By Ethan Baron, September 13, 2020, Mercury News.
In a nation where Black people make up fewer than 5% of full-time college and university professors, UC Berkeley biology professor Tyrone Hayes stands as an exception. But the road has been hard and even at Cal, with its long history at the center of social justice movements, he’s still fighting for equal treatment.
Hayes, born in the South when Black people had to drink from “colored fountains,” has faced discrimination from childhood, when he was “the weird kid who raised turtles,” he says. He ran into it as an undergraduate student at Harvard University. And when he arrived at UC Berkeley as a graduate student, he says, it didn’t stop. Even as a professor, a position he’s held at the university since 1994, he says he has to raise much more money than his White departmental colleagues for lab expenses. When he spoke to a higher-up about the inequity, he was told, “It’s not fair. You can always leave,” he says.
The people in charge have to realize that the system is set up in a way that’s not accessible to first-generation, low-income people of color. Being not racist is not enough. You can’t just talk about diversifying the faculty unless you’ve made a real commitment to diversifying the students … so that down the road, they’ll be available to apply for the faculty positions.