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Forced acceptance promotes false sense of diversity

Discussion about current status of Greek organizations sparks debate about desire for racial integration

by Robert Wohner,

On Sept. 9, D.E.E.P., or Diversity Emerging Education Program, hosted an open discussion in Moseley Center's commuter lounge to discuss if segregation should be associated with images of Elon University Greek Life.

In 1950, segregation was a loaded word. In 2010, it still is. The word can conjure up images of army barracks in World War II, 'blacks only' water fountains or Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier.

The scene of the discussion was predictable. As one student noted, white students arrived together, and black students arrived together. The mood had an awkward, uneasy tone.

The discussion outlined two main themes: why Greek organizations aren't as integrated as they should be and what steps should be taken to make change. Panelists offered to co-sponsor programs with Greek organizations, and other similar suggestions were made.

But we're going about this in the wrong way. Yes, if you strictly define people by race, Greek life is segregated.  But that's not necessarily a bad thing. Substitute the word "segregation" for "preference," and no one should have a problem.

The problem with the forum was in the question itself. Had they asked, "Do most white people enjoy hanging out with other white people?" The answer would be yes. And that wouldn't be a problem.  

It is unfair to target Elon's lack of racial diversity in Greek Life.  By definition, a Greek organization seeks members with consistent values, attitudes and beliefs. With that in mind, chances are, members will be of the same race. This is not a problem.
Is it wrong for white people to prefer joining with other white people? Likewise, is it wrong for blacks to prefer living with blacks? Is it better when a black person prefers to live with a white person? I answer no to all of these questions.

I'm from New York City. Want diversity? You got it. People of all backgrounds, cultures and beliefs converge in a 15-mile stretch. But don't think people are engaging in a multicultural conglomeration of interracial dialogue and diversity education.

You could argue it's actually quite segregated — Chinatown, Little Italy, Harlem, El Barrio. People eat their foods, speak the same language and keep many of the traditions of their homelands. And that's not a problem.

But what some in the South see as a racial divide, I see as people associating with those who share the same interests and values.  
I'm not arguing people do not hate other races here or that prejudice doesn't exist. It does, and it's wrong.

Is there something to gain by people interacting and learning about other cultures? Yes.

There's an argument: unless people of different races are in the situations where they can learn about each other, they never will, and they will never find out the real connections that could eliminate racial divide. That's fair.

But racially-motivated mingling cannot be institutionally imposed. The idea that you can throw people together like a tossed salad and hope they merge seems to defeat any pure objective.  

Let people be with who they enjoy being around. The classroom is where people ought to debate and explore differences of opinion and lifestyles, not at a fraternity party.