Guest Blogger: Jalin Jackson, “I Don’t See Greek: Diagnosing Blindness and Redefining Inclusivity at Davidson College”

This is part one of a two-part post; the second post will be on Wednesday of this week.

I am a Class of 2019 Africana Studies and Latin American Studies double major at Davidson College from Camden, New Jersey. My interests range from the social and cultural intersections of the African diaspora and Latin America to the political and linguistic disparities between the two.

In the United States, many criticize the system for its failure to provide change inclusive enough to satisfy diverse populations. This system, whose evolutionary apparatus has been a combination of racism and white supremacy, cannot improve as long as its inconsistencies remain unchanged or are changed without its history in mind. In my opinion, Davidson College has done a decent job at separating itself as an institution from the greater system within which it exists. While the college has undone most discriminatory practices, blindness has been a leading instrument in the college’s push for improvement throughout its recent history. A system built on blindness – whether color-blindness, class-blindness, or any other form – is as flawed a system as one built on racism. This is not because one or the other is more prone to oppression, but instead because blindness does not work toward its own eventual goal of undoing structural oppression and underrepresentation. Davidson’s present reality of incomplete social inclusivity and color-blind ideologies can be attributed to its history of color-blindness as an apparatus of change in Davidson’s social realm. Contradictions of inclusivity within Patterson Court organizations, arguments against the diversification of Greek life, and minimal representation on campus have prolonged Davidson’s improvement historically.

Davidson College’s preference for color-blindness does not mean it is incapable of making anti-racist decisions. In terms of black student admission, Davidson had its first African American alumnus in 1968 with Wayne Crumwell, officially admitting him in 1964. This goes against the common narratives of near universal southern pushback against the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that called for scholastic integration.

Black and white photograph of Wayne Crumwell, portrait style, 1968

Wayne Crumwell, Class of 1968

 

Just five years earlier, the Davidson College Board of Trustees insisted that 1959 was not a time when the “admission of Negroes” was in the “best interest of the College, of the Church, of the Students, or of any Negroes.”[1] In that same vein, in a pre-1964 majority report by a few higher-ups at Davidson College, there were some interesting arguments against the admission of African Americans to Davidson College. These ranged from how the college would have to “lower the quality of its education” to how the admission of blacks would encourage miscegenation, which was outlawed at the time.[2] Yet, as soon as the civil rights law compelled Davidson to comply with integration, the college as an institution did so relatively quickly. In addition to that, by 1970 the Black Student Coalition was founded on campus.[3] Davidson’s speed in diversifying its student body and providing representation for its minority student demographic are evidence of the college’s ability to push toward anti-racism and cultural representation despite strong opposition within the community. However, following the increasing level of diversity on campus in terms of gender and race, Davidson began to favor a color-blind ideology that guided decisions that would soon alter the appearance and atmosphere of the space.

By 1989, Davidson College had six white fraternities in Patterson Court. In that same year, a student debate regarding whether to introduce a black fraternity to Patterson Court surfaced. On October 25, 1989, a white Davidson College senior named Tom Moore wrote a piece responding negatively to one written by a Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., interest group a few weeks earlier. In his piece, Moore argued that a black fraternity “would segregate the campus” and that assimilation is the “best way to improve lines of communication”; he even contends that a black fraternity sounds like “the rationale for the ‘separate but equal’ doctrine” and that minorities on campus should just assimilate because Davidson’s predominately white social circles reflect the social reality of America.[4] Although radical, Moore’s comments illuminate the basis of the inclusivity argument that: existing social organizations at Davidson are already inclusive and the exclusivity of a different organization would fragment the campus. This inclusivity argument, as one will see, goes on to repeat itself throughout Davidson’s evolution. In response to Moore’s statements, black junior Darry Strickland published in the November 1, 1989 edition of the Davidsonian what would be the opposite pole of the debate. Strickland called out Moore on his “ethnocentric attitude” and communicated how black males at the college were forced to assimilate into white fraternities if they wished to participate in Greek life on campus at all.[5] Even though white fraternities at Davidson College were not allowed to racially discriminate explicitly at the time, there is a reason that black male students interested in Greek life were not joining these fraternities at the college en masse. The organizations may have been inclusive on paper, but not diverse enough. They maintained their inclusivity, neglecting why it failed in the diversification of white organizations. Although this contradiction of inclusivity was not necessarily the fault of the existing organizations on campus, Moore failed to acknowledge what black students wanted.

black and white photograph Melissa Givens, portrait style, 1989

Melissa Givens, Class of 1989

 

Black senior Melissa Givens makes this clear in the November 1, 1989 edition of the Davidsonian as well, providing more insight into how blacks fared in the Davidson social scene. In her commentary, she calls on Moore and the Davidson College community repeatedly to “accept and celebrate the differences” as opposed to recognizing them without their celebration, as the college had been doing.[6] In other words, some within the Davidson College had been viewing differences as divisive, including Moore. I agree with Givens that assimilation silences those voices that are not a part of the majority. Her argument combats color-blindness directly and is one of the earlier moments of analysis identical to mine.

