Social like hard for minoritiesGuest Column/Kevin L. Dickens
I'm sitting here deep in thought now. This has been a very nice weekend. I dropped one course last Friday and I'm getting ready for the "gig" tonight. I guess this would be enough to make most people happy, but something is still irking me. What irks me is the attitude of most people at MIT.
Let me first state that social life at MIT, as most students
know it, is minimal at best. In fact, unless there is a great influx of outside college students from Wellesley, Harvard, and BU, most parties and other social functions are a farce. One obvious reason for this is the three to one male/female ratio. The ratio is even more staggering when one considers that as a black male in an institution which is about four percent black, the available pool is scarce. Besides, the best-looking black women at MIT seem to prefer white men. This brings me to another interesting topic: who is black at MIT?
According to the President's Report last year, there were 319 blacks at MIT. This is a very deceptive statistic when you consider that well over half of this number know very little about blacks. There are a variety of reasons for this. One is that some students come from geographical locations where few blacks live -- such as Montana, Maine, and New Hampshire.
However, I have found that the main reason for most blacks with an identity problem is the simple fact that they are insecure and ashamed. Living in the second most racist nation on earth (behind South Africa), most people only see the dark side of blacks. These are the high crime rate, high unemployment, unskilled and uneducated people. However, if one knew of black history and black culture one could read between the lines. They would realize that the underlying reason for this dark side is the restrictive and racist attitude schemed by whites with regard to education for blacks. It seems the only way to describe the predicament that most blacks are in with respect to education is to imagine being two laps behind in the mile run and someone telling you to catch up.
The foreign attitude toward blacks is not exactly favorable either, mainly because of misinformation. One of the most fascinating facts I have heard blacks tell me when they visited Europe is that there is a lot of intermingling and interracial relationships. One would not be able to discern this by using MIT as a model.
In fact, one tends to see a strong assimilative attitude among foreign students among white Americans. I guess this follows the saying, "When in Rome do as the Romans do." Two foreign black students, one African and one of Caribbean descent, actually told me the reason most European and other foreign women do not intermingle with blacks in this country is because of the misconception that blacks as a people are inherently violent. At this point I do not know who is worse off, the deceiver, or the one who is deceived. Whenever one starts to stereotype and categorize a group of people by a statistic by which they may be able to wean out a few bad people, there is a much higher risk that they will hurt many innocent and genuinely good people.
Another thing that irks me is the great number of social and political fanatics on campus. I can't imagine anyone who has been approached more. How many times have you been walking down the hall and someone approaches you who is either Christian, Socialist, or strongly pro-feminist? I don't know. I guess I look vulnerable to persuasion. I'm only 6@#2", 200 pounds. All I know is that, at the present time, I am not a Christian, socialist, or pro-feminist for various reasons.
I'm not a Christian because I realize I am not ready to make that big of a commitment. I'm not a socialist because I realize that I believe that people should earn what they deserve, not relative to what someone else earns. I'm not a pro-feminist for two reasons. The first is that women helped elect Ronald Reagan to the White House, and they did not seize the opportunity to take a giant step in the political arena last November. This made me realize that the feminist movement was not as strong as it is made out to be. The other, more local, reason is the hoopla raised about pornography on campus. I found out that Pro-Femina helped sponsor a lesbian pornography film, supposedly to protest LSC's movie. What hypocrisy! But, of course, the lesbian movie does not cause violence toward women. I guess I really shouldn't be surprised though, because most of the outspoken feminists are lesbians.
Last, but not least, it gives me great pleasure to talk about MIT athletics. My main target is MIT's basketball team. Granted, one does not expect any pretense of basketball on the level of, say, a Georgetown; however, MIT plays against Division III competition, which is weaker than my high school schedule. Unfortunately, according to Coach O'Brien, I was not good enough to play for the varsity, whereas people who had never played basketball before were able to make the team. I was never given any specific reason, so it is useless at this time to speculate. However, all I know is that my high school team, which played against tougher competition, won more games my senior year than MIT has won in my four years here.
Perhaps you are wondering if there is anything I like here at MIT. There is, but I'm not going to tell you in this column because that is not my topic. Finally, I would like to say to my fellow black students at MIT that if you have any question about your identity, come ask me and I'll tell you. Let me say that if you are not involved in any predominantly black group or social activity, chances are that you are black in skin color only. Have a nice summer and I'll see you in September.
(Editor's note: Dickens is a senior in mechanical engineering.)