccer and baseball players whose deadly hatred for one another began when they fought in the locker room of the school’s gym. One guy bullied the younger brother of the other, he decided to settle the score. We were called in because even though the criminals were alumni, many of the older players were still around when this whole problem happened and led to both teams being prohibited from using the locker rooms from that event. In gang culture, as one of the criminals was involved in that life, one thing stands true - gang affiliations run deeper than the blood ties of family. The coaches and administrators wanted to ensure that we wouldn’t be a problem, the teams haven’t really interacted with each in such manners ever since the original locker room event, so we weren’t a problem. You could be mad; you could be offended that we would be brought in with implications that some of us wanted to start trouble with the other team. Your anger would be misplaced as we showed everyone that no trouble will occur between the teams. Nobody wanted trouble and this event was to bring some little formality to that resolve.

I want to discuss a hard topic. I will not jest or make jokes about this topic. I had a friend in middle school who was a year younger than me and during high school, we drifted apart, not for bad reasons, it’s just the nature of life and time. He was one of the best volleyball players in the area amongst the various schools in the district and he was expected to go to university in the Fall of 2016. He was respected amongst his peers and an amazing student; he was on a good path. That path would be cut short when he was gunned down and he was found on a street near the high school at night. He would be on life support for about a week until his family made the ultimate difficult decision to let him pass in the hospital. It’s been 4 years now since his passing, and his killers are still at large. It was suspected he was a victim of an act of gang initiation. Another tenant of gang culture – you talk, you die. 

My school had an excellent College Center, college outreach programs and scholarship award opportunities were plentiful in this administrative office. It was run by an incredible counseling staff with student volunteers in which almost all of them were set on going into institutions of higher education. The College Center was one of the few shining gems in the school as it would actually prepare students to enter college with training students how to navigate the FAFSA, help students understand how to apply to college, the counselors and student volunteers would help students with their college applications, and the list continues with more good deeds. I didn’t even know we had a College Center until my junior year. I did a favor for the college counselor and I joined some of the volunteering students in going to classes to give a presentation on, from what I can remember college applications. The first class we went to was a junior-year class and we asked them if anybody was interested in going to college. Nobody raised their hand. We were surprised and I think it was painfully obvious in our slight reactions. We were continuously surrounded by AP and Honors students. We were always around people who cared about their grades, test scores, what school rank they hold, and who had a better GPA. We were a minority in a school of racial minorities. In a class of thirty students, you would expect to have at least five students maybe, who were at least interested in attending a community college. Not here, not in this school. They all had the same look in their eyes, a complete lack of interest. They were uninformed about college, maybe this was the first time they had interacted with someone from the College Center. However, even if they were properly informed about colleges and what college can do for them, they still wouldn’t give a care. More school? Why would someone who has been through a terrible public-school system want to even fancy the idea of going to a university where the work would be even more difficult.

At the national level, Latino males have one of the highest college dropout rates at 10.0% compared to other demographic groups except for Native American males who have an 11.6% dropout rate[2]. Dropout rates are one thing that I haven’t seen considered or talked about when I saw the debates on Prop 16 on the Democrat side. How are we going to be able to ensure that Latinos don’t drop out of college after they have been admitted into the institution? There is an unfortunate college academic performance disparity gap between Latino and White and Asian students in which Latinos take longer to accomplish their degrees and yet we still see ourselves underrepresented in California public colleges and universities in that duration of extended necessary time[3]. I tried my best to find GPA and grade differences by race, but I’ve been unable to easily acquire them for this essay. Let’s be honest we aren’t coming out on top of our classes.

A focus on the political left when it comes to their support for Prop 16, has been the fact that immediately the Black and Latino admissions rate went down within UC Berkeley and UC Los Angeles after the addition of Prop 209 into the constitution. However, a positive consequence of Prop 209 was that Latino and Black students were enrolling in schools where the competition of entry was lower such as UC Riverside, UC Irvine, and UC Santa Cruz. In 1999, these students were said to have done better in academic performance and felt more accommodated due to smaller class sizes because these were smaller schools at that time.  They felt that they can develop better relationships with their professors and counselors. Outreach programs were forced to be created by universities to bring in more minority students into their universities and ensure that they understood the requirements of entry. The California State Legislature in the late 90s dropped $38.5 million to help create these programs of outreach and I believe the UC schools spent a total of $31 million to create their own outreach program initiatives[4]

