Everyone gets group-related e-mails, and
no one knows quite how he got on the list. Come to the Indian dance
show, join the Republican Club, you get the idea. So a few weeks
ago, as a black student here at the University, I received an
e-mail from firstname.lastname@example.org (the
“krunkness” for those Ebonically impaired) about an
ALL-BLACK BASKETBALL game. At first I was neutral to the whole
thing. I knew I wasn’t going to go and it would simply get
deleted with numerous other solicitations I received online. But
then an e-mail debate ensued and my e-mail box served as its
conduit. Some students felt that this wasn’t the most
unifying event or name and that these types of situations only
create more division. A reference was made to the hypothetical
holding of an ALL-ASIAN BASKETBALL game and the effects that would
have. Back and forth, all through my Mulberry and I didn’t
want to read any of it.
What, in retrospect, may not have been the best way to go about
addressing a mass e-mail group, I not so kindly asked to be taken
off the e-mail list. The request definitely reflected my annoyance
with the issue. I’ve heard this debate my entire life.
I’m over it. At this point in my life, I realize the world
isn’t going to be the rainbow land we all read about in third
grade. People usually like being in their own groups for reasons
both reasonable and not. By this age, you’ll probably keep
the same social group until you die. If you are only comfortable
when surrounded with people like you, fine; if you feel better away
from people like you, fine; if you managed to find some kind of
middle ground, even better. But with all this in mind I also knew I
was not going to be going to the ALL-BLACK BASKETBALL game.
So instead my mailbox was flooded with angry responses, which I
understood, as well as accusations of selling out black people at
every instance possible (white people, I am still awaiting your
payments for my hard work … ) and in the end it all turned
out to be very enlightening.
My new lesson was in the rabid nature of people who, when
attacked, cling to their identities so desperately in the hostile
environment of the University, on a polarized campus like this, the
sense of belonging and identity are always under attack. I was told
by one person that “he tried to be understanding of all the
Arab issues during 9/11 so how could I say that about black
people” because he obviously didn’t realize that I
wasn’t Arab and from another I received such beautiful prose
as “You gonna get yo ass beat.” Indeed.
Granted some people sent me e-mails trying to understand my
point, but most of them were not happy. I’m pretty sure
I’m off the e-mail list now, but upon last update an e-mail
was sent about the state of unity among blacks on campus which
included the addendum that I “should hang my head in
shame” for what I suppose is my lack of undying love for all
things black on this campus.
What I learned is that dissent will not be tolerated and once
identified it will be punished with extreme prejudice. It’s
not too far off from the post-9/11 attitude when the country felt
under attack so they all united under the American flag. With
declining minority applications and dwindling admissions, the
syndrome is same. All fall in line under the black flag or be
ostracized. Expressions of deviation will be given glances
equivalent to those received when wearing a Taliban T-shirt.
This type of attitude is immature and reflects on a blind
loyalty and related insecurity of identity. I think all the social
scenes are suspect at this campus, and I will gladly share my
discontent with any of them, even if it happens to be in regard to
a group I belong to. Or at least used to belong to — I think
my black card has been revoked. Welcome to the racial retardation
that is the University of Michigan. It never ends.