Inside USD

Shifting the Balance

Friday, November 1, 2013

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up, live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’”

These were the famous words of Martin Luther King Jr. at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. on Aug. 28, 1963. The speech, given 37 years ago, addressed the issue of civil rights. Progress has been made since Dr. King gave his “I Have a Dream” speech, but many argue it’s still not enough.

For example, this year at the University of Alabama, at least four sorority chapters denied an African American woman a bid because of the color of her skin. Although this may be shocking to some, new USD Department of Sociology Assistant Professor Greg Prieto, PhD, was not surprised. Dr. Prieto grew up in a small town called Lancaster, located in the northern most suburban area of Los Angeles County. Lancaster, according to Prieto, is a very conservative town and is ironically segregated by a street called Division. Division Street separates the town into lower income — primarily African American — housing and higher income — primarily white — housing.

The experience growing up in a largely segregated community was integral to Prieto’s interest in sociology and his focus on immigration and race. Coming of age in a town where segregation was the social norm, it was not until Prieto started studying sociology that he was able to view segregation from a more intellectual and critical angle.

Sociology also lent a clearer lens to other aspects that were difficult for Prieto in his personal life. Being a homosexual male in a conservative town was not easy.

“Coming out was something that was enabled through my college experience. As you experience what you are feeling and what you are going through, you are bound to confront social opprobrium,” he shared.

Prieto went to Whittier (Calif.) College, a small liberal arts school, for his undergraduate education and initially studied business. Business classes weren’t fulfilling Prieto’s need to more fully understand the social inequality that surrounded him. He found sociology more suitable to study in order to better understand himself and society.

Prieto is currently teaching Quantitative Methods at USD and is hoping to teach courses in the future focused on law and society, immigration, race and racism, social movements, and qualitative methods. He has a great interest in scholars such as Judith Butler (gender studies) and Patricia Williams (critical race theorist). The opportunity to teach these other classes would allow him to incorporate some of his favorite scholars into the curriculum.

Prieto is also co-chair of USD’s action subcommittee of the Immigration Reform Task Force and is looking to become more involved in community immigration movement groups. The Immigration Reform Task Force is a group on campus that works to gain awareness and support to combat inequality and provide support for immigration reform in the United States. Dr. Prieto recently participated in an immigrant rights march that began in Balboa Park and ended at the county administration building. About the march, Prieto said “it is a wonderful experience to be political in public with students.” He’s excited to help organize and participate in more events like this one in the future.

Off campus you may find Prieto at the beach, one of his favorite pastimes as a new member of the San Diego community. If not at the beach you would likely find him at the library or Balboa Park. He has a passion for reading fiction novels and loves his newly adopted city. Prieto also enjoys travelling and has had the opportunity to live abroad in England when he studied at Oxford University.

— Mallory Barnum ‘14

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