Should Prop 16 pass, the college and universities will factor the race of an applicant in their admissions. Racial quotas will be quietly made within the admissions offices of every school, but it will come at the cost of removing opportunities from Asian and White students. I don’t think I need to discuss further on how this will be inevitable.  The universities and colleges are not going to be growing exponentially anytime soon, it’s just a matter of basic fractions and ratios. For example, if you have a school of one hundred open spots with a thousand applicants for those open spots and if these statistics on California school performance applies to this scenario, you would be seeing that Asians and Whites will mostly be taking these spots and a minority of Black and Latino students. If Prop 16 passes, racial quotas will be placed in those admission requirements for that school and you would have to exclude some high performing Asian and White students for Black and Latino students that didn’t perform as well as their counterparts. This outlook won’t be popular, but academic performance cannot be made negligible and this should lead to a call for better K-12 programs for Black and Latino students. A solution to this problem might have to be expanding the UC and CSU systems but I have great suspicions of this solution which I will explain later in my writing. 

Since 1996, we have seen a doubling of Latino enrollment within American universities and colleges. By 2016, the percentage of Latino adults with a bachelor’s degree would be at 15 percent. Very underwhelming when it compares to the fact that 54 percent of Asian adults and 35 percent of White adults would have bachelor’s degrees by 2016[5]. Imperial County and Monterey County have the highest Latino enrollment by percentage within the public-school systems in California, respectively, 92% and 79% are Latino students[6][7]. In the 2018-2019 school, year only 34.9% of Latino students met the UC/CSU requirements for enrollment in Imperial County and only 32.6% of Latino students met those requirements in Monterey County. In Los Angeles county with the biggest population of Latino students in which 65% of all students are Latinos, they fare much better as 53.2% of them met the requirements. However, Latinos are still behind White students and the gap widens with Asian students who do better than their White student counterparts[8]. The very nature of college admissions is competitive after all universities are interested in admitting students that have accomplished the most within the classroom and outside the classroom. No matter how holistic the admissions can ever become, they cannot ethically ignore academic performance.

Latinos aren’t doing well in K-12 public schools, our performance is either below average or perhaps above average but still behind Asian and White students. It is what it is, for now, I would like to go deeper on the differences in academic performance based on race but I’m not here to write a graduate dissertation for an Education Department. My writing would probably be locked away forever away from the eyes of the public. Let’s continue with this narrative.

My university experience was underwhelming in certain aspects yet amazing in other aspects. Did I regret going to college? I have a conflicting answer. Had I known the things I know now I would have gone straight to community college first and then transferred to a UC. The fact of the matter was that I wasn’t prepared to take on the challenges of university as an incoming freshman. I went to university with the intention of achieving a biology degree and biology is one of the most difficult fields of study. A biology student would have studied calculus and higher mathematics, statistics, physics, general chemistry, organic chemistry, some computer coding, and biology by the end of their undergraduate years. We had both lab courses and lectures for each of those subjects. The UCs and CSUs require you to take a few humanities and social science courses to graduate from the university, you can think of them as general electives but if you were looking to go to medical school these courses were imperative for your application. If you wanted to go to graduate or medical school, it wasn’t enough to just take these courses you had to be the top of your classes. University was difficult and I was underprepared, I came into the UCSB underprepared even though I had achieved so much in my K-12 schooling particularly in high school. I was a part of most of the community service clubs in my high school, I was ranked 15th in my high school and my place in the University of California system was secured, and I got accepted into other UCs and CSUs. I did everything I could to be prepared and yet it still wasn’t enough. I graduated from UCSB with an overall undergraduate GPA of 2.54 and now I must re-evaluate how I am even going to get into graduate school if I even want to bother doing that at all in the first place. Not all K-12 schools are the same, some are worse off than others and I was in schools that didn’t really produce college-ready students. Almost all my high school classmates and friends had to claw their way through their own universities when other people walked to the graduation stage like a stroll in a park. However, we all still made it out but many of us fell short of our original aspirations about why we wanted to go to college in the first place. Some of us changed our major multiple times, some of us almost dropped out, some of us did drop out, some of us had to take a much longer time to accomplish our degrees. Yes, the higher education experience is meant to change you, but this wasn’t about a change of character this was about falling short because we didn’t have the proper tools in our K-12 educations. 

