Friday, January 6, 2023

Animal House 2023

It is possible that by the time I finish this piece, there will actually be a duly elected Speaker of the House of Representatives, chosen by majority vote or some arcane procedural maneuver that will make all of my commentary on the matter seem like unnecessary post-game analysis. Time will tell, but until that day and hour comes, I feel compelled to share some thoughts on this whacky college fraternity party going on at the U.S. Capitol building.

That analogy came to me on Day 2, between votes 5 and 6 when all of the attention had shifted to the Black guy in the GOP Caucus whose name got thrown into the mix as a possible alternative candidate for Speaker. I missed the floor speech that announced his nomination, so it wasn't until later when I saw all of the Twitter discussion about Frederick Douglass and MLK and making history. So we'll come back to that a little later since I need to set up these other visuals. 

As most of you know, I went to an all-girls high school and then to a Black women's college, so I was unacquainted with the dynamics of interracial social interaction until I went to law school. In high school, I never went to any of the after-the-school-dance parties with my white friends and we didn't have a frat house culture in the AUC. It wasn't until law school that I went to my first keg party, so it was there that I became acquainted with this cast of characters, many of whom we've been watching for the past few days: 

The BMOC, leader of the pack with the cool hair: Kevin 'Would-Be Leader' McCarthy

His trio of 'loyal' lieutenants, all of whom will be plotting his downfall: Steve 'Tough Guy' Scalise, Elise 'Good Girl' Stefanik, and Jim 'The Jock' Jordan

The ex-girlfriend who hangs around because they are still hooking up in secret: Marjorie 'Beavis' Taylor Greene

The rival wannabe BMOC, also with cool hair: Matt 'Butthead' Gaetz

The chick he's secretly hooking up with: Lauren 'Pick-Me' Boebert

Everybody else at the party: The GOP Caucus

The Black guy at the GOP party whose name nobody knew, until just now: Byron 'Not Brian' Donalds

Everybody at the other party across campus with the better music: The Democratic Caucus

I hung out with two distinct groups of people in law school: the Black law students (BLSA) and the 'Gang'. As you might imagine, my experiences with BLSA was consistent with what I knew from high school and college, so it was my experience with the 'Gang' that is analogous to what we've been seeing play out on the Hill. I was good friends with a few of the women in The Gang, so I was often invited to their parties. And for the record, I have nothing negative to say about that experience as it gave me insight and access to PWI culture as the other character that deserves an honorable mention here: The Black Girl.

Let me offer this quick paragraph to explain a few of the differences between fraternity culture at HBCUs and PWIs for the unfamiliar, because they are not the same. Most HBCUs only have chapters for the nine National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) Black Greek-Lettered Organizations (BGLOs) on campus, which means typically three to five are active, two are on probation, one is on hiatus, and one is on indefinite suspension. None of our on-campus activities involved alcohol and we didn't have separate fraternity/sorority houses. Our organizations typically rented out space for parties, and most of the hazing went down off-campus. Greek life was definitely a part of our campus experience, but it didn't define it.

In contrast at Tulane, fraternity/sorority culture was huge. There was a fraternity row of houses not far from campus where any and everything went down on any given weekend. I had friends who lived nearby so we often watched a lot of crazy, from drunken rush rituals to street fights to outright riots (but no one called it that because these were just drunk college kids having fun and destroying property). One frat house in particular was the nucleus of bacchanalian excess--in fact they were infamous for it. They were also the only fraternity with one Black member.

I don't know enough about non-BGLO culture to comment on this other than to note that most of the Black people were either members of the BGLOs or unaffiliated. Even in the mid-90s, there weren't that many Black men on campus except for the athletes or law students, so we all knew each of other. However, no one knew this brother because he only hung out with his white fraternity brethren. He was often the subject of speculation because it was so obvious that he avoided all communication with the rest of us. What was his name? Where was he from? Had anyone ever seen him alone or not with any of his fraternity brothers? Where did he get his hair cut? What would happen when his parents came to visit and he didn't introduce them to any Black friends? Who did he date (because this wasn't the most progressive era where interracial dating was common and out in the open)? Did he ever get followed around in stores like the rest of us?

