Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Why We've Yet to Have a Conversation about Black Greek Life that Makes Sense

During my time at the University of Michigan I had the honor of serving the student body in a number of different capacities. I was the vice-president of the UM chapter of the NAACP, I was a member of the Michigan Student Assembly, I served on the honorary degree committee, the diversity committee, the National Ginsberg Center committee, as well as led many efforts against racist publications of the Michigan Daily and defending Affirmative Action in the state of Michigan.

I crossed Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Incorporated, Nu Chapter on April 14, 2007 (2 weeks before I graduated from the University of Michigan) with 13 of the most strong, intelligent, sophisticated, self-reflective and kind women I have ever had the honor of meeting.

I am now at the University of Chicago pursuing my Ph.d in Political Science.

I say that first, because I think it is critical that every author be transparent about who they are and what their motivations are before they decide to write about anything.

I have lived/been a part of institutions of higher education for six years now, and in all that time I have NEVER heard a conversation about black greek organizations, and the ways in which they do and do not uplift black communities, that actually makes sense.

Instead, all I ever hear on both sides is unsubstantiated madness.

On one side you have the black greeks, who to often just shrug off anyone who questions them or their organizations as being people who tried to join and couldn't make it.

On the other side you have people who have never been to a black greek party, black greek program, had a conversation with a black greek member, let alone been privy to a black greek initiation process, making insane accusations about the nature of black greek organizations, based on what "they heard from their girl/boy." Or, based off of what their parents' sixty year old memory remembers from being part of an organizations that have changed in profound ways since the forty years he/she pledged.

As any decent social scientist will tell you.... people lie... they lie all the time. which is why survey data and interview data are fraught with inaccuracies... people lie to protect their reputations, to protect the reputations of others or just simply because the truth is to painful. They will also tell you... that people's memories aren't really worth a damn thing.

Yet and still time and time again, people write shockingly hurtful things about groups of individuals that they know absolutely nothing about (on both sides), based only on what they think they know.

Black Vibes.com was shockingly (or maybe not so shockeningly), the most recent author of these inintelligble, unsubstantiated and personally motivated additions to this unnuanced conversation. In "Manifesto... Why You Shouldn't Join a Black Greek Organization"... Dustin Seibert fails to make a single claim that he 1. can provide evidence for and 2. has a logical, or useful purpose. Instead, he slanders groups of people (my chapter included... labeling them "those sadistic Delta dames on the University of Michigan campus")... without once considering the consequences.

The entire article is an explanation of why Mr. Seibert failed to adequately research these organizations and move beyond hearsay to adequately evaluate whether or not joining would be in his best interest.

It is articles' like these that continue to prevent both black greeks and black non-greeks from having a conversation that makes sense. If we never move beyond fabricated and emotionally driven stories, how can we ever expect to come together as a community and uplift the neighborhoods and cities that we come from.

I would be the last one to sit here and tell you that I think that black greek organizations are perfect, or that they are completely without fault in this absence of conversation. But I will say that if community members are sincerely concerned about what goes on in these organizations then they must DO BETTER.

So today... I challenge all of you to DO BETTER. If you are a black greek and have a problem with the way that non-greeks depict your organizations, say something, and say it respectfully and intelligently.

And if you are a non-greek that has a problem with black greek organizations, come to the table with facts, an openness to what black greeks have to say about their own organizations, and tangible and realistic solutions to the problems which you have concretly identified.

We're all educated folks right?

Lets start acting like it.


p.s. and lets remember... one or two chapters doesn't represent every chapter...

How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.~Henry David Thoreau

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Spontaneous Tea Parties?

I CLEARLY don't have time to write a blog post... but I couldn't resist attempting to [briefly] write about this foolishness...

I woke up this morning and turned on CNN... and was AMAZED that they were giving full coverage to this orchestrated craziness...

According to CNN "spontaneous" protests were emerging all over the United States, in protest of the proposed tax increases by the Obama administration. They reported that citizens are gathering across the country to have "tea parties" reminiscent of the American Revolution. They even went so far as to create a digital map of all the different places where these tea parties are occurring.

The problem is this... it has been well documented and widely reported that there is nothing remotely spontaneous, let alone authentic about these protests. As reported in the New York Times, these protests have been orchestrated by the RNC in a mis-guided attempt to get some attention (and predictably have been supported by Fox News).

As a political scientist, what is most interesting to me is the facade of the co-optation of protest politics by the GOP. It's fascinating if you think about it... the same conservative party that came down hard during the Reagan era (and continues to today) on "identity politics" and protest in general... attempts to use both protest and riots when politically convenient. When people of color do protest, let alone riot, it is deviant, disruptive and disrespectful of the political process. But when representatives of the GOP do it, it is a reflection of the American political ethic. Of course one also has to wonder whether ultimately, what renders these protests "inauthentic" is the fact that the GOP has to pay participants to show up.

I could go on and on about what does it mean for the GOP to co-opt the language of protest, social movements and "grassroots" particularly after the recent Obama campaign. But unfortunately I have no time! So... I will leave it to you... what do you think?


p.s. I can't help but wonder... what are the GOP's motivations when their economic messages no longer have resonance with the majority of the American population?