When I left UCSB, I had a question that I still ponder about to this day. What was the point of higher education? Democrats are very infatuated with higher education and the pushes for “free college” on their political platforms to entice voters is one of the main promises from Democrats, particularly from Progressives and Democratic Socialists. Obtaining a university degree is a tool for the rising economic mobility of people. Latino and Black parents certainly believe that by sending their kids off to college they can move upward into the middle class. This is self-evident by any economic research paper on the relation between socioeconomic status and level of education. The more educated you are the more money you’ll make in your lifetime. What about the high rates of student loans? This nation has 1.5 trillion dollars in student loan debt. How can this be productive to the economic mobility of the college-educated class? How will this allow for young people to elevate themselves and become the leaders the world needs them to be to create new companies, find that cure for cancer that scientists longed promised, change the course of climate change, and take use further in the realm of technology?

Are universities still the institutions that we rely on for knowledge creation and inspiration? I wasn’t quite confident in that when I left UCSB. In my own STEM courses, I would often hear professors in every other class teach us about some outdated concept that was proven wrong, or the information was updated by another scientist. However, we were still expected to understand and be tested on outdated ideas. I really am paying thousands of dollars for someone to teach me irrelevant information, was a thought I had frequently, perhaps weekly, in my courses.

Are universities teaching things that were factually correct? Did I trust that my radical professors were telling me the truth? No, not at all. I took a Black Studies course on a focus on the canons of literature made by the peoples of the Caribbean and Caribbean descent. The professor told the class that Fidel Castro wasn’t a communist dictator and should be regarded as a cultural hero who fought against the oppressive United States. The professor was indeed the maddest of lads. It wasn’t like Fidel Castro’s regime over Cuba ended up killing up to an estimated 141,000 Cubans. I guess we can all sweep that under a rug. He tried to convince the class that the ideas behind Evolutionary Theory didn’t originate from Charles Darwin, it originated from a West African tribe whose mythological origins were that their people rose from the sea and stepped onto the shores of West Africa. Noble Prize-winning stuff right there, I’m sure his graduate students and undergraduate students will change the world. I support professors who try to push boundaries, but in a course that was costing me thousands of dollars, I preferred if he kept his stupid ideas to himself and I was less inclined to trust his teachings after making these ridiculous claims. I certainly made it known in the teacher’s evaluations. I was genuinely shocked by the claims he was making that I was just speechless. I couldn’t understand how someone as educated as he was can be so utterly and dangerously wrong.

I was told by my high school teachers that college is going to be a soul-searching journey as I will go into a new environment, meet new people, and be surrounded by the most enlightened thinkers of my time. Do colleges and universities allow for such soul-searching journeys? For me it did, before I went to college, I found myself to be constantly angry at the world. I was hardened by my experiences in my youth, my constant battle with my autoimmune disease that constantly forced me to fight small bouts of mood dysregulation, and worst of all the lies and the attempts to misguide me on my life’s journey. Every line that I was told by a teacher who claimed know better than me meanwhile taught their classes with Hollywood movies, adults who claimed who knew best for me, aloof and cold school and college administrators, overzealous radical professors, professors who would much rather be in their labs than be lecturing to students, and my own peers made me sway into cynicism and nihilism. I came out of this mentality because I had a strong father figure in my life. He realized the mindset I was adopted during my high school and college years and gave me the wisdom to adopt a different mindset that kept me true and honest. I’m not a perfect person but I dedicate myself to do better every day. It wasn’t so much that college allowed me to expand my spirit, but it at least provided me an environment and time to think about my experiences.

Not everyone has such figures in their life. People graduate from their high schools lost without any guide in their life and they fall into the depravity of the streets, become criminals, or stagnate on their paths without any dedication to a meaningful purpose. You send people to college or universities to be molded into leaders of tomorrow or valued members of society. During university and college, students rightfully bemoan about how their institutions are corporate entities, relentlessly complain about the Orange Man President of America and his Republican lackeys on social media, and slap people who are not college-educated in the face with their Ethnic or Gender Studies degrees who disagree with their opinions in an egotistical fashion. At worst, these people graduate as low- to high-level cynic-nihilists with socialist tendencies with no love of country and pure vitriol towards anyone who disagrees with them on any subject! At best, most of these graduates have misguided perspectives on the problems within our society. Professors in the Humanities or Social Sciences teach middle- or upper-class students this mindset or students from the poor or working-class go to these universities to have their cynicism reinforced and their legitimate anger goes without challenge. The latter worries me the most out of all situations.

