As a tall black man on campus, Asante Nkosi has been asked numerous times by fellow students if he’s attending UC Santa Cruz on a basketball scholarship.”I mean, I like basketball and I play basketball, but we’re a Division III school—we don’t even have sports scholarships!,” says Nkosi, a graduating senior who’s headed to UC Hastings College of Law this fall.
The basketball query hints at assumptions African Americans face all too often, about belonging, merit, and achievement. For Nkosi, a double major in sociology and history allowed him to connect his experiences with his interest in black U.S. history, the Civil Rights Movement, and the contemporary moment. The historical roots of racial, economic, and social inequality illuminate today’s injustices—and fuel his desire to make a positive contribution in the world.
“I want to be a criminal defense attorney. I really want to help the most marginalized, vulnerable people in our society,” he said.
In his history courses, Nkosi learned about the forces that concentrated wealth and opportunity along lines of race, gender, and class. In sociology, he studied historical and contemporary portrayals of blacks in media and society. Conversation reflects his concerns: mass incarceration, police brutality, toxic masculinity, and the war on drugs.
From Fresno to Santa Cruz
A Fresno native, Nkosi knew during high school that he wanted to come to UC Santa Cruz, even though African Americans make up only about 3 percent of the student population. Once here, he enjoyed the support of a strong community as a resident of the Rosa Parks African American Theme House (R.PAATH) at Stevenson College.
“My first year, my RAs really promoted leadership in the black community,” he said. “They showed us how to balance school and be advocates for our community—how to be a successful black student on this campus.”
Nkosi got a glimpse …