Prior to writing this article I was in constant conflict with Self on an issue that has plagued my mind ever since it was viewed. I wrestled with this topic and attempted to stand on the sideline and wait for another to take lead, as I have in the past. However, I have come to the realization that for me to gain a true sense of belonging within this field of Student Development/Service, I must embrace this educational moment and voice my concern. Therefore, I have chosen this as an outlet to express my feelings to the student body while attempting to address the issue.
On my first official weekend at an unnamed university, I witnessed an act of privilege and ignorance that brought back many undesired feelings that I thought were left in the area of my undergraduate studies. I witnessed a highly respected fraternity nationally and locally, host an event that was themed, “Old School Rap Night” or “Ghetto Night”. Within this theme housed students (mainly white) who were dressed in the latest urban wear, Afros, gold chains, and baggy attire. Let’s make one thing clear; the issue at hand was not the presumed old school rap night however it was the act of equating African American culture to the Ghetto.
This conflict also stems deeper than the surface would allow one to view. To the participant, this event was a harmless annex for the student to let go and enjoy, “college life”, while mingling with the in-crowd and making a name for self. However, the participation in this event alone demonstrates, whether consciously or unconsciously that this behavior is accepted and tolerated. To condone this act is to show support to the numerous negative stereotypes that many within this culture, community and society have been cultivated to accept. To support this act is to legitimize racism while underlining the rationale that the issue at fault is a modicum of reality that is not relevant or prevalent in today’s world.
The lack of knowledge that has been displayed because of this situation shows the absence of the true understanding and importance of epistemology, therefore signifying the presence of white privilege in its greatest form. This privilege contributes to the stagnation of the students of the University as well as their personal development and understanding of diversity, therefore matriculating into a slippery slope, due to conformity.
As an African American student attending a predominantly white university, I feel it is my duty to create an axiom of understanding of a culture that is not widely represented. My hope in this article is not to ostracize the host organization but to provide knowledge from the prospective of an outsider looking in. I do not mean to condemn any participants in this situation however because of my right to examine; I had to raise awareness of the negative connotation and stereotypical association of the term Black and Ghetto. As an African American male I have a rich pride in who I am, so I would encourage those who desire to emulate the culture, to be mindful and knowledgeable of the equivocal images and wording that is used to purport your understanding.
Submitted by: Kyle Boone, Resident Director, Santa Cruz Village at California State University, Channel Islands