Presenting Visibility, Passing Blindness

Jalin Jackson-

Two weeks ago, I submitted a Perspectives piece on the history of color-blindness at Davidson College and how students and administrators have used inclusivity as an argument against the diversification of Greek life here as early as 1989. As the Latino fraternity interest group nears the end of the process of possibly gaining President Quillen’s approval, the conversation surrounding how a Latino fraternity could change Davidson is surfacing. As a member of that group, it saddens me to have that conversation when many people in our Davidson community have access to misinformation or no information at all.

I’ll admit that 1989 was a long time ago; but so were 2003 and 2008 when Black males and females first achieved recognition in Patterson Court, respectively. These student populations went unseen by Davidson for decades after first emerging as demographics here. In fact, there are still students with unrecognized identities and few organizational supports tailored to their needs. However, one cannot describe diversity in terms of Black and White — no matter how much some in our Davidson community might tend to. The men of the Latino fraternity interest group that has recently obtained the support of the majority of Patterson Court organizations have communicated: “There are many Latinx at Davidson; however, the link between us is thin and often overshadowed by PWI [predominantly white institution] culture.” Individuals have stated, “I find myself isolated in a bubble…I shouldn’t assimilate to something that I am not.”

Having assembled a year and a half ago and consisting of men from all class years, this group of men has been meeting regularly since then. We have been researching, presenting to different student bodies, and supporting each other until we can bring the infrastructure of a Latino fraternity to amplify and extend that needed support. A “yes” from President Quillen would not only further diversify Davidson Greek life, but it would also provide a resource that would help Latinos and males who identify with latinidad be seen within and beyond the Davidson bubble.

Although a large part of this process has been about aiding in Latino visibility for the sake of the Latinos within our community, it would simplify the matter to stop there. We must also think about how this fraternity would champion Latino visibility for the sake of those with no personal connection to latinidad. In other words, we can only uplift, celebrate, and support a community if it is visible within our sphere. When visibility is not an option, assimilation is the best one. While assimilation is not always a bad thing, there are many people here who feel that they are losing themselves and the commonalities they once shared with certain groups when they do so.

Other men of the Latino fraternity interest group have said: “Personally, I want to create a sense of brotherhood with people…who have shared experiences, and with whom I can count on to understand the reality of being a Latino in the U.S. today.” They’ve stated, “Becoming a part of a fraternity would connect us to a nationwide network where we know we would be able to find this support wherever we find ourselves beyond Davidson.” They’ve proclaimed, “Latinos unidos jamás serán vencidos.” [“Latinos united will never be overcome.”]

Although there are many Latinos in this interest group — alongside others who don’t consider themselves Latinos per se — Latinos don’t all look the same. Aside from varying physical appearance and fluctuating dancing ability, there are many other aspects of Latino identities that these men carry. Members of this interest group belong to a host of other smaller communities within Davidson College. Some of us wish we could belong to some of these communities beyond four years. Some of us don’t mind either way. Even so, one of the best things that Davidson can provide is the opportunity to belong to a support network that is not prone to expiration. Granted that a Latino fraternity would also be an ongoing support system for its members, the introduction of this organization to Davidson College would mean continuous Latino visibility here as well.

Commonalities help us see each other for who we really are. At the same time, even though there are people who may physically look like you and identify with your racial background, other aspects of your identity may constantly tell you that you don’t belong in that space no matter how much you might want to. When those voices become too loud, you lose yourself somewhere in the clamor. We all want to belong to a space where we can just be. That is, with people who can see who we really are, even when we feel like we can’t see ourselves. To all those getting lost in the foggy Davidson bubble — Latinx, non-Latinx, somewhere in between or beyond — there are people here who see you. We see you not because of some kind of exclusive enlightenment, but instead because we too have been lost in this space at one point or another.

     

Jalin Jackson ’19 is an Africana Studies and Latin American Studies double-major from Camden, New Jersey. Contact him at jnjackson@davidson.edu.