If I had to rank the suffering in my life on a scale of one to ten, one being unbelievably fortunate and blessed and ten being unbelievably misfortunate and cursed, I would have to pick a five at worst. In our society, talking about privilege is a staple subject amongst the college-educated class but as everyone focuses on “dismantling privilege” very few people truly do what is necessary to help people who are at the bottom in a manner that produces successful results. It isn’t that there are only a few people who try but very few people produce successful programs and systems to lift underserved students in their academic achievement. That’s a problem. I ranked my suffering because I want to show that while I had an average experience there are so many students and children who have suffered more in their lives, many of them I know personally in my life. CA Prop 16 would be nothing more than a disrespectful Band-Aid on an open life-threatening wound. That Band-Aid will come at the cost of State Civil Rights of every California resident.

I know that I’ve painted a bleak picture about my life and the environment around my life, but things weren’t too bad. During high school, I did have a few incredible teachers, awesome friends helped me achieve my goals and helped me on that path, the staff in the College Center really had my best interests at heart. At UCSB, I had some pretty amazing professors and lecturers who truly expanded my scientific knowledge, I made friends with people who I believe will change the world in a positive direction, my vision of a future was expanded to a degree I wouldn’t imagine was possible during my K-12 years. UCSB wasn’t as deranged with Social Justice as UC Berkeley or UC Los Angeles.  

 I’ve talked about colleges and universities because it’s not just the K-12 public schools that have been detrimental to the advancement of students. The universities have a role to play in this detriment that it’s ethically criminal.

Colleges and Universities are expensive, and California has been relentless in hyper-regulating the state economy during this pandemic. I don’t think that the UCs are going to be viable options in the financial plans of any family or student who aren’t in the upper-middle and upper classes of the state. The UCs and CSUs are hellbent on instructing students with either useless information that won’t advance a person’s career and they inspire to become quasi-propaganda machines for far-left ideologies that influence a person’s social thinking or preach a detrimental outlook on the American political system and economy. At best, the universities don’t do everything they possibly can to ensure that students leave with better skill sets and modes of thinking to better their lives. If this is the best, it isn’t worth taking on a ridiculous amount of loans unless you’re doing Computer Science, Engineering, Physics and Applied Physics, Accounting, or Biology with one of three intentions to work in: Biotechnology, the medical field, or ecological regulation and study. I understand that people have specific interests in academic pursuits, but I think that the economic catastrophe is going to force people to become pragmatists. My radical/tinfoil hat prediction will be that at least one UC and a handful of CSUs will be forced to shut down permanently within this decade. The pandemic has forced the progress of online instruction, I don’t see how ethical it will be to keep charging students around $14,000-$44,000 a year in tuition just to get a piece of overrated paper at the end of four to six years. Not to mention, the high costs of rent and living in cities that surround these institutions. This will be an even further travesty for the field of Education, even though they been completely sucked too far into Social Justice.  

I constantly find writings and videos online of, what I assume to be, good teachers stating how their State Board of Educations, Teachers Unions, and School Districts have failed them in whatever regard you can imagine. Bad teachers are forced to be pushed around and eventually end up in low-income communities. Teachers Unions are more invested in ensuring that bad teachers keep their jobs than making sure that students get a quality education. I don’t know how else to explain the bad instructors I received during my K-12 school experience. It wasn’t even a matter of a lack of public-school funding, even though it still matters, it was just the fact that some teachers don’t live up to their roles. Multiple things can be true at the same time - schools lack proper funding and there are bad teachers that Teachers Unions invest money to protect.

