SBS 301 Cultural Diversity/Prof. Koptiuch         Fall 2012       Personal Memory Ethnographies

Walid Alansari

Racial Dodge Ball

I joined a fraternity in 2008, Sigma Phi Epsilon, a predominately ‘white’ fraternity. I had the option to join some of the other multicultural fraternities but they were not considered to be the traditional Greek experience that has been sensationalized in popular culture. Multi-cultural fraternities at Eastern Washington University are a growing community, which is why they were particularly excited to extended me a bid to join their family. A student does not have to be ethnic or of color in order to be a member of this fraternity but that has been the trend about NPHC fraternities at the national level. When I declined their invitation to join their community, they were understanding of the circumstance until I jumped ship and joined a predominately white fraternity. Most of the members in the community felt disrespected but not enough to say anything.

I was in the fraternity for three years and never encountered any racial problems, until there was a heated dodge ball game between my fraternity and the NPHC fraternity during our Greek Week competition. A lot was riding on the competition because my fraternity had won Greek week 8 years in a row at this point. Dodge ball was just one out of five events but there were many sneaky moves and uncalled for cheating during the final round between both fraternities.

Everything prior to the start of the game was nothing out of the ordinary. Girls were rooting for their boyfriends on the court, the boys were hollering at their teammates to make smart moves; that all changed for the final game. Since it was nearly the end of the day and the tournament was going longer than planned, several referees left the championship round before it started. The game that would ordinarily consist of four referees was now cut down to two.

That did not stop the two teams from competing for the final round. The tension was high in the air because the entire crowd knew that Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity had won this sport four years in a row and the overall Greek week event ten years in a row. You could cut that tension with a knife and sense a heated game was about to take place.

They ended up with the win, and one of our members was outraged because of the cheating and got into the other fraternity’s face. Many words were exchanged and he went on to say several racial slurs, the one that stuck out the most was when he said, “My people would lynch you!” The staff of the university stepped in and dialed down the drama and cops were called so there wouldn’t be a fight in the parking lot.

It wasn’t until conflict arose at a Greek week dodge ball tournament where he really offended us. He had moved up the ranking in his fraternity and had become president. During the tournament a brother of his used multiple racial slurs that haven’t even been thought of since the 1900’s. People thought that he stood behind this brother as he called them “niggers” and threatened to lynch us and no one in the community could comprehend how I could condone that behavior to begin with, let alone support the opposite side. (Even though I had this member immediately expelled from fraternity association.)

Every one of the minority members wanted to drop, and the other fraternity had stated that I was “denying my race” because I was standing with a racist fraternity. I was put in a difficult situation because he knew that his fraternity wasn’t racist but for a while they had gotten to him and he even questioned his loyalty. However, in order to be in certain multicultural fraternities you needed to be a certain percent of an ethnicity and I began to wonder how it was traced. According to slave days, a person is considered black if they have one member in their history that was black, but I felt denied by them because I was only an eighth black. I had never really thought about how I identify myself and furthermore if I would be accepted by the black community.

The multi-cultural fraternity eventually reached out a hand to me because they saw all the flack I was receiving but they still could not understand how I would support that behavior. While the instigator of this fiasco was the white male who had had a racial meltdown, the attention shifted more towards a multiracial male who was turning his back on his own people. It was a hard situation for me to be in. The university intended on taking legal action, but since the multicultural fraternity and I had established an understanding and I issued an apology on this brother’s behalf and they decided not to press charges.

Many biracial individuals often find it hard to not only pick a side but also to feel welcomed by either side. As seen in Mixing It Up: Multiracial Subjects, celebrities like Mariah Carey and Paula Abdul often felt neglected in their youths for being biracial. The situation I had found myself in was much bigger that myself. The story that really related to my incident was the story of “Hundred’s gather to protest violence against Asian Americans” because Asians were being abused physically and hundreds came to protest. Even though members in my story were not physically abused, both sides had people verbally abused and the result in my story left many other Greeks protesting my fraternity and supporting the African American fraternity at Eastern Washington University. In the article a San Francisco resident states "It's not a color issue ... there should be justice for what they did," he said. Which I completely agree with in both scenarios because it is how people are treated that matters, not the reason. I also played the ultimate vote in removing this member from the fraternity and he was no longer allowed to participate in any events or brotherhoods.

In 2006, “The U.S. Congress debates legislation that would criminalize undocumented immigrants. Immigrant rights organizations support alternative legislation offering a pathway to citizenship. The legislation stalls, and Congress decides instead to hold hearings across the country during the summer and fall of 2006, to gain public input on how to handle the immigration issue.” This was something I thought could be related to my situation because this was also the first time that the multi-cultural fraternities had ever participated in traditional Greek week events. Many of the traditional Greeks (Inter-Fraternity Council) tried to degrade them from participating, not because of race but because they were overseen by a different fraternity council (National Pan-Hellenic Council.) This minor technicality is what separates the two councils and why race was so heavily influenced.

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