|First, I decided to go to dinner
with my friend Matt, a white student. As we walked down the stairs to
Hall, we noticed a line. There were two women from housing who were putting
on orange and blue bracelets and saying, “We are putting on a special
program tonight. You can eat as quickly as you want. Thank you.” She
also mentioned that Dining Services was afraid to do this but agreed.
Immediately, I recognized this program from what my Resident Advisor told
me last semester. They were going to segregate the cafeteria (with orange
and blue bracelets) to start a dialogue on race and inequalities. I received
the orange bracelet and so did Matt, since they let friends stay
together. When we went into the serving line, there was an
orange side with larger than usual, fancy plates, and people
welcoming us. On the blue side, there were people yelling at
the students not to talk and hurry up as they received their
plastic silverware and paper plates. I recognized one guy
who is in the ROTC army program yelling at them.
I wanted the blue bracelet because I always end up on the privileged side in life, try to help the underprivileged but am questioned for my motives and I feel guilty. [I remember during the summer, interning for the Center for Student Missions, a Christian non-profit group that hosted youth groups from around the country to do a week of service. It is a great organization, but one thing that bothered me was the lack of diversity. We out of 18 staff members, we had two African American women and nearly every person that came for the week of service was white. One day, we were painting a Unit at Cabrini Green, a housing project in Chicago that still has about 3,000 people left in it. Yes, the city plans to knock it down, but until these people are pushed to the streets, there is a church, Hope Alive, that is dedicated to serving the community until the end. Anyways, I had this group of just graduated jr. high kids. There were 70 kids in all, which was very hard to deal with, even though we had multiply staff members with them. While some people stayed at a protest against the Chicago Housing Authority knocking down many projects, I had to take 17 white 14 year olds, from the South, into the Projects. Despite all my warnings, many had no respect. They were singing as we walked along. Were they blind to the immense poverty that surrounded us? How could they ignore the urine smelling, dark, dank, garbage filled hallway that we walked through? What killed me was when we saw an African American woman and she said, “What is this? Tour the Projects day?” That same day, this white male leader of their group made racist comments to Wes, an African American man who lives in the Cabrini Green and was helping us. He said, “Man, you find Jesus in the strangest places!” Wes responds, “I am not sure how I should take that or what you mean.” Racist white youth group leader from the South, “You should take it as the biggest compliment coming from me, I mean come on, look at you!” Anyways, this just shows some of the problems faced when trying to do cross culture service. There are people bitter on one side sometimes and racists on the other who think they are there to save the others.]
We then entered the area were you can get cold foods. This area was split. My side had 8 kinds of ice cream bars and we usually have none. We also had two kinds of cake, the waffle machine, and the ice cream machine. There were people welcoming us and telling us to enjoy our meal. I felt guilty when there were African American people welcoming me. Posted all over were different signs that read statements about recent examples of human rights abuses based on skin color, religion, sexual orientation, and more. There was a sign about swastikas on college campuses, mosques being defiled, white fraternity members showing up to a Halloween party in black face, and others.
When I sat down on the white table clothed table, I looked to the left. There was an orange construction sight mesh fence that separated the two sides. Most everyone was turned facing us, glaring or just looking with disbelief. I walked over to the fence to talk to two of my friends on the other side, one from Belarus and the other from inner city Chicago. Immediately, boys at a nearby table on the blue side booed at me and told me to sit down. I continued to talk to them until a person from housing came by and told me that we don’t associate with people on the other side and I was not allowed to talk to them. Some boys from the blue side were throwing napkins and food at our side. Another person ran under one of the large construction paper blockades to raid the ice cream bin. Both guys had about ten ice cream bars when about 4 people in housing stopped them. Male students were loudly taunting their friends who were on the blue side.
There were questions on the table that asked how we felt, if
it reminded us of anything, and other Brown related
questions [I should try and get those questions as well as
the signs they hung up in the dining hall.] My white friend
Matt, who is usually very liberal on most issues, said he
did not agree with this program because it will just cause
more tension and everyone already knows about segregation. I
argued with him as I usually do. He said is should not be forced and
I disagreed since the people who need to learn about this are not the
ones who would voluntarily attend
When I went back to get dessert, a housing man asked to see my bracelet since their were blues trying to sneak into the orange side. After I showed him, he apologized and welcomed me again. [This made me think of real segregation. There was no hiding the bracelet under your sleeve, since people can usually tell skin color or ethnicity just by looking at a person.]
I wanted to stay longer, observe people, and interview, but I had an exam. As I was leaving, they passed out two cards (see previous page)
I saw many of the sheets of paper we received on a table, abandoned by the recipient. Some people try so hard to educate people and sometimes it is partly in vain because some people refuse to be reached. I have to admit; I did not read the pieces of paper until now. Not because I am not interested in this topic, but due to midterms and all the other things going on in my life, such as homework, volunteering, going to events, boyfriend, friends, family, and sleep. It is hard to juggle everything and remain a balanced person. Some things have to be edited out.
[I plan on talking to people on my floor and in the dorm in general on their opinions.] There was a discussion about dinner later that night but I was at my exam and heard that not many people showed up.