 I met so many people who are going into Education who desire to become schoolteachers, I can tell you confidently that many of them will one day enter your children’s classroom to spread the ideologies that they mastered in university. I currently see so many social media posts about how as a society we need to introduce Social Justice into Science education to inspire more Latino and Black students to enter the STEM fields, I have a few examples listed below this paragraph. I really hope this speaks for itself as to how absurd this would be if such manners of instruction are implemented within the public-schools. This is not Science nor Math, it’s indoctrination. I blame the scientific illiteracy amongst Americans that we’ve even got this point, and we will be worse off if we use the most objective of all subjects to constantly focus on these ideologies within K-12 schools. The universities are slowly attempting to mend Social Justice within their curriculum. Recently, the UCSB Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology Department came out with a statement with a promise to be more inclusive towards Black university students and ensure their paths of success within the department. They’ve made all of these promises about how their staff will train themselves in Implicit Bias Training, they will make undergraduate and graduate students take course modules that will look through contributions of Black and Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) to the sciences, and the list goes on with their commitments. This belongs in a History of Science course, not within the curriculum of the STEM departments. If you are a parent, it is now more important than ever to get involved in your child/children’s education you need to be aware of what is being taught within these schools and universities. 

Sciences:

  • Examine the effects of capitalism on biological systems and the environment

  • Study environmental racism and what effects it has on the local, national, and world level

  • Discuss misogyny and racism in the STEM fields

  • Highlight scientific contributions of BIPOC

Math:

  • Have students analyze the rates and effects of different social problem and injustices in areas such as banking, education, housing, and the criminal justice system

  • Use math with purpose, in context, and not in the abstract to analyze and discuss social problems

First of all, Black and Latino students are more than capable of mastering the STEM fields. I did graduate with a Biology degree. However, this department will continuously fall short on their promises for the unfortunate reason that only 20.55% of Black K-12 students were proficient in math in California. Math proficiency is an important precursor to success within the STEM fields, if you’re not proficient in mathematics then university STEM majors will not be recommended for any student to do as a degree. This percentage has been improving but it’s not enough to create a ratio of Black students that is equivalent to the Black high school graduation rates within higher education, much less in the STEM majors. This doesn’t even mean that these students want to go to university to study STEM. This is a call to better the K-12 public schools, not to just do away with States Civil Rights.

 I haven’t even got into talking about how this will affect the sexes in higher education. What will happen to DACA students? Will the universities and colleges be less or more accepting of international students? How will color and skin tone play a part in admissions practices? I don’t know, I’m not going to get into that at this moment.

As I write this essay, I have discovered that the Department of Justice has found that Yale illegally discriminates against White and Asian students in their admissions practices based on race, a violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964[9].

Look, I’ll be open about my biases. This year has made me very distrustful towards the Democratic Party. During my college years, I actively sought to elect progressive candidates and even voted for Bernie Sanders. During the 2016 Presidential Election, I voted for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. I followed the Andrew Yang and Tulsi Gabbard campaigns this past year. However, Democrat public health policies were nothing more than foolish and authoritarian during this pandemic. Yes, I care about public health and I wear my mask. However, Democrats have released so many criminals from prisons who were high risk in terms of their proclivities to do crime, in the name of public health. During the riots, I can’t even begin to describe how appalled and disturbed I was that Democrats wouldn’t condemn the riots. The violence that occurred in the past months have now resulted in thousands of business being destroyed and 30+ lives have now been taken due to these riots. I had so many university friends and acquaintances that supported the riots. In Minneapolis, a burnt corpse was found in July in the rubble of a burnt down building that was destroyed during the George Floyd Riots, an identity for the body has yet to release. The CHAZ/CHOP in Seattle killed, I think, three Black teenagers. I’ve donated money to one Black child’s funeral in Atlanta who was shot in a riot by a thug whose identity is being kept secret by the streets, as is the gangster code. I don’t tolerate violence of any sort. My whole youth was surrounded by violence. I’ve seen enough to last a lifetime. Cancel culture is real and if I do put this piece of writing out, it wouldn’t be because my courage outweighs my fear, it would be that my sadness outweighs my fear.

I’ve lived under an Obama Presidency in my middle and high school years, a Democrat governor since my high school years, a Democrat Los Angeles county since my elementary school years. I guess I can put some blame on the Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger era in California, but that was a decade ago. Democrats have had the California State Legislature/State Government majority for my entire life. In the city where I was raised, we have a Democrat California State Senate Member and Assemblyman since my middle school years. After careful consideration, I conclude that Democrats were useless in their efforts to improve my education within the political sphere.

