When I read a copy of Rider’s most recent alumni magazine, I was alarmed by an advertisement for the university’s summer reunions I read on the back page of the publication. The advertisement listed the names of Greek organizations that would be joining the reunions, but instead of listing Rider’s culturally-based organizations individually, it lumped them together as “Minority Greeks.”
This is not about political correctness. To me, this is about respecting the identities of all of Rider’s Greek organizations, and this categorization belittles organizations that matter to this campus.
Organizations like Kappa Alpha Psi, Lambda Theta Phi, Delta Sigma Theta, Phi Beta Sigma, Zeta Phi Beta and Lambda Theta Alpha are just as important to our campus as the 15 other fraternities and sororities listed in the advertisement. Their members, history, philanthropy and letters are just as important as anyone else’s. Their commitment to social justice and their celebration of Latin- and African-American cultures is an asset to not only Greek life, but to our campus as a whole. I cannot speak on their behalf, but I am thankful for the work they do to make Rider a better place for students who come from marginalized groups. Grouping them into one umbrella category is insulting to their identities, their histories and the work they do for this campus.
I’m a brother of Sigma Phi Epsilon (SigEp). Seeing the name of my organization on the reunion poster reminds me of SigEp’s rich history and the strong presence we maintain on Rider’s campus. I am proud of the fact that my chapter is literally as old as I am. My family in particular traces its roots back to one of the founding brothers of Rider’s chapter in 1996. It makes me happy to know that SigEp alumni will see our name on the back of the magazine and know that their brothers are still thriving on campus. Why can’t our representation be equal in a publication that is sent out to thousands of people?
The “Minority Greeks” categorization in this advertisement could perhaps best be described as a microaggression: the casual degradation of a marginalized group. Perhaps we’ve all said or done something microaggressive without knowing it. It doesn’t make us racists, but it does show that we must be willing to learn about others’ experiences and be a little more sensitive.
For example, saying “I don’t see color” is meant to be a positive statement against racism, but it implicitly diminishes the importance of one’s race and denies his or her ethnic experiences. Similarly, telling someone who is Asian- or Latin-American that “their English is good” can end up making an individual feel like a foreigner in his or her own country. It’s easy to say this was just an advertisement and it’s not worth discussing.
However, it’s important to recognize issues like this, no matter how small they may seem, so we can know better for the future. Labeling a collection of organizations as “Minority Greeks,” though it may have been done with good intentions in mind, belittles their identities and makes it look as if they are not as important as the other organizations whose names appeared in the advertisement. Cultural fraternities and sororities are especially important because they have a history of making college campuses safer and more comfortable for students that come from underrepresented groups. These organizations’ names matter.
As a fellow Greek, I stand by the organizations that were misrepresented. While the university does its best to be inclusive, we need more social justice awareness, and that has to start with students. It starts with conversations, much like those that I saw on social media regarding the advertisement — someone even made a petition about it. I feel the need to talk about this mistake because I know that Rider is better than this, and because by knowing better, we can do better.
Junior journalism major
Printed in the 4/19/17 issue.