A Sign I Saw the Other Day
I saw a sign on campus the other day, the handmade ones that people make and plaster all over the concrete outer walls of campus buildings. It asked, ‘Is There Segregation at UCI?’ I can give the answer in one word, ‘Yes.’ I have been out of the university scene since 1996. I dropped out of SDSU to work full time. Coming back to the university after seven years has been an eye-opening experience. One of the first things I noticed at UCI, being a white male, was for the first time in my life I was a minority. I find this fascinating because I do not see it as a negative, but rather a positive. Being in the minority for once in my life has been a learning experience.
It all began while I was walking around the outer ring, near the Student Center at the beginning of last quarter. I looked around to see all sorts of fraternities and sororities showing off their goods. As I walked around I notice there were predominately Asian male fraternities and Asian female sororities, with a couple of white male fraternities and white female sororities (I looked for other races like blacks, Hispanics, Middle Easterners, etc., but I didn’t see any). As I navigated my way around the hordes of students, I noticed diligent pledgelings, their pins firmly affixed, handing out beautiful four-color, 5 x 7 glossy flyers. Now I have no interest in being in a fraternity, but after walking past the sixth or seventh Asian pledgeling, who reached out to hand me a flyer, only to pull it quickly away upon sizing me up, I started to feel rather discriminated against. I got the same treatment from the white fraternities as well (yes, there is some grey in my hair and I look my age), so not only am I discriminated against because of my race, but my age as well.
Now if I were a lesser man I would certainly take offence to this horrendous, blatantly obvious display of racism and age discriminating. I would see fit to find other older, white males, who have previously dropped out of college and worked in the real world, to join me in my cause. I would set up a table with a large banner attached calling those males to action. With my sign-up sheet in hand, I would gather those men together for weekly meetings to formulate strategies on how to make our cause the cause of others. We would rally on campus and march around the ring with loud speakers in tow. I would set up meetings with the ASUCI to plead our case and ask for a referendum to make other fraternities and sororities acknowledge our existence and hand us a flyer when we walk by. I would insist that they open their organizations to all races and impose quotas on the numbers of different races they have to admit to their fraternities and sororities. Eventually I would call for the dissolution of the fraternities and sororities, because they are just sexist, racist organizations that should be open to all.
But let’s face it: I am not a lesser man. At this point in my life, ‘to each his/her own’ is the message of the day. I just find the dichotomy of campus life no different than that of prison gangs, each possessing one race, segregated because of hate and a narrow mind. We come to college with open minds and a real commitment to understand our fellow human, no matter what color, race, religion, creed, gender, etc. When it comes right down to it, our surface personas, of giving a damn about others and their causes, always gives way to our racist inner beings. I am not faulting anyone for this thinking. Most of us only know and only want to know what is most familiar. Race-based organizations do not bring us together and defeat the purpose of why we came to the university. If one joins a group of same ethnicity and common background, what purpose does that serve, other than to affirm one’s beliefs about ‘their’ way of life? How can an endeavor of sameness bring about diversity of thought?
Case in point: when I worked for the San Diego Police Department, we had a union called the Police Officers Association. It was open to all members and negotiated terms with the city for all members of the department. On top of that we had the Black Police Officers Association, the Pan-Pacific Police Officers Association, the Hispanic Police Officers Associate, and I even think there was a Gay and Lesbian Police Officers Association (if there is not one now there will be one soon). Instead of coming together in a unified, multi-ethnic, multi-gendered, diverse organization, different races and agendas splintered off to make their causes known. The differences became race and gender oriented, not issue -oriented. Instead of bringing us together, it tore us apart. Race and gender are still a hotbed at the SDPD and was one of the reasons I left.
If we are truly willing to come together and solve our problems as a whole we must make strides to racially integrate our personal networks, associations, friends and groups. By taking on the challenge of integration at low level organizations like fraternities and sororities, and other associations and groups, we can start to build the foundation for a more integrated and tolerant America. These are things that we must do on our own, without regulation. These are things that we do to make our lives and the lives of those around us better. We do these things not because they are forced upon us, but because we want to. Until we do so, we are nothing but a segregated prison gang.
Cameron Jackson is a political science major and a former member of the SDPD.