Before I came to college, one of the things I was excited about was meeting different kinds of people from different backgrounds. I even had this image in my head of the circle of friends I would have. There would be a few white and black kids, then some would be Hispanic or Asian, and then some would be from a random country I’ve never even heard of. Sadly, it’s almost impossible for this group of friends to exist because college campuses are structured to be segregated.
Out of high school, I chose to go to USC (the one in California), one of the reasons being it was the most racially and ethnically diverse college I was accepted to. When I first got to campus, I received an invitation to “Black Welcome Week,” which my white roommate did not receive. Black Welcome Week, which I’m pretty sure Rhodes also has, is the first step to racially segregating students at college. While the black students are making only black friends at the Black Welcome Week activities, the white students are off making other white friends at the regular welcome week functions. When I arrived to the first Black Welcome Week barbeque, I found out that many of the students already knew each other because they were all roommates on the African American floor of a dorm called Flour Tower. They then informed me that in Flour tower, there was also a Hispanic student floor and a GLBT (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender) floor. I then thought, “wait, so colleges just take all the minority students they can and bunch them up into the dorm on the opposite side of campus as all the other dorms, away from all the other students? That’s kind of messed up.” Yes it is, and it gets even more messed up.
After welcome week was pre-rush week, where every fraternity on the row, a street a couple blocks away where every house is a frat house (in case you didn’t know already), throws a party for four straight nights in a row. While party hopping from house to house, I noticed that none of the black fraternities I had heard so much about during Black Welcome Week had any houses on the row. When I asked a black fraternity member about it, he said that black fraternities have been trying for years to get a house on the row. They raise enough money, they have enough members, and they get everything in order to buy a new house. However, the council of USC fraternities has to come together to discuss the issue of a new house being established on the row, and every time a black fraternity tries to establish one, the white fraternities vote against it. Does this sound like something straight out of our civil rights class? Sure it does. That’s why the row at USC is known in the black community as “Jim Crow Row.”
I later figured out the sad truth that most of the larger universities are socially structured in a similar way. There is a segregated Welcome Week for freshmen, there are white fraternities and black fraternities, there are white parties and black parties, and there are special places on campus where the minority students can be bunched together and hidden away.