Latinos in Higher Ed – Stop Hiding

Tommy Trojan
Tommy Trojan

In a discussion at USC today regarding Conflict between Blacks and Latinos in Los Angeles, I spotted Billy Vela, who is the Director of El Centro Chicano. I said hello and thought to take a picture, I liked how the image would  look, and the message it would send, Chicano advisor, next to Chicano students all wearing their USC swag, attending an important and critical discussion regarding the social conditions of Los Angeles…

I angled my camera ready to shoot, and a student with the black hoodie, decided to cover his face.

I wasn’t taking a personal picture with a personal small digital camera, no, I was taking a picture with a heavy duty SLR, to be later posted on a USC online publication.

I approached him and asked if he went to USC. He ½ laughed, shrugged his shoulders and said yeah.

I said, “next time someone decides to take a picture of you at an event that is focused on Latinos, own up to the fact that you come to this school and represent.”

He pist me off.

Not just because he ruined the picture, but because I was reminded that too many of our youth have forgotten or don’t know how to have pride in their academic achievements. They don’t understand what their mere presence at USC even means. There is a lack of responsibility, awareness and pride towards being Brown in a private institution of higher learning.

When this young man, hides his face, he hides the very notion that Latinos are present and involved.

Here are the hard numbers for 2008: There are a total of 16,608 Undergraduate students at USC, 2,003 are Latino (21.1%). There are a total of 17,139 Graduate students, of which 1,326 (7.7%) are Latino.

That’s a total of of 3,329 out of 33,747.

We can break it down further as many students tend to be the 1st in their families to go to college:

Out of the 2,766 1st Generation college students admitted as Freshmen, only 282 are Latino (10.2%). For the 1,514 transfer students, only 151 are Latino (10%).

Do you see those numbers? They are critical.

This faceless young man, who takes no pride in being a Trojan, in attending one of the most prestigious universities in the nation; to him I say, OWN UP – Show some respect to those that busted their asses to make sure Raza got the opportunities we deserve, the opportunity to be in the room. Our struggle is not just a struggle of upward mobility, it is a struggle of equity and our own personal responsibility to represent Latinos in higher learning.

Latino presence at USC is not about the single individual, but that of a collective of faces and voices that will be impacted by our own performance.

And don’t give me that BS about rights to privacy and not wanting your picture taken. Covering your face was a cop out and in my opinion, while this young man had the opportunity to stand tall and proud as a young male of color at a private institution of higher learning, he discredited himself and the many that came before him that fought for the right to participate in the dialogue.

You can’t complain about the lack of Latino representation, when you choose to not represent.


2 thoughts on “Latinos in Higher Ed – Stop Hiding

  1. adriana says:

    You have a good point here. He should not have covered his face, especially since this was an event sponsored by the school that he was participating in. This particular student just might not be as self-aware as you are. Or should we give him the benefit of the doubt… maybe he really didn’t want his pic to be taken? But even still, he could have easily cooperated.

  2. eddie-UCSB;Berkeley'06 says:

    Very well reported on taking pride on great successes and achievements in higher education from under represented students. Although without knowing the student who covered his face a follow up story would be great with indebt analysis on his background. This background is important because students who “geniunely” struggled or continue the ‘lucha’ for their community and family without a doubt will stand tall and shine like many of us. But the sad truth is that more fortunate class Latin@’s that are 2nd, 3rd etc. generation ‘play off the life struggle’ University entry essay to get into a higher education system. Therefore, depriving others of an opportunity to serve as role models for their communities as ‘minority’ leaders.

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