CA Prop 16 was made to create Affirmative Action based on race rather than on socioeconomic status. Our politicians want to see more Black and Latino students in higher education, but this comes at a cost of excluding White and Asian students from higher education who do achieve academic excellence in their K-12 school experience. Black and Latino students need help! They need efficient funding, they need better teachers, textbooks with no graffiti scribbled on its pages, they need the streets to be safe, they need to know that their achievements are based on their own choices and not on the destruction of Civil Rights of other people.

Democrats created CA Prop 16; they want States Civil Rights to dissolve before our eyes. This was supported by all Democrats of all political philosophies, whether they be “Corporate Dems” or open Socialists. They claim to do it for the greater good, but it will result in discrimination and the cheapening of the dreams of students of color. This will make Asian and White people the scapegoats of our society. They do this to cover their own behinds because they cannot own up to the fact that they have failed to properly educate Black and Latino students of this state. I WILL NOT ALLOW THIS LEGISLATION TO PASS, NOT IN MY NAME! I don’t care if I need to walk a mile barefoot on broken glass to get the voting booths! I will strike down this appalling, atrocious, and patronizing piece of lazy legislation created by a lazy Democratic leadership to solve a problem when they know the correct answers! Here are some just to start:

1.     Focus on DEFUNDING, DISMANTLING, and ABOLISHING the criminal elements in your urban cities. PERIOD!

2.     Weaken the Teacher’s Unions so that they can’t protect poorly performing teachers.

3.     Allow for K-12 school choice.

4.     Focus on the efficient funding of the public schools rather than just bloating them up with taxpayer money.

5.     Fund outreach programs for trade schools and community colleges that accredit students in the trades. Stop thinking that the K-12 school experience should only be for the university path.

6.     Demand teachers to send syllabi to parents so that they know what is being taught in the classrooms.

Our society has an unhealthy addiction to race and it’s time we check ourselves into rehab! We can’t allow CA Prop 16 to pass and remove Civil Rights from our state constitution. This will be the biggest middle finger to the spirit of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s that have allowed all people of all races to finally become equal under the law and before the government. If we let these Civil Rights fall in California, we will unleash a social catastrophe in which racial tensions between all the races and intra-racial competition will increase in the state.

To the Black and Latino people reading this, I hope we mostly agree on the issues. The State of California and the country will be looking to us and how we react to Prop 16. This moment will decide if we as citizens of this country will choose Social Justice or Civil Rights. The demagogues already use us and our narratives for their political goals. If we can’t protect these rights in our name and in the name of our fellow citizens, regardless of their race, we have lost the narrative as to why our peoples fought so hard in the past. It’s either we are the United States of America or we are the United Yet Separate by Race States of America. Don’t forget that we are the people who demanded these rights, these rights belong to us and every American. 

We can’t take these rights for granted within our state. Civil Rights have advanced our society in a positive direction. I implore you, dear reader, don’t allow yourself to be the generation that allows for Civil Rights to be dissolved for empty promises. Don’t allow your dreams to be cheapened by worthless politicians. It’s irrelevant where your political allegiances lie, don’t betray what made our country great, fair, and just. The mantle of Civil Rights has been passed down to each of us and it’s our responsibility to keep it strong. We lost the capability to talk to our politicians about this, but we have the chance to prevent them from leading us all astray. Register to vote, show up to the voting booths, vote your true morals, and save your Civil Rights! VOTE NO ON PROP 16!

[1] https://www.usnews.com/education/best-high-schools/california/districts/los-angeles-unified-school-district/harbor-teacher-preparation-academy-2632

[2] https://nces.ed.gov/programs/dropout/ind_02.asp

[3] https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=569

[4] https://www.nytimes.com/1999/05/02/magazine/the-class-of-prop-209.html

[5] https://nces.ed.gov/programs/raceindicators/indicator_RFA.asp

[6] http://www.ed-data.org/county/Imperial

[7] http://www.ed-data.org/county/Monterey

[8] http://www.ed-data.org/county/Los-Angeles

[9] https://www.cnbc.com/2020/08/13/yale-illegally-discriminates-against-white-and-asian-students-justice-department-says.html