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I wonder if the diplomas are color-coded

Remember all that talk last week about the segregated proms in Georgia? Remember how the phenomenon was held up as a prime example of continuing racism in America? How could white students want to hold themselves apart from black students? Why, it's so... archaic. It's reminiscent of separate water fountains for blacks. Come to think of it, it's almost as bad excluding black students from graduation ceremonies. For instance, the policy at the University of Pennsylvania.

Oops, sorry, I read that wrong. At the University of Pennsylvania, black students create their own graduation ceremonies exclusively for them. And as you can imagine, since this is the University of Pennsylvania, rather than a high school in rural Georgia, the news coverage is far less critical. And that's the case, even though the ceremonies sound like something a bigot would come up with:

As the master of ceremonies called their names, the black seniors proudly strode to the front of the room to receive colorful pieces of kente cloth marking their impending graduation from the University of Pennsylvania.

The students solemnly called out the names of their elders as poet and social worker Kamau McRae poured water on a plant in an African libation ritual.

What do you think the reaction would be if, say, a white fraternity portrayed them as engaging in African rituals? Stereotyping black Americans as primitive Africans? Furor, I imagine. There would be cries of racial harassment, demands for suspensions, sensitivity training, etc. But when black Americans themselves do it, it's an assertion of identity. And the contortions that defenders of the program go through to deny that this is exactly what it seems like are impressive.
"When black students come together, the assumption is often that they are being separatist," said Karlene Burrell-McRae, director of the Makuu Black Cultural Resource Center, which organized the black graduation celebration at Penn. "But the reality is that they are full members of the university community who take on responsibility for contributing to their community while also contributing to the larger community."
So they're not being racial separatists… they just have a separate "community" defined by their race.

And the purpose of this program? For black people to provide "support" for each other, because they feel so troubled over the “isolating" environment. Now, keep in mind that this is hardly Bob Jones University we're discussing; according to the article, 43% of Penn's freshman class is made up of minorities. So where's the "isolation" coming from? (Sure, you can bet that this group is disproportionately Asian rather than black -- but that's okay, because Asian students get their own ceremony. As do Hispanics.) And dare I suggest that perhaps black students having separate organizations, dorms, student centers, and ceremonies, might be the cause of, rather than the solution to, this feeling of isolation? Shouldn't we question the university's entire approach to "diversity" if these are the results? If the university really believes, as claimed, that its educational mission requires a commitment to diversity, then shouldn't it forbid all formal racial groupings, thus forcing black, white, Hispanic, and Asian students to have more diverse interactions? (Answer: of course not, because diversity in eduspeak just means de facto admissions quotas.)


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Comments (16)


I attended the University of Pennsylvania and recently graduated this past August(I could have attended the proceedings yesterday but chose not to). The univeristy's policy of diversity does more harm than good. You correctly point out that the isolation is not simply with black students. Ethnic clans are abundant. While much of this segregation is self imposed, organized housing such as the International floors(for first and second generation immigrants) in the dorms, the East Asian floors, Dubois college house(which houses most black students), and International house to name a few do not help the racial climate of the university. While the organized housing works under the guise of promoting cultural awareness, it simply does the opposite.

What is the solution then? Intergration? I think it would be better to just not have a policy. The Freshman quad at Penn is white-washed, but why is this? People are not told when they are signing up for housing that they are signing up for the White dorms. Perhaps it is white-washed because all minorities have the option of going somewhere else. If Penn was to take away those options, then wouldn't the campus be more diverse? Yes it would and I think it would be much better for college kids that should be learning from all perspectives, not simply from those of people similar to themselves


I think it would be going a bit too far to forbid all racial groupings. I don't know if what you meant was to actually forbid, or just to not endorse. If you meant the latter, then I agree. If you meant the former, then I ask why? Why not just be laissez faire?

I meant forbid as in "not endorse"; that's what I meant by the term "formal." I certainly wasn't suggesting that universities go around with diversity police making sure that black people and white people are evenly interspersed in the dining hall. But they shouldn't have official black student dorms, either. (Yes, I know that those sorts of ethnic dorms are technically not segregated, in that there are no rules forbidding non-Xs from living there, but there's an implicit understanding. It undermines the one argument in favor of diversity policies, that students benefit from being around those of different backgrounds.)

Private associations can't possibly be forbidden, and the university shouldn't try. A black person wants to only seek out black professors to mentor him? Nothing can be done about that. But that doesn't mean the university should publish a special directory of black faculty, as the Post article describes.

Oh, and my condolences on your choice of alma mater.


I read "formal" , but I saw a distinction between the terminology of explicitly forbidding racial groupings and simply not endorsing them.

There will be no black student housing on campus.

This is in comparison to simply not having formal racial groupings. The sentence would be a moot point since there would be no black student housing. That is where my confusion came from

In response to the alma mater jibe: likewise.


So explain to me again what the purpose of Diversity is at universities? We are told that it is important to have diversity on campus because it enables students to interact with individuals that have different viewpoints. However, when minorities arrive on campus they are encouraged by the Liberal school administration to interact only with their fellow minorities. They live in separate housing, go to separate social events, and when it comes time to graduate, they are provided with a separate ceremony paid for by the school.

Unfortunately, the real purpose of Diversity is to institute a quota system so that there will be a guaranteed number of Blacks (and to a lesser extent Hispanics) on campus. (Of course, since Asians don't have problems in meeting the entrance requirements to elite schools, Diversity for them has the perverse effect of limiting the number of Asian students who are admitted to these schools!) However, Liberals can't use the term quota because quotas were used in the past to exclude groups, so they give it a new name, Diversity. I am sure George Orwell would approve. War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength. Diversity is enlightenment.

