Desegregate Cal

Ryan Sim does not have a toe fetish. But if you want to show him yours at [email protected]

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Now that elections and voting are finally over, I can go back to bitching about the campus. But this time it's not the administration or the faculty that's bothering me - it's the students.

UC Berkeley is arguably the most diverse campus on the planet, but what are most students doing with that diversity? A simple stroll down Sproul Plaza will answer that question. It makes me feel like I'm in high school again. There are these people on the benches, those people on the steps and them people at the tables - either way they're all in cliques and clumps. Coincidentally, a number of these little groups are based on one thing and one thing only - race.

Here's my problem - if racism and epithets are discouraged, then why is voluntary segregation encouraged? I understand it is not acceptable to judge someone differently because they have different skin - but why is it okay to assume that someone is the same because they have the same skin? This is starting to look like a double standard. How am I not supposed to recognize skin color if there are students who have gathered together because of their skin color? It would be like having a hole in my shirt and saying, "Hey, don't look at the hole in my shirt."

I don't agree with the notion of "my people." I think the idea is divisive and self-defeating. To say that one group of people deserves more help than another is absurd. Discrimination and hate do not affect "your people," they affect individuals.

Let me give you a little scenario. There is a high school student who has no concept of attending college, and he's only got nine toes. One day, a bunch of other nine-toed people show up at his high school and encourage him to pursue higher education. They help him with his homework, his college applications and life in general. Voila, some time later our nine-toed character is accepted into a university. Upon arrival onto the campus, the nine-toed people are there to befriend him and give him advice. Our nine-toed individual becomes a success on campus and next discovers it is time for him to give back and help someone else. He remembers the other nine-toed people that helped him, so he goes to a local high school and looks to help those missing one toe too.

Here's the same scenario with the same nine-toed student in the same high school, except ... One day a group of students offer him guidance and advice - some of them have nine toes, but others have ten and even eleven toes. He gets into college and is befriended by all sorts people with toes, even those with jelly in their toes. He succeeds and, again, it is time to help someone else. This time our hero reflects back on those that helped him, he can't make any generalizations so he decides to help whoever wants his guidance without making any distinctions based on number or nastiness of toes.

These stories about toes are weird, but they allow me to introduce the concept of perspective. If a person views the world from a particular perspective, then everything is influenced by that perspective. For example, if the nine-toed student is only learning about his nine-toed people and he has mostly nine-toed friends, then he will see the world through his nine toes. He has then lost the ability to see the world through the eyes of someone with any toes at all. This may seem like a ridiculous example, but all you have to do is replace number of toes with whatever race or creed you want and it makes perfect sense. Helping only certain people is not breaking any cycle, it is only creating different cycles.

I'm not hating nine-toed people or ethnic clubs and organizations that promote their culture, I think everyone should promote their culture to everyone. Too much focus has been placed on "discovering my heritage." Perhaps there has been enough discovery and the focus should now be on "sharing our culture."

Learning about the culture of your ancestors and learning about the ancestors of other groups of people are not mutually exclusive - they can be done at the same time. In order to accomplish this there needs to be more of a cultural exchange on campus. One Indus Show or one Step Show or one Pilipino Culture Night is not enough. Issues affecting the nine-toed community should not only be shared within the nine-toed community, it should be shared with the ten and eleven-toed communities as well. People don't help because they don't want to, they don't help because they don't understand. Instead of small groups helping small groups, people need to share the knowledge and culture that they have discovered so that we can have one large group helping everyone. Whatever happened to strength in numbers?

Associating by race just because someone is the same color is no less superficial than associating by place of birth or gender or shoe size. None of these things involve choices, they are situations and characteristics that just are. Maybe we should have more clubs based on attitudes - the Bad-Ass Club, the Happy-Go-Lucky Club and the Pissed Off Club - at least these are choices that people can make.

If what I am saying is old hat, then why do I feel so uncomfortable and unwelcome when I walk by the "Chicano corner" or the "black benches." It's no different with the Asian fraternities - they assume that I can't relate because I wear plaid shorts. All the hype about fighting prejudice and discrimination is just that - hype.

Racism and prejudice are issues that need to be discussed, however discussing them only within specific racial groups is like saying you can only discuss politics if you're in Congress. As an Asian male I do not possess the "Asian perspective." I only know the Ryan Sim perspective.


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