THE BLOG

The Social Disunity of Collegiate Black Men

01/11/2013 07:10 pm ET | Updated Mar 13, 2013

"It starts in the way we associate ourselves," my fellow friend told me after coming from a Black Brotherhood meeting one Saturday afternoon. I had just left a meeting before we crossed paths heading towards Du Bois College House at Penn. I was telling him about the show and he was telling me about his meeting. I was curious as to why this group was not known compared to the rest. And the answer to that inquiry gave me the basis to a long going argument I had socially and internally faced. He said very quickly, "we are not a group... we choose not to put ourselves in categories, it's a brotherhood."

Brotherhood: this term has been used so many times in the irony on this Penn campus in regards to black men that it is almost as sarcastic as it is daunting. Hunted by the symbols, colors, and rituals of a certain group over another has always confused me. As I listened to him speak of how his group is different from another I wanted to find flaws in this one in comparison to the others. However, again I must remind myself this is not a group, but a brotherhood. "We don't take specific qualifications, anyone is welcome." Wow, this is a first: acceptance. After much interrogation, I asked him one final question and his answer is what inspires the foundation for my entire argument: "We are a brotherhood that is striving to create a universal identity for black men on campus."

Yes, whether you want to accept it or not, the black men in college are divided. We are in sectors, and these divisions have long developed sores that are continuing to sting at the core of our social interaction. No, this is not just about the Greeks, although they contribute their own influence into this array, but all the psychological and professional factors as to how we accept each other. As 21st century scholar, I am declaring that we change the trend before we head into complete isolation and destruction. Yes, it starts in the way we associate ourselves. The good "brother" on campus is only good because he is doing "big things" and making "big moves." However, this is the same guy who at every party is taking advantage of intoxicated underclassmen girls and high fiving his homeboys in advance. I have learned shortly that the accomplishment of such individuals professionally does not define their character. In my opinion, since this is my article, black men overall have compromised their virtue for this thing called "success."

We are only great by what we possess or what internships we have, or what tangible achievements we can show in comparison to others. I think there is a lot said when I ask about whom John Doe is and a friend says "Oh, John Doe, he is a good guy, he is president of blah blah blah" when what I was really searching for is who they were as a person, not a title. Too very often we as blacks associate our titles with our personality. And yes, if you are reading this right, this is written by a guy that wears many hats on campus... but yes, I will translate the difference between such titles as this in comparison to a complete loss of self-identity.

Second, it has saddened me that many of my fellow black Penn men have turned in their personality in exchange for a seat in a group or clique. Yes, many will find that I am talking about Greek life, but not only fraternities but other strong affiliations that are business associated or professional related. The guy that was once a freethinking expressionism man is now a "Whartonite" and feels they must act accordingly. They no longer become John Doe but John Doe the (insert Greek letters) and they thus lose who they are as the individual. Now, this is not the case for everyone, but it is for many and its impact of relationships with others does have dire consequences. There is no need recap the numerous examples over the years, but as I have said it before and say it again, there is no ignoring the change of people to such affiliations. And this is what makes me upset the most is that this change is not being expressed on an outside level, but in our own community. Why is it that we all can get it together for those watching us, but internally we screw up the relationships within our own circles. We deject our fellow brothers over such foolishness. We create these groups and niches.

We have the Greek brothers on one hand, the "doing big moves, I'm going to get mine" brothers on one end, the expressionist brothers on one side, the "I don't want affiliate myself with too many blacks" brother on the other. What we fail to realize is that in all actuality we are all brothers, we are all black, and at the end of the day we all have something to offer one another. Once upon a time, before we attended this higher learning institution, we were hoping to come here and had faced many obstacles socially to get accepted. Now attending college, we have gotten so immersed into the external pressure of accomplishment that we have lost our personality and general sense of inner self-connection with our fellow brothers. I remember being in high school and always being "the smart black boy" of the class, my friends used to call me "the school's Obama" but they were black themselves and although we were different, I loved the difference.

Not all of us are Whartonites, or Alphas, or making the biggest moves, but at the end of the day that is fine. Although I strive to have many different identities and titles, that has not stopped me from being the same guy who is "doin' the most" as my friends have always said. I have always wanted my personality to shine through the things I do rather than it be the other way around. This is what I suggest to the black men of the Ivy League. Find yourself. Be yourself; let your inner-character be what stands out beyond these letters, symbols and titles. Be the John Doe that is very smart and funny, rather than the John Doe that is the Kappa. If there is anything that can be learned, our characteristics unite us more than our elite statuses.