Saturday, February 10, 2007

ydn evaluation of self segregation: incomplete

One of the greatest oversights of the YDN News' View piece on self segregation was its failure to recognize that students of color at Yale are disproportionately on financial aid. The Yale financial aid package is such that in order to cover all of the self help contribution required without taking out loans, a student must work an on campus job of 20 hours a week. If financial aid was reformed to create equality of access, opportunity, and experience for students already at Yale, there would be fewer limitations on the resources (emotional, economic, and otherwise) of students of color. With constraints on the amount of time students of color can contribute to extra curriculars due to financial obligations, it is likely that many students will privilege the cultural organizations they belong to.

The YDN News' View also reproduces several myths about the cultural organizations at Yale. The first is that most students of color participate in cultural life on campus and those who do not prefer to self identify rather than self segregate. The News’ View contends that cultural groups fragment the campus "along cultural lines," neglecting that the programming and events of the cultural houses are for all of campus. It is not the participation of so many students of color in these organizations that creates "fragmentation," but rather the choice of so many white students not to enter these spaces. The vast and consistent absence of white students in cultural organizations disrespects and devalues the efforts and backgrounds of the students and staff who work to coordinate these groups. Furthermore, an involvement in the cultural life at Yale from those members of the press concerned about self segregation would be more indicative of the extent and authenticity of their commitment to diversity than the publication of any number of articles.

The notion that cultural groups are homogeneous demonstrates an immense level of misunderstanding and inexperience with the cultural houses at Yale. La Casa Cultural, Asian American Cultural Center, Native American Cultural Center, and Afro-American Cultural Center house students from all over the country and world, of varied economic backgrounds and broad talents and passions. It is the great diversity of these spaces that make them so dynamic and representative: they serve as a "niche" for athletes, performing artists, writers, and activists of different cities, nations, continents, and numerous religious traditions. There are non-ethnic organizations on this campus which are far more homogeneous than these groups which form along lines of cultural affinity. The homogeneity of many campus groups unaffiliated with a cultural house is a powerful deterrent from participation for many students of color who do not wish to make time for internal oppression in their schedules.

Most offensive in this News' View was the unspoken suggestion that campus unity and integration are contingent on students of color leaving cultural organizations rather than white students joining them. This strategy for unity instrumentalizes students of color. Students of color become objects that exist on this campus to enrich the experience of white students. Students of color must reject all other desires, interests, relationships, and responsibilities in order to promote a diversity that some students crave so much that they are willing to write about it from the distance and comfort of a largely white space.

The university must restructure institutional programs and policies to provide a greater support system for students of color. The administration must be invested in initiatives that enable meaningful integration. The reformation of financial aid, the development of a cultural studies requirement, an administrative precedent of combating bigotry, the strengthening of the ethnic counselor system, the training of all frocos in cultural competency, the preservation of Cultural Connections, and the diversification of other freshman pre-orientation programs are essential moves toward making this campus a place where students of color are both excited and empowered in their membership in this community.

See you all in the cultural centers and/or the SJN Room: where we make diversity happen!

I’d like to shout out Andom and Elizabeth for their righteousness, resilience, and willingness to have the conversations with me about “self-segregation” on this campus that informed much of what is expressed in this post.

No comments: