My Experiences of Prejudice in Diverse Groups at Chapman
My first semester of freshman year, I participated in Gamma Phi’s philanthropy event, Airbands. If you do not know what Airbands is, each Greek chapter is paired with another chapter or dance club on campus to perform a lip-syncing dance. This was my first Airbands performance and I could not have been more excited. I was on Gamma Phi’s dance team, which was paired with Tri Delta, one of the more racially diverse chapters on campus. We danced to a Beyonce medley featuring songs such as “Crazy In Love” and “Formation.” After the final performance, everyone gathered in front of Memorial Hall and eagerly awaited the announcements of awards. As the awards were announced, the girl standing next to me made a comment along the lines of “You know BSU’s dance will win… The one girl is in tight with Jerry Price”. Sure enough, the Black Student Union (BSU) and Beta’s performance to Kanye West won. After that, one of the members (who later became president of BSU), posted a rant on Facebook about how Tri Delta and the dance team I was on had a performance that was offensive because everyone had straight hair and was dancing to Beyonce. I was hurt. I was angry. Didn’t she see me on that stage? I’m black. I have curly hair. How could she not accept me? How could she intentionally ignore me in order to convey a false narrative?
Fast forward a month or so when I started attending BSU meetings to try to find my “inner black.” See, I grew up with my white mom and her side of the family in Orange County, CA. For my whole life I have been surrounded by white people. I began attending BSU meetings in hopes to learn more about my culture and to find my place at Chapman. I could not have been more surprised and disappointed. At every BSU meeting I attended, I was forced opinions down my throat. If you were not far left and did not believe in everything that was said during the meetings, it was almost as if you were exiled. The thing that surprised me the most was when a member commented about how interracial relationships are bad. Again, I was hurt and angry. I eventually stopped going to BSU meetings because I spent every meeting becoming more and more disgusted at what intolerance was being practiced.
This brings me to the question that has been asked a lot this year: “Is Chapman racist?” Chapman is most definitely NOT racist. While I can admit Chapman is not the most racially-diverse campus (only 1.7 percent of the student body is black ), every student knows that when they are admitted. I don’t understand how students can constantly ask Chapman to “do better” in terms of diversity when the demographic statistics are not a secret. Students know they are going to a school with low black representation… in a city with low black representation.
Another reason Chapman is not racist is because nobody is stopping BSU – or any other racial group on campus – from throwing celebrations or events in honor of their heritage. BSU throws a Black History Month celebration on campus which includes a talent showcase and movie screenings. And nobody bats an eye when these racial groups hold their own segregated graduation ceremonies. This is widely accepted by everyone and there is no discrimination against them. Unfortunately, when Chapman Republicans throws an event or invites a speaker for the campus’ benefit, there is a self-righteous uproar of protests with inevitable labels of racism. All that moral condemnation just because of a difference in beliefs.
I received an email recently from a man named Justin Riley (Associate Director of Student Affairs in the Office of the Dean of Students) about the “black experience” at Chapman. He said he was available to talk if I didn’t feel safe. Being the type of person that enjoys learning many different things, I have taken many different classes at Chapman ranging from social science to business to art. Never once have I felt unsafe in any of my classes. The only two times I have felt uncomfortable and discriminated against was when professors were openly far left and said to the class that anyone on the conservative side is “the devil.” The other time was when I attended BSU meetings. While I understand that not everyone may have had the same experience I have had, I have never heard of any experiences of a student being racially discriminated against in class, on campus, or even at a party. The only time race becomes an issue is when people don’t like something (The Birth of a Nation poster) or when someone – while obviously very drunk – is blatantly racist (Dayton Kingery).
Overall, Chapman is not racist. If anything, they are inclusive to a fault; like the potential rigging of Airbands 2016, the CCC (which segregates student groups), and transgender bathrooms. Chapman does not have a racism problem, but it does have a tolerance problem. Clubs such as BSU are intolerant of anyone who has an opinion that strays from their liberal/Democratic views and will ostracize them for it. For a club that preaches so much about diversity and inclusion, I think it’s time for them to start practicing what they preach.
Arete (pseudonym) is a senior at Chapman University