Stereotypes Down South

As January approaches, the seniors  are frantically trying to write essays, fill out college applications and finalize their college lists. Schools on these lists are located far and wide, from the University of California, Irvine to the University of Chicago to New York University. However, one geographical location is missing from many of those lists: the South. Oh yes, the South—the word sends shivers down our spines. The place of terrible education, crime and racism right? Absolutely not.

Here at Walnut, many of us have never strayed from the little bubble we live in and only know the stereotypes of the South. It is rather ignorant of us to not consider studying in the South purely because we assume that the South is a dreadful place to go to. You would be surprised at the strength of southern schools. Around 23 institutions in the top 50 schools as ranked by the U.S. News & World Report are located in the South. These include top schools such as Vanderbilt University, Emory University, Tulane University…the list goes on.

I know many well-qualified applicants who shy away from these schools just based on campus location alone. For example, a classmate told me, “Emory? Too south for me”. One thing Jonathan didn’t know was that Emory is ranked 21st for undergraduate education with an East Asian Studies program that has strong ties to South Korea, his specific area of interest.  With a little research, many students would find these institutions quite robust in their prospective fields of study; they shouldn’t deny themselves the chance at a stellar undergraduate education based on unfounded worries about location.

Something else I have noticed from listening to my peers is their tendency to notice more crimes in the South more than anywhere else. Permit me point out a few things that you may not have noticed. UC Berkeley, the dream school for many students on this campus, is situated right outside Oakland, the third most dangerous city in the United States according to Forbes magazine. Just recently, a student was allegedly abducted and raped. In fact, only three out of ten cities listed on America’s Most Dangerous Cities list in Forbes are from the South: Memphis, Birmingham, and St. Louis.

Another school that many students apply to is the University of Southern California, located south of Downtown Los Angeles in an area known for illegal activity. In April 2012, two USC graduate students from China that were sitting in their car were gunned down by a lone gunman looking for cash. Many people do not remember that incident now. We tend to overlook the fact that crime happens everywhere, not just in the South. Many of my friends cited the recent shooting of a Tulane medical student as justification for not applying, but no one mentioned the alleged abduction and rape of a UC Berkeley student mentioned earlier as a reason not to apply to Berkeley. No one told me that the reason he or she wasn’t applying to the University of Chicago was the fact that Chicago has the highest number of reported mass shootings in the United States. While statistically, the South tends to have a higher crime rate, college campuses are generally some of the safest areas in dense urban environments. With a little common sense and logical thinking, you can minimize your risk of getting hurt and victimized, no matter where you go for college.

Perhaps the most enduring stigma of the South is its reputation for discrimination, a reputation earned through its unfortunate history.You may have heard of the racial tension at the University of Missouri, where the president and chancellor were forced to resign. However, you may not have heard of the protest at UCLA over a racist Kanye West-themed fraternity party, or the protests at USC after the student body president was accosted with racial slurs. You may not have heard of the student sit in at Princeton University in calling for the removal of Woodrow Wilson’s name from the Wilson School of International Studies due to his debatable racist legacy. Clearly, race issues are a problem everywhere and are not confined to the South.

Lastly, I would like to address the fear of being an oppressed minority in the South. This is simply a myth. College campuses are as colorful as the rainbow, with people from all different backgrounds, economic classes, countries and opinions. For example, 40% of Emory’s freshman class of 2019 were minorities. At Vanderbilt, 39% of the freshman class of 2019 considered themselves a minority. Evidently, racial diversity is present in the South, and you shouldn’t avoid applying to any of those schools based on fears of being alone. You will find many people like you, and many people unlike you.

In short, is studying in the South really something to make a big fuss about? I have received numerous comments about my choice to apply Early Action to Tulane University. Even though I have earned $120,000 in scholarship money to go to Tulane, the responses of some of my peers and even my own family is disheartening. Hopefully, you will, at the least, consider applying to some colleges that you originally scratched off your list because of their location. After all, we shouldn’t let our geographical bias limit where we can go, what we can learn and what we can achieve.

By Ethan Fong, Guest writer

Editorial Cartoon by Haixin Lu