At some point, I learned his name from a member of the Gang who had been an undergraduate member of the same fraternity, but all these years later, I can't remember it, so we'll just call him 'Mike', the Black dude in the white fraternity who never spoke to any of the other Black people on campus. I don't have any specific stories to share about Mike, but I thought of him when Rep. Byron Donalds' name was being tweeted about as the first Black Speaker of the House. And naturally, I was confused because until the other day, I hadn't even known that there was a Black man in line for leadership in the GOP Caucus. (OK, that isn't entirely true...but just like Mike, I didn't know his name until someone else in the Caucus told us.)

I know that I have yet to explain that part about being the Black Girl in the Gang, because there is an interesting social dynamic at play when in groups of white people there are a few people of color sprinkled in the mix. Of course, I have stories about being the Black Girl, but none of those are relevant to my Animal House analogy about what is currently going on in Congress. However, there is a Black Girl who does figure in this insanity: Cori 'Sister Girl' Bush, the outspoken party-crasher.

Now Sister Girl knew there would be nonsense popping off at the GOP Party, and she just happened to be walking by when they were back-slapping and chanting chug chug chug at Byron 'Not Brian' Donalds. So she peeped in and overheard all of the kudos and congratulatory shouts about making history while someone was spiking his drink. And in the classic, outspoken Sister Girl manner of crashing a gathering to which we were not invited, she burst in the room and called them out before it all got too scandalous.

And this is when the action shifted from foolishness to pure fuckery...

Of course, the white frat guys were mad that the Black Girl came in and blew up their party. They knew what was in his drink, but that wasn't the point--she had no right to barge into their private event! He knows the rules, they exclaimed, so it isn't as if he didn't expect that he would end up in a field somewhere, shit-faced drunk with his pants down and a target drawn on his ass. He likes it, right Mikey? Yeah dudes, you know I do! Therefore, to save face, he defended them and then aimed his fire at her.

How dare she feel the need to intervene to save a Black man from making a damn fool of himself?

And this is where I have to suspend the analogy and offer real talk, because I saw his response on Twitter yesterday, and I was livid! I am not a Rep. Cori Bush fan for several reasons, but I understood and agree with her points about the way Rep. Donalds was being used by the renegade faction of the GOP Caucus (because they've moved on to someone else for Rounds 12 and 13). Thus, the very fact that you would lash back at her is both typical and pathetic given that she wasn't the one volunteering to ride shotgun as a stunt dummy with you for three days running.

Sister Girl Rep. Bush didn't question your Blackness or your manhood, Congressman, but you definitely seem to be the one with the doubts about both. You knew that your name wasn't being offered as a real candidate for Speaker, no more serious than the suggestion of the DESPOTUS or that other Rep. Kevin Hern from Oklahoma (who knew not to take the drink and chug, as he has consistently voted for would-be Leader McCarthy). But you saw a chance to make a name for yourself and then accused a Black woman of tearing you down instead of the clowns who were setting you up for disaster. 

The thing about being the outspoken Black Girl, especially in situations like this is that we are resilient. Bush will go on to do or say something else that will garner another round of unwanted attention, but that is what she does, and sometimes that is the price for speaking the truth. She's not desperate to be liked by people for whom she needs to prove her worth. The Congressional Black Caucus approved her membership application, so if you are still waiting on that appeal, you should just go on about your business. She even did you the courtesy of telling you why you can't come to our party, so you needn't act surprised about any of this or how your 'friends' are going to leave you ass out and covered in grease paint when this is all over.

(Final note: I'm posting this as lucky vote #13 is underway, so we'll soon know how this will all end.)

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