Monday, March 1, 2010

Failing History: UCSD and the Sprite Step-Off

I promise y'all, I dont write about race all the time. But I write from my heart and for that I offer no apologies. To me, discussing issues of race show just we fail to learn from history.

The situation at UCSD is getting dicier and more confrontational. Since the Compton Cookout incident, a noose was hung in the campus library (the guilty student admitted it, was suspended and could face criminal charges) and a satire group on campus mocked the incident. Students have staged demonstrations and are showing they will not tolerate inaction and mere words from the administration.

I just found out that students at my alma mater USD will be staging a Blackout on campus in support of this along with a discussion. UCLA students staged a sit-in at the Chancellor's Office in solidarity last week. And yet I see people who don't understand why this is a big deal?

The fact that someone would hang a noose in the 21st century is disturbing and yet a friend on Facebook told me that a HS acquaintance trying to justify it not being a big deal by saying we tolerate flag burning. Burning a flag is not a tool of psychological intimidation or a weapon used to kill Black men and women for no reason other than skin color or being accused of a crime.

All I can say is that college students over the past 7-8 years are showing me that ignorance is at an all-time high with my generation. Throw in a dash of pushing the button of being offensive for the sake of it and you have a Molotov Cocktail waiting to explode.

Contrast that with the situation involving the Sprite Step Off Competition. An all-white sorority (Zeta Tau Alpha) from Arkansas won the competition much to the shock of outsiders like me. I thought it was a novelty but when you watch the video, they deserved it - the crowd went nuts, they had precision and their presentation was just as good as what you'd expect from a great show.

But of course, their victory provoked an outcry from Black folks who felt that it was indeed a novelty. They cried it was a sham and the girls had no business winning at a Black art form. The comments on Youtube are inflammatory and jealousy.

Needless to say, Coca-Cola (who owns Sprite) found some mysterious scoring discrepancy that they won't specify and said that the 2nd-place finisher, the Alpha Kappa Alphas from Indiana, would be named co-winners and receive the same amount of prize money.

Just as outraged as I was about the incident at UCSD, I was outraged about this. Those girls from Arkansas were trained by Black sororities and for several years they participated in competitions to get better and learn about the art of stepping as well as Black Greek life. (Sound familiar? Reminds me of the White Valedictorian at Morehouse and the backlash there, something I addressed on Myspace)

All of a sudden, Coke gets scared - realizing their competition had an unintended result and backlash, they create some error to create co-champions. Of course, failing to realize it'll cause more controversy.

What these situations tell me is that people don't know their history anymore. If they did, they would think twice before making moves that would be offensive. The students at UCSD who set this off would know that playing off Black stereotypes has no place at a university of higher learning that it supposed to be inclusive. Those who made racially charged comments at or second-guessed the skills of the white sorority would know that their actions are the same way Whites reacted to Black progress and success from the 1860's to most of the 20th century.

And Coke would know that caving into pressure is exactly what would have happened back then too. Way to show some backbone and support your judges.

Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. And we are slowly repeating the mistakes of the past because of our deliberate ignorance to understand/accept each other. The lesson from these two situations is to be less judgmental and more understanding.

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful write up, Evan! I hadn't heard about the Step Off controversy.