Musing on Racism at UCI
For a campus embedded in one of the most conservative, wealthy and generally uneventful areas in America (and likely, the world), we have a surprisingly dynamic and volatile history with accusations and rumors of racism. With such ethnic diversity in the student body, this isn’t a shocker, but most of the recent discrimination scandals are centered around two groups who seem to exist in a stalemate of mutual exclusivity, rallying attention in an arms race of media coverage to denounce the other. The groups are named (spoiler warning!) Anteaters for Israel and the Muslim Student Union.
This is something of an oddity coming into a center of advanced research: two groups who’ve ostensibly transported active strife 8000 miles to scream at each other in a location so distant in time and space from the conflict’s origin that it has lost all relevance. Only fraternity to a fellow brother or sister in faith inspires the leadership of these groups to demonstrate against the injustice of the rival group – and typically unashamed blame of the other without reservation for the unjust actions perpetrated by their own.
It’s disturbing that a University of advanced education dedicated to the illumination and personal growth of its students could be host to such an immature series of shit-slinging yelling matches. Really, what other purpose could inviting former terrorists or someone as volatile as David Horowitz have except to piss off the other group? And erecting a model wall representing the wall around the Gaza Strip while glorifying democratically-elected HAMAS? This isn’t terrorism, because that word’s been perverted by Neo-Conservatives to derogatively condemn any Islamic activism or protest. It’s active and deliberate divisiveness. It’s driving a wedge between UC Irvine students for the sake of increasing unity in a smaller, allegedly victimized minority group. It’s denying acceptance and new, progressive experiences to fall back on the safety of old alliances and hatreds.
The worst part of this storm of anger and noise is the negative attention attributed to the majority of the members of MSU and Anteaters for Israel, members who probably don’t agree with the aggressive and intentionally provacative actions taken by the executive board of the respective groups. For new students far from home, these faith-based inclusive groups act as a home away from home, a group of instant family for the alienated new Anteaters. I can only imagine the relief emanating from freshmen and transfers who already feel out of place in Irvine (don’t we all?) only to discover a group of students who will welcome their brother or sister despite social, fiscal and racial barriers. Being outside of any of these groups, I hope- nay, expect that there is much more than the superficial tantrums that the outspoken members throw at the other organization.
I will admit that I am not in favor of faith-or-ethnic-based unity groups; after all, having a club with such permanent prerequisites as beliefs and heritage simply beg the discrimination of those who cannot change the color of their skin. Beliefs are easier to change, but imply a stark disassociation with non-members. And, of course, a white culture club would be hailed as the next Klan. I guess, as a WASP, I feel more alienated at UCI than any minority, simply because I’m expected to fit in everywhere- but with all these religious and ethnic clubs, I feel it defeats the purpose of personal growth in college: its not who, but what you are that lets you in.