Dave S:

I went to Harvard, which has generally been a defender of diversity and affirmative action, but which doesn't have any of these separate dorms or graduation ceremonies that you hear about at other schools. Sure, there was a Black Students Association (just like there was a Hillel and a Korean Students Association), but these groups were a part of the students' social sphere, not the entire thing.

Granted, the campus was still never truly integrated, since people still tended to room and eat with people who looked like them. But I thought our campus really was diverse and it really did contribute to my perspective and education. I think that, for the most part, they got their racial policies right.

The difficulty, of course, is that going from a policy like Penn's to one more similar to Harvard's, no matter how it's done, will always be portrayed by some people as anti-diversity or racist. I'm not sure how you get around that once you have these sort of divisive policies in place.

Princeton a decade ago was similar to your description of Harvard. No formal ethnic-themed dorms, no ethnic graduations. Heck, we didn't even have departments of ethnic studies. (We had "programs," which were not degree-granting. All the course-offerings were cross-listed with more traditional departments. Cornel West, for instance, was/is a religion professor.)

We did have ethnic student organizations, and there was an ethnic center (quaintly named the "Third World Center," though I think it has since been renamed) which hosted some social events.

Partha Mazumdar:

A little late, I know, but...

Maybe I'm missing something, but I don't see what the big deal is.

It wasn't like there were two or more graduation ceremonies. There was one graduation ceremony at the big football stadium, and there were a few other miscellanous functions which during commencement week. Among these was one which celebrated the African Americans graduating.

If, say, the Protestant or Jewish students wished to have some sort of ceremony before commencement, I'd have no problem with that -- in fact, I'd think it was great. If any other religious group did, I think that was great, too.

So the black students had a function? Again, what's the big deal?

What was the big deal about segregated proms?

Racism seems like a pretty big deal to me. (I'm not, of course, saying that non-governmental entities shouldn't have the legal right to freedom of association; I'm simply speaking of the desirability thereof.)

Partha Mazumdar:

>What was the big deal about segregated
> proms?

The prom (for better or for worse) is a singular and official school event, just like commencement. There should be one.

At Penn, there is one commencement. Everybody goes. *And* there are functions which preceed the commencement ceremony, like the ones for African American and Asian American students.

So: Penn has one commencement. These people who want segregated proms want more than one prom.

It'd be different if Penn actually seperated the actual commencement ceremony (which was an idea which was seriously floated at Vassar College in 1991 -- check out http://www.amren.com/915issue/915issue.html -- scroll down about 2/3 of the way).

Dave S:

There was an integrated prom and a segregated (white) prom at the Georgia high school. The integrated prom was a school-sponsored event and the segregated prom was not.

I'm not sure I see how these separate graduation ceremonies are different from the segregated prom. There was an integrated graduation with everyone, and then there were separate ceremonies that were solely black, or Asian, or Jewish, or whatever.

The only obvious differences are that some of these ceremonies involve actual expressions of a distinct culture. I'm not sure you could say the same thing about an all-white prom. I'm also not sure that justifies anything.

I wonder what would have happened if a random white person wanted to participate in the black ceremony. Would he or she have been allowed to? How about a white person who was born in Africa? Likewise for the other such ceremonies. That would be interesting.



Facts are stubborn little things. You canÂ’t make then go away by ignoring them. Penn sponsors and pays for these separate graduation ceremonies. That makes then official school functions. I guess racism is not dead, since your illustrious school believes in separate but equal. But donÂ’t despair. Some day they may learn about Brown vs. Board of Education.

These schools do need to be denounced for pushing racial hostility. Power can come from war, and scholars will never gain power sufficient to establish the worst possible utopias which theory could project, unless official power grows to the sky. Alternative methods of promoting division have floundered, and such that ethnic and racial hatred is their last hope, perhaps. - ....more at screenname's address below....


When you strip away all the BS, racial segregation is 100% okey dokey in modern America, as long as the instigators skin isnt white.


When you strip away all the BS, racial segregation is 100% okey dokey in modern America, as long as the instigators skin isnt white.


I'm a graduate of Penn as well. The problem with all these rubbish is that people nowadays no longer distinguish between "ethnicity" and "race."

Ethnicity is a notion that exists objectively regardless of whether we like it or not. It's defined primarily by one's language. So in a sense it kinda' make sense (I'm not passing any normative judgment here) for say Polish students to hold a Polish graduation ceremony, in which Polish music, etc. are utilized.

Race, on the other hand, means nothing more than the shape of your skull. Why this should even matter to the average person is totally beyond me. Black students at Penn are from a myriad of nations, anywhere from Ethiopia to Zimbabwe to African American. And they are ethnically VERY different. Why try to lump them together then? Because they "all look alike"? What like of racist junk is this?

But either way the practices of these stupid red-neck kids and our enlightened campus administrators doesn't make any sense at all whatsoever. Facts doesn't beget morality. So what if my skull has a different shape from yours? You see? Racists speak of the "inherently different" "temperaments" of the races. My response is: so what? Suppose it's true that race A is inferior in every aspect to race B. What are we gonna' do then? Affirmative action, or annihilation?

The decision to have separate graduation and proms then, are moral decision. A moral decision is a moral decision is a moral decision. Period. And unfortunately this moral decision is a rather unsound one. For it tears the fabric of the American society. This Nation is based not on ethnic, or religious identity. It is founded on civic identities. The decision to hold separate public/civic functions, etc. will inevitably lead to the destruction of the unity of our citizenry. There will be no more American citizens. Instead we get hyphenated-Americans.


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