Interracial Dating Talk Asks: ‘Who’s Got Jungle Fever?’

Michael Reschke, Indiana Daily Student (Bloomington), Jan. 11, 2007

“Who’s Got Jungle Fever?”

That was the title of the discussion session on interracial dating held Tuesday night in the Forest Quad formal lounge. Fraternity Phi Beta Sigma sponsored the discussion, and two of its members, Tafor Bonu and secretary Andre D. White, both juniors, mediated the discussion.

The session went as expected, said junior Brandon Libunao, a Phi Beta Sigma fraternity member.

“It was kind of what we thought,” Libunao said. “A lot of minorities showed up.”

A more diverse audience, with opinions from people in interracial relationships, would have brought in more views, Walker said.

“Because the organization sponsoring this discussion is considered an African-American fraternity, people saw it as only being for African-Americans,” Walker said.

If Phi Beta Sigma had collaborated with one of the fraternities on Jordan Avenue, the discussion group could have been more diverse, Walker said.

{snip}

The discussion covered various aspects of interracial dating, such as how attitudes about it have changed over time. Some people at the discussion suggested that interracial dating is more accepted than in the past;. One attendee, who said she has seen more interracial couples in Bloomington than Indianapolis, said it had only become more acceptable in certain places.

“If Bloomington has more interracial couples than Indianapolis, is IU better at being more diverse?” White asked the group.

Junior Brandon Libunao, a Phi Beta Sigma fraternity member, said IU is not diverse.

“People clique together and eat lunch together,” Libunao said.

One woman at the discussion agreed that IU is not diverse. She said IU markets diversity to get people here, but once you arrive on campus you see the focus of IU’s diversity is mostly on the GLBT community rather than all minority groups.

“I don’t think IU is as diverse as it claims to be,” said sophomore Zahra Ayoubi, a Sigma Lambda Gamma sorority member. “It pisses off a lot of people because they’re fake about it.”

Blacks, American Indians, Asians and Hispanics made up about 10.3 percent of IU-Bloomington’s 37,958 students in fall 2005, according to the IU Factbook.

The title of the discussion referred to Spike Lee’s 1991 film “Jungle Fever,” which starred Wesley Snipes playing a married man who has an affair with his Italian secretary. This example of interracial dating as portrayed by Hollywood spurred comments about the media’s influence on people’s conceptions of race.

{snip}

One person at the discussion said attitudes would change if the media stopped portraying race the way it does. Because ideas about race are passed down from parents to children, racism is a continuing cycle, graduate student George Walker said.

“Who is more to blame for issues, family or media?” White asked the group.

Several group members responded that both are to blame for negative attitudes about race and interracial dating. White said a large part of the blame can be placed on families.

“Ideas and views come from parents,” White said. “You ask yourself, ‘If I do this, will my parents be mad?’”

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