What is “true integration?” I can tell you what it’s not. It is not merely smiling at a racial minority on the quad or attending a brown bag at ALANA. It is not boasting diversity when three-quarters of the campus is white and there is sociological evidence suggesting that the rest of the population is considerably unsatisfied with its Colgate experience. True integration should have its roots in the moral doctrine of society and not merely exist as a statistic. The issue surrounding the Greek system and whether or not it should be abolished for the role it plays in perpetuating racism is but a microcosm of a larger issue that America struggles with: racial honesty. To put it plainly, many of Colgate’s social issues could be solved if the entire campus was as homogenous and white as it was in the past.
As the campus life survey proved, white students tend to be more satisfied with their overall Colgate experience than any other group. Imagine if this level of satisfaction was universal. Imagine, for example, a Colgate where you didn’t have to deal with the “overly-sensitive” criticisms of minority students (who, according to the campus life survey, are the least satisfied with their overall Colgate experience). It would be the perfect picture of harmony. Come on, admit it – many of you have thought this before.
However, this is a truth that, with the exception of a few bold individuals, many of us are in denial about. Continuing to deny this truth at Colgate has only lead to increased racial tension that has placed an unfair burden on the shoulders of its diverse population. Like America, Colgate continues to hold on to an illusory ideal of integration that has, in many ways, become a cultural fad. However, it is an ideal that teases us with promises of a better future while disappointing us here in the present.
Although it is impossible to deny any racial progress in America over the past 50 years, mistaking this progress for integration is foolish and indicative of a superficial analysis of American life. Let’s consider Colgate. Although students of different ethnicities may take the same classes, live in the same dorm, walk past each other on the quad or dance alongside or even with each other in our drunken stupors at The Jug, there is very little true integration. For once the classes are over and The Jug turns the lights on, the truth is that our lives remain separated. The problem arises when we trumpet an integration ideal that is little more than a lie.
This ideal puts a heavy burden on Colgate’s minority population, who first come here, more than likely, on “multicultural” visit days, where they are provided tours and hosted by people that come from similar backgrounds as them, given hefty financial aid packages as an incentive and beat over the head with diversity rhetoric only to end up being the alienated, miserable colored marble in a jar full of smiling cheerful white ones with the choice to be miserable or to deny their culture and values and adopt white ones. The integration ideal also burdens whites, who seem content and unwilling to do the work that is required to make integration happen. In fact, at Colgate, there is very little evidence of interest in true integration beyond celebrating it as an ideal or denouncing its forms of discrimination that are blatant. I think that minority students should be told the truth from the start, or that Colgate should stop admitting minorities altogether. However, this would be a taboo, given the fact that our integration ideal has become fashionable (not to mention that we wouldn’t want to go down on the U.S. News and World Report rankings). I may sound cruel, but to continue to encourage them to come here without providing them an environment that allows them to be happy and effectively carry out their studies is even worse. Blacks, Latinos, Asians, Pacific Islanders and Native Americans (the ones we always seem to forget) are human beings. They are not statistics or beautiful faces to post to a website; they have feelings, beliefs, values, languages and cultures all their own. Stop using them as a marketing tool.
This is not meant to discourage those who choose to pursue the integration ideal, for it is a good one. To be honest, I can’t think of anything else. I myself fully support the ideal. However, I cannot ignore the barriers that will make realizing it difficult.
Now let’s talk about Greek Life right quick.
I doubt that anyone enters Greek Life with the intention of excluding minorities or perpetuating racism. But the hard fact of the matter is that you want what Greek Life can give you in spite of its obvious problems. You just want it. And to be honest, I don’t care. You should always do what’s good for you (if your conscience permits you to participate in fundamentally discriminatory institutions). But minority students should not be encouraged to come to Colgate if there is no intention to change institutions that have been proven to alienate them.
I know many will read this and find a part that they can argue against. They’ll provide an unfruitful argument that involves a subjective account of their personal lives (as has been done recently). Racism is generally understood as manifesting itself on three levels: cultural, institutional and individual. I urge those who may feel attacked by critiques of the Greek system to consider whether they feel this way because they are thinking about racism as occurring on an individual level or if they, for some strange reason, feel the need to defend racist INSTITUTIONS that continue to divide us all.
Contact Trinel Torian at [email protected]