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November 02, 1990 - Image 18

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1990-11-02
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0 " r0


Wstruggling with ethnic separation on campus
"I have a dream that one day... little Black boys and Black girls will be able to join
hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers... With this faith we
shall be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful harmony of
-Martin Luther King Jr

residence hall cafeteria
and you see it.
Lecture halls,
restaurants, the Fish
Bowl, the Union, the
People standing in groups divided not
by age or gender, but by ethnicity.
Racial and ethnic separation has
become a given, unchallenged and
Twenty-seven years after Martin
Luther King Jr. dreamed of integration,
the campus remains divided by
ethnicity and race.
The most basic of interactions - a
shared meal, a joint-project, a social
event with more than one ethnicity
represented in force - are the

exceptions to an unspoken rule of
Yet on a campus that rarely reaches
consensus, minority student leaders,
when interviewed, all point to the same
causes for ethnic separation and all
suggest similar paths to a common
The differences are not just between
whites and students of color. Intra-racial
barriers also exist. For example, there
are divisions between foreign students
and us-born minority students of the
same ethnicity.
Tired of explaining their history and
culture and dealing with the perceived
campus insensitivity, students of color
find acceptance and understanding
when spending time with people with
similar experiences - which usually

means people of similar ethnicity.
"First off when people come on this
campus it's the first time for a lot of
students to be active in anything
racial... You want to know about
yourself," says Delro Harris, an LsA
senior and member of the Minority
Affairs Commission. "You do at this
point need to have that separation. You
have to get to know yourself before you
can get to know each other."
The University provides an
opportunity for students of color to
come together as a self-sustaining
community. College is a time of self-
discovery for a student who was
accustomed to seeing few similar faces
in his or her hometown.
"An Asian American identity is still
being defined - you only see
stereotypes in the
media," says Asian
president Lawrence.
Wu. "There weren't
many role models
growing up. One of
our big goals is to
create a
Dan Edmonds, a
Resident Director at
West Quad, says, "I
think people strive
to be comfortable.
In a college
situation with a
thousand residents
living in a residence
hall, and 400 people
going to lectures,
there's so much to
he unfamiliar with

that people don't often
take the risk of
introducing themselves
to something or
someone unfamiliar."


reasons are
more complex
than a need
for comfort

community. Students of
color often feel alienated by a white
society which belittles minority culture
and requires constant effort and
patience in order to be accepted.
Naturally, students find an
acceptance within their own culture
they may not find from an insensitive
majority. Students of color are often
forced to explain their ethnic identity,
dispel stereotypes, and represent their
race in discussions with students of
other backgrounds.
Edmonds, who has a white parent and
a Black parent, says he, and other
students of color, constantly find
themselves explaining their cultural
"We have this huge educational
process as our responsibility - I need
to educate each Joe Majority about how
we're different from them," Edmonds
says. "Why is that my burden? Can the
majority accept the minority as they
are? Maybe if they shared that
responsibility it would be easier."
Brett Hart, president of Alpha Phi
Alpha, a predominantly Black fraternity,
says, "It's very comforting to be able to
come together and not have to try to be
anything other than themselves and
that's not necessarily the case the other

15 hours of the day."

majority does not see itself as
unaccepting or intolerant of
minority students. They are
not faced with finding an
identity within a monolithic
culture different from their own, and
thus they don't see fitting in as a
Members of the mainly white Greek
system, for instance, admit to low
representation of students of color, but
say the system is accepting of
"I actually think the system is very
accessible as it is," says Inter-Fraternity
Council President Jeff Stacey, an LSA
senior. "The opportunity and the
accessibility are both there."
Stacey admits the representation of
students of color in the white Greek
system is not proportional to that of the
University as a whole. He also says that
once a person of color is accepted into
the system, he or she may feel
"The accessibility exists - comfort
might often be very difficult," Stacey
says. "It depends on the individual
student and their background."

Guillermo Sanchez, an LsA junior
from Puerto Rico, says he has found
little trouble adjusting to his mostly-
white fraternity, Delta Tau Delta.
Sanchez says that although he
encountered stereotypes about Latinos,
he has faced few problems adjusting.
Seven Latinos and two African-
Americans are members of the
Sanchez says the presence of other
Latinos does make adjusting to the
system easier. "I feel more comfortable
at the house with them there," he says.
Delta Tau Delta president Scott
Stenman says members of his fraternity
have tried to be sensitive to race issues.
"I can't look to anything specific,"
Stenman says. "We always encourage
minorities to rush. We look at
(diversity) as a good thing."
classroom has become an
administrative catch-phrase,
but the classroom is often an
alien environment. Not only
do students of color live in a
white world, but they also must learn
about it as well, as the vast majority of
University classes are Eurocentric.

Some student leaders say that
although the new tsA diversity
requirement is a step in the right
direction, more must be done to teach
the majority about the culture of ethnic
AAA's Wu says that until this year only
one Asian American Studies class was
offered each year. Asian Studies and
Native American studies programs have
yet to be implemented.
"I don't think you have true diversity
and pluralism until the contributions of
all ethnic groups are taken into
consideration," says John Matlock,
Director of the Office of Minority
"With ethnic minorities it's not like
they don't know about white culture,
they've been exposed to it all along," he
says. "Most of education is Eurocentric.
One has to be willing to take part of the
burden too. Part of the responsibility is
for me to understand."
Minority Affairs Commission chair
Rodney Johnson agreed. "The histories
of ethnic groups have to be retold from
the perspective of those groups," he
says. "It's hard to take the time out to

learn about someone els
really don't have to."
Indifference toward mr
is part of a larger probler
only ignores the contribu
of color, butt uestions th
minority student's prese
Asians often face stere
they are bookwormish w
African-Americans and L
perceptions that they are
action beneficiaries who
poor inner-city backgrot
Harris, the IsA senior,
battled perceptions in th
from students and facult
he is Black he has not rr
Above: Students c
onto the Diag in fr
Graduate Library b
speeches on MLK
year. Left: Also on
students,staff and
residents particip;
Unity March.

story by Kristine LaLonde photos by Kenne


WEEKEND November 2, 1990


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