 

Bibliography, Part One

[1] Davidson College Board of Trustees. Meeting Summary, 1959.

[2] Davidson College Admissions Committee, “The Majority Report of the Admission of Negroes to Davidson College.”

[3] “Black Student Coalition House Showcases New Student-Painted Mural,” Davidson College News, September 11, 2013.

[4] Tom Moore. “Here’s how a black fraternity could be a bad idea,” Davidsonian Column, October 25, 1989.

[5] Darry Strickland. “A black fraternity is not an insidious plot,” Davidsonian Column, November 1, 1989.

[6] Melissa Givens. “A frat is not separate but equal—just different,” Davidsonian Column, November 1, 1989

9th Annual “Ghost in the Library” Halloween Celebration

Guest Blogger: Niara Webb, Class of 2020

Last night’s  9th Annual Ghosts in the Library event was a smashing success! A record number of Davidsonians poured into the Rare Book Room to hear spooky stories by (LED) candlelight.

From left to right: Shelby Cline ’20, Dr. Andrew Leslie, Lee Kromer ’21 and Cameron Rankin ’21

Dr. Andrew Leslie of the Communications Department, who also happens to have been a professional storyteller for 20 years, started off the night. He told the tale of The Old Man and Tailypo, a story from North American folklore of an old hermit who is terrorized by a mysterious creature whose hunt for his missing tail leads to the old hermit. Next up was Lee Kromer ’21, who told an original tale of a man who was followed across continents by a murderer escaped from a Gulag prison camp. Shelby Cline ’20, recalled an experience with a mysterious supernatural being during a dark, early morning rowing practice. Cameron Rankin ’21 read the listeners a classic New England tale of a haunted house in which the owner had been buried beneath the hearth. Finally, Dr. Leslie shared one more story and the winner of the six-word horror story was announced: Hannah Lieberman ’18!

Hannah wrote, “But the paper was due… yesterday!!!” A Davidson-themed scary story to round off the evening.

Guests who survived the night of spooky tales were thanked with bags full of chocolates, Halloween candies, and homemade chocolate chip cookies. Thank you to all who attended and we wish you a very happy Halloween! 

Ghosts in the Library – tomorrow

Don’t miss the 9th Annual Ghosts in the Library event!

8 pm Tuesday, October 24 in the Rare Book Room

Ghost-like skeleton behind 19thc woman in period dress

Ghost stories: classics, favorites, and originals, if you dare.

$25 gift card for the best six word horror story.

Treats for those who survive to the end!

 

Fake News @ Davidson, A Multidisciplinary Discussion and a Humor Column

FOILING FAKE NEWS: A MULTIDISCIPLINARY DISCUSSION ON NAVIGATING THE MEDIA

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 14, 2017 – 11:05 AM – 12:05 PM
Fake news has become a buzzword that can mean many things to many people. But what does it mean for us at Davidson? How prepared are students to identify fake news and navigate today’s media? How might a liberal arts approach inform our understanding of fake news and help us avoid being taken in by it? Join us for a panel discussion to explore these questions. Librarians will present data about incoming Davidson students’ ability to evaluate media sources and faculty members will bring their unique disciplinary training to bear on the issue of fake news.

LOCATION
Knobloch Campus Center Alvarez- Smith 900 Room

Foiling Fake News poster

There have been a number of college humor magazines in Davidson’s history: Scripts and Pranks, The David’s Onion, The Davidphonian, The Devoidsonian and The Yowl; although, The Yowl is the only edition to be reawakened in the twenty-first century.  In 2004, it reappeared as a column in “The Davidsonian”, bringing its version of the news to provide entertainment to the Davidson community.  The final issue of the 2016-2017 academic term proclaimed, “This Issue Brought to You By: Undying Cynicism”  and provided “The Yowl’s Year in Review.”  The September 7, 2017 issue, in keeping with the theme of fake news, stated, “This Issue Brought To You By: A Gross Violation of Journalistic Integrity.”