No one really knows how often violence occurs in urban communities, or how often sexual violence occurs on (or off) college campuses. But I do know the perception of danger could not be more different. I do know societal perceptions and reactions to gangs and fraternities could not be more different.
[Readers respond: Is There a Difference Between a Frat and a Gang?]
Consider this series of contrasts: toughness toward savage gang boys versus softness toward immature frat men. Worries about destroying the lives of drunk 20-year-olds accused of violence versus hardly caring about destroying the lives of high 16-year-olds accused of violence. Attacking gangs wielding the faces of their victims versus attacking and defacing the victims of fraternities. Defending death sentences for violent gang boys versus defending the life of privileged denial for violent frat men.
This double standard is both racist and elitist. After all, the stereotypical gang boy is poor and non-white. The stereotypical frat man is elite and white. And the double standard is sexist, as well. A blinding toxicity of masculinity prevents some Americans from truly caring about the typical victim of sexual assault on college campuses in the way they care about the victim of urban violence. Then again, how many Americans really care about those mourning Latino parents of an MS-13 victim that Trump invited to his State of the Union Address? Or about urban Black teens like ‘90s me who were jumped or killed by gangs? And how many want to lock up, deport, or segregate as many of us as possible so we won’t harm them? Do most Americans think there is something wrong with the poor black gang boy and his non-white family, culture, community, and country that is not wrong with the family, culture, community, and country that produces the elite white frat man?
Gang boys are commonly cast as humanity’s problem; youth of color are demonized as super-predators. But frat boys apparently make stupid mistakes as all humans do; none of them, apparently, are super-preying on women.
This is not an attack on all American male gangs or fraternities, especially those healthy brothers and brotherhoods living in the shadows of the toxicity plaguing communities and campuses. It is an attack on Americans’ wildly disparate perceptions of, and policies towards, gangs and fraternities.
Three out of four major police departments already had new gang intelligence units (GIUs) by 1993. “Gangs and drugs have taken over our streets,” President Bill Clinton said as he signed the multi-billion dollar Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, the largest crime bill in American history, the next year.
Fraternities and sexual violence have taken over our colleges. And yet, has Congress ever seriously considered steering billions to thwart sexual violence, to clean up the toxic masculinity poisoning fraternities and campus life?