The Voice for All People
This is a Guest contribution. Thoughts and opinions are purely the author’s and do not represent that of Sigma Lambda Beta or its brothers.
When I was merely interested in our fraternity way back in 2010, I remember a distinct conversation I had with my prophyte, Amin “Auron” Engelslenin Fernandez. Before embarking on the education process, we chatted about what the core essence of a fraternity represented and what legacy a young and burgeoning fraternity such as ours should aim to have. I told him that I viewed the fraternity as a conduit of voices; a platform from which we could empower those who feel marginalized or otherwise ignored, regardless of whether or not they were our fraternal brothers. Although we provided that outlet and platform for students at our university, to some extent, recent sociopolitical developments in international and domestic relations make a more substantive and palpable version of that vision for our fraternity timely, essential, and urgent.
We know what the election of Donald Trump—a racist demagogue, among other things— represents for our country and the world. Journalists have written about in countless articles. We know about the endorsement of hate speech, racial slurs, proliferation of negative stereotypes, and anti-Muslim, anti-LGBTQ, and misogynistic rhetoric. We are already experiencing what the legitimization of hate speech means for communities of color in the Trump era. From school children parading and chanting “build that wall” in a cafeteria, to violent acts perpetrated against people of color solely based on their national origin, we are witnessing the resurgence of the empowered xenophobe.
What might not be so clear is what a Trump presidency means for our fraternity. Regardless of your political dispositions, the ethos and zeitgeist of the Trump campaign represented the antithesis of our fraternal creed. The result of this election cycle calls for us to live our fraternal creed now more than ever, and this call falls heavily on the shoulders of our undergraduate brothers. I now call our undergraduate brothers to action, and implore them to serve the needs and wants of all people. They can do so in a variety of substantive ways.
First, make yourselves available, and do so publicly. Each individual chapter has a unique way of contributing to positive and inclusive discourse on their campuses. Given our multicultural emphasis, our fraternity is in a special position to spur cross-cultural discourse. Release a well written and thought-out a statement that emphasizes our fraternal commitments to inclusiveness and tolerance. This can be embodied in various mediums spanning from a Facebook post, to an email that reaches the entire school, depending on the size of your university. Make it known that whenever someone sees a brother, they have someone to count on.
Second, do not speak for others; but rather, provide a platform for marginalized groups, including the ones that we are a part of. Work with the groups on your campus to co-sponsor events that evoke inclusiveness, positivity, acceptance, and tolerance. Attend various cultural events on your campus with your letters on. Make it known that our chapters across the nation are available to foster and develop channels of dialogue with groups that you might not even be a part of. For example, if you are white, straight, and Christian, go ahead and support that event about women’s rights, or attend that event hosted by the local Muslim student group. Co-sponsor events with all affinity groups across campus, and make it known that your chapter is there to help provide the platform for students to talk about pressing issues in a safe space.
Finally, learn and speak up. As brothers of this fraternity, it is our duty to learn and speak up in the face of injustice and unfair treatment of our peers. That decree, embedded in our principle of cultural awareness and in our mission to better serve the needs and wants of all people, lays the responsibility of actively participating in positive dialogue with others. There are so many talented brothers in our fraternity who may know something you do not. There are plenty of people outside of our fraternity who understand issues that we may not even be aware of. Do not be afraid to ask and learn. Now is not the time for arrogant ignorance, but rather it is time for humbled curiosity. It takes five minutes to read a short article on a social issue you are curious about. Those five minutes will then allow you to challenge intolerance and xenophobia wherever you may find it. College students are in a unique position to challenge the views of their peers during the most transformative years of our future leaders, and they can do so in a safe space (the classroom).Read about issues affecting communities that are not your own. Be prepared to discuss those issues in the classroom or at the cafeteria. Show up to campus protests with your letters. Speak with your peers. Let it be known that Sigma Lambda Beta is a fraternity that fosters love, inclusion, and acceptance for all people.
Let this be our legacy. Let us be known as the fraternity that fought and spoke up for inclusion and tolerance when our nation, and the world, stared into the eyes of the abyss. Use your chapter as a voice for all people. We stand on the precipice of what will surely be a trying four years in our nation’s history. It is our fraternal duty to fight for humanity. We have nothing to lose but our chains.
Bro. Emmanuel Hiram Arnaud is a brother from the Epsilon Delta Chapter (Columbia University). He currently practices law in South Carolina for a non-profit that defends death row clients and juveniles who were unconstitutionally sentenced to life in prison.