This past weekend I attended the Black Student Association Dance with a friend who graduated last year. The dance was a lot of fun with great people, but I couldn’t help to notice that it was not as big as I had expected it to be. The music was great, the people were fun, and everyone appeared to be having a good time. Why did this event not receive as much attention compared to Greek socials?
Although I knew quite a few people at the event, I couldn’t help to realize that I was one of the few whites in attendance. As the party dragged on, I became more aware that I was one of the few whites in the room. Yet, as discussed in class, I didn’t feel the worry that I was acting ‘too white’ or not ‘white enough.’
After I left the dance, I wondered why I didn’t feel the discordance of identity between acting white and not acting white enough. Even though the answer wasn’t so clear, I questioned whether my white privilege entitled me to feel secure in my own identity. There was no conflict of identity present, no questioning whether or not I had portrayed myself in a way that would be against my own group. I felt that I had behaved in a way that I would have at any other party.
After leaving the party, I couldn’t help but to feel how if the situation had been reversed, would there be a discordance of identity? If I had been a black student at a predominantly white event, would I be preoccupied with worries that I was acting ‘too black” or not black ‘enough’? Would acting in one way be a betrayal to my identity?
Another thing that struck me about the event was the absence of white students. Even though the BSA is an open and accepting group, the noticeable absence of white students at the event. The few white students made me think about in group/out group categorization. Although I did not feel out of place at the event, I wondered if the label of this as a BSA event inadvertently invited us-them categorization. Walking through Seegers on Saturday night you will find many Muhlenberg students hanging around in the Light Lounge and G.Q. This night was no different, yet many students did not venture downstairs to the event, despite the advertisement of the party downstairs.
This event made me think about last year, when I was responsible for putting together a drag show on behalf of my fraternity, which we co-sponsored with S.Q.U.A.D. (Students for Queer Advocacy). At first my fraternity was hesitant to get involved with the event, at the risk of being labeled the “gay fraternity”. After getting the event together, I noticed the lack of students in attendance who were not involved with either my fraternity or S.Q.U.A.D. Perhaps the inadvertent label of the involvement somehow created an us-them label, which may have discouraged those not associated with either organization from participating. I personally believe that overcoming us-them categorization is important to do on campus, in order to raise awareness of issues that our own communities may not be aware of, and for the betterment of campus.
How do we avoid us-them group think on campus in order to support other groups that may not be our own?