The University of California, Riverside (UCR) must be drinking from the same pitcher of Kool-Aid as the City of Riverside when it comes to including diversity in some of its major activities. Recently the City of Riverside decided not to include one African American, Latino or Asian citizen on its charter review committee. It is my understanding that they hope to correct that problem.
Now we have UCR doing the same thing at the recent ribbon cutting ceremony for its new School of Medicine. It has been over forty years since the State ofCalifornia authorized such a school at the university level and many of the other universities wanted this school that will supply our community with the next generation of physicians. In order to get through the approval process, the applicants must show community support from a cross section of the community. The approval body knows that the shortage of doctors from the Black and Latino population must be addressed and if diversity is demonstrated in the school’s support it is likely to open the door for students. They even requested help from the Inland Empire’s only African American Democratic elected official, Assemblymember Wilmer Amina Carter in Sacramento to get $10 million dollars to support the school’s opening. Mind you this is not even in her district or the same county her district represents but it is important to the region.
To that end, the committees at UCR fanned out across the community to get support from Black physicians and their group. They reached out to citizens, and yes the Black Voice Newspaper for editorial support. Now that they have been granted the school, UCR failed to invite African American representation to the ribbon cutting ceremony. Maybe they did send out invitations and the people did not show but the same effort was not put into the ribbon cutting event as was the need for support. I have learned that Assemblymember Carter was invited but due to legislative duties, she could not attend but a representative from her office was there.
However, from the over 200 guests that did attend, it was noticed that no representation from the African American, Latino or Asian community was on program or holding the scissors to cut the ribbon or hold the ribbon for that matter. As our reporter, Chris Levister wrote in her article: There was “A Conspicuous Absence of Diversity”.
From my training in Discrimination Law at USC and over thirty years working to overcome the effect of overt and subtle acts of discrimination, I have learned a few things that people and organizations must do. The people at the top must always be mindful of their every decision and action and the message it sends to the community. At USC they spoke of the “chilling effect” to underserved populations. Meaning if none of us have never been employed at a company and we see no outreach from that company to include us, it sends a chilling effect to us that the likelihood of us getting employed will take an act of congress. So us being absent from the ribbon cutting ceremony sends a chilling effect to the Black, Latino and Asian community, that if we want in we must gear up for a fight.
The other thing I learned was the building of a “pipeline”. When explained to me, it is recruiting people of color in our schools and employment at all levels so there is a steady flow of people to make proper selections from. From this school, for example, will come the next generation of doctors to provide care to a region of people needing care. The region is becoming more diverse in its population.
According to the census for Riverside and San Bernardino county, both counties witnessed more African Americans moving here than any other county in the state. Riverside saw an increase of over 28,000 while San Bernardino gained over 20,000. Los Angeles County on the other hand, lost over 68,000 African Americans and the same is true in our northern cities.
To quote Chancellor Timothy White: “This is a powerful thing”. It is powerful because it represents who will control the pipeline of physicians for years to come. It is also powerful to borrow another quote from Dr. G. Richard Olds, it will, “expand the physician workforce to improve the healthcare to our underserved community”.
It is also powerful in another way and that is who will earn the money, which is another thing I learned by working in the field of discrimination. One of the federal compliance officers once told me, “Hardy, always follow the money and who is earning it.” You might be in compliance with the number of employees but out of line when it comes to who is taking home the money. We all know doctors make more than nurses, orderlies or housekeepers and the school will be training doctors.
When I was growing up as a boy Kool-Aid came in only a few flavors: grape, cherry and lime. Now you can buy it in all kinds of flavors and colors because people’s taste have changed and our knowledge base has given us that advantage. So unlike the City of Riverside’s upcoming decision on appointing Blacks, Latinos and Asians to its charter review committee, the powerful impression from the ribbon cutting ceremony cannot be erased from our minds. But where they go from here can be corrected by including us in every decision at the top in the future. Kool-Aid added more flavors to their selections and so can UCR.