Individual ignorance reflects poorly on entire Franklin & Marshall Greek life community

By Joe Yamulla || Opinion & Editorial Editor

Around college campuses everywhere, Halloween is a pretty popular holiday. Halloween costumes are the perfect way for students to exercise their originality, sense of humor, or their connection to pop culture. However, an epidemic is beginning to spread in which (whether we realize it or not) some types of costumes insult or attack certain cultures.

This past week, there was an extremely unfortunate incident on campus. Two white fraternity brothers dressed up as a black rapper and a prison inmate with cornrows. Not only were these costumes mocking a culture that white Americans can never and will never be a part of, they were promoting a racist stereotype that is extremely offensive to the black community.  F&M has made great strides over the past few years to enhance inclusivity and to foster cultural awareness on campus. I don’t think that this recent incident erases the actions and efforts of F&M students to make this campus both more progressive and understanding. However, I do think it strikes a heavy blow to the Franklin & Marshall community.

I’m a member of Greek Life, and although I’m not a member of the fraternity in question, I still believe that this incident is harmful to fraternity life at F&M in so many ways. Despite the diverse ideals throughout each fraternity, this is equally harmful to every organization on campus. Fraternities are constantly in the national spotlight for the wrong reasons, whether it be for racial tensions, insensitivity or homophobia. I would like to use this article as a platform to express both what I believe is wrong with this action (and other actions like it), and also to assure readers that this manifestation of social ignorance is not a mindset that resonates within the entire Greek community on campus. I have no idea how any fraternity member or student could possibly think that these costumes are okay. The black community undergoes an inherent set of struggles that the white community never has to deal with. White students are in no place to mock another culture or to feel entitled to make it their own. The reality is that they are privileged enough to make these choices to further racist tendencies and behavior in our culture and campus. I hope that we can use this incident as a reality check. We just had a really influential Day of Dialogue, and in the spirit of it, we can not ignore this unfortunate event. Black lives are deeply influenced by social stigmas. Some white students, and as we’ve seen with these fraternity brothers, like to pretend these issues don’t exist. They permeate ignorance and end up tainting all of the good things Greek organizations have accomplished. I don’t want these two brothers and their actions to represent me and my fraternity. However, it would be ignorant to say that my fraternity and I have not been affected by this incident. These two brothers have harmed each and every Greek organization on campus. Ignorance is what caused this, and ignorance will make it worse. We need accountability. Accountability is best established when we unify and don’t simply blame an embarrassing moment on two individuals, but rather take responsibility as a group. Collectively, we need to be better. Fraternities on this campus have different personalities and are unique in their own ways. However, we are all tied together through the IFC and the fact that we are members of organizations of similar character. In order to fix the problem, let’s look at this as a collective unit.

How can we improve? Well, we need to have cross-fraternity dialogue. We need to establish an understanding that our actions have large implications, and our insensitivity spreads beyond the individual level. With this, it is inevitable that a greater sense of accountability will grow. We will develop a deeper interest in understanding the social issues around us. Greek life has so many benefits, I could go on for thousands of words and numerous articles on its positive impact. However, last week we saw the negative impact of fraternity life. I hope that we take this as an opportunity to learn and grow as cultured and compassionate individuals. It’s the only way that we can overcome such an unfortunate event. It also is the only way that the integrity of Greek life can continue to improve in the future at F&M.

Junior Joe Yamulla is the Opinion & Editorial Editor. His email is jyamulla@fandm.edu.

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