Waking Up From King’s Dream

By Gus Bode

In 1963, segregation was a tragic part of the black American’s life. Now, 40 years after the famous “I Have a Dream” speech, segregation is just a thing of the past…or is it?

In fall of 2002 2,665 black and Hispanic undergrads enrolled at SIU. Therefore I find it quite perplexing that when I walk around my residence hall, Thompson Point, I find very few black students. In fact, I am lucky to see about 20 dark faces around the dorms or in Lentz dining hall, and that’s on a good day. If more than 2,000 minorities are walking around SIU and about 80 percent of them are staying on campus, then where are they hiding?

After asking around, I discovered that it is common knowledge among the student body that the bulk of black and Hispanic students stay at Brush Towers.


So the question arises, why is it that in this day and age, students still find themselves segregated in the cafeterias, at the parties and even in the housing facilities?

When I use the word “segregated” I mean it in the truest sense. I don’t mean unequal or anything- just separate. To get to the bottom of this dilemma, I felt that there was only one option:ask. And the answers were quite conclusive.

First, I asked students staying in the Towers that if they were given the option of moving to Thompson Point would they do it. Many minority students said no, they would not move.

So I must ask, does “voluntary segregation” run rampant among SIU students?

It is a possibility that people chose to hang around people of their own race. You look for others that are like yourself unintentionally satisfying a subconscious comfort level. Or it could be that the housing committee on this campus has a hidden agenda for its minority students. According to the SIU website, room assignments are made on a first-come, first-serve basis, based on the date of payment and the availability of space in the residential area requested by the students. If this is true, if everything is so random, then what’s with the lack of integration in the housing facilities?

With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. (King, 1963)

No offense to Dr. King, but I don’t see much brotherhood on this campus. Discarding a few exceptions, students are separated by ethnicity. My point is best illustrated by an encounter experienced first hand by Misty Standridge, my English 102 teacher. Of course, my opinions do not necessarily reflect Standridge’s.


“I was sitting in the Student Center at one of the dining areas, directly in the middle,” Standridge said. “At first it didn’t occur to me but all of a sudden I looked up and it looked as if the room was segregated. It’s something that you wouldn’t notice at first, but I must say it was very disturbing.”

So what is the problem with voluntary segregation? Well, it is known that the most effective way to help prevent prejudice and discrimination among different races is contact. When interactions between races occur, stereotypes are abandoned. As long as it is possible to be a student on this campus without ever having to really interact with someone outside of your race, there is a serious problem. In 2003, segregation is a reality at SIU and until something is done, this campus will never truly be diverse.