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January 11, 1979 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 1979-01-11

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Page 4-Thursday, January 11, 1979-The Michigan Daily

- y

1" 1

WIbr 3idbian 10aiIQ
420 Maynard St., Ann Arbor, MI 48109
Eighty-Nine Years of Editorial Freedom

Of racism and responsibility

Vol. LXXXIX, No. 84

News Phone: 764-0552

Edited and managed by students at the University of Michigan

Human rights
The First Amendment

HE PRINCIPLE of free speech is
easy to defend when we agree
with, or even tolerate, the speaker's
views. But when the speaker espouses
a philosophy with which we disagree,
our commitment to the tenet of free
speech suffers the supreme test.
A film will be shown on campus
today which depicts the Ku Klux Klan
as the protagonist of the
Reconstruction period. The film, Birth
of a Nation, directed by D.W. Griffith,
shows blacks, and white actors dressed
in black face, acting as cruel and
immoral "victors" of a defeated South,
raping white women and taking
vengeance on their former white
masters. The film was based on a book
entitled The Clansmen written by
-Thomas Dixon and printed in 1905
when racism was rampant in this
country.
The book and the film are gross
misrepresentations of history. Both
are racist. No one can contest that
point. But anyone who believes in free
speech cannot argue that the film
should be shown or that everyone
should be allowed to view it.
In 1919, United States Supreme Court
Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes
explained that what the Constitution
must protect is "not free thought for
those who agree with us, but freedom
for the thought that we hate." However
trite it may sound, only through the
"free marketplace of ideas" can we
ever hope to arrive at the truth.
No matter how racist Birth of a
Nation is, Cinema Guild has the right
to show it and everyone has the right to
-view it. Cinema Guild, which has
rebuffed pleas from the National
Alliance Against Racist and Political
x,,Repression (NAARPR) not to run the
film, is not hiding behind the First
Amendment - they are standing on it,
A and rightfully so.
The NAARPR has pointed out that
violence may erupt as a result of

showing Birth of a Nation. A clear and
present danger of violence could be
used by some as an excuse to inhibit
freedom of speech. But it is all too easyA
to use this excuse whenever a speaker
will espouse a philosophy which we
may find repugnant.
Some believe that, although the film
should not be banned, it should be
accompanied by an accurate historical
depiction of the Reconstruction. The
persons argue that otherwise viewers
will be misled by the film. The Cinema
Guild has no responsibility to offer an
explanation of this film or any other it
may show. It is providing a service to
the community. It. is not obligated to
interpret the film for the viewer. The
Guild is offering the film much as a
library offers a book. Should the
Graduate Library attach a note to
Mein Kampf explaining that the views
expressed in the book are racist?
It seems strange that those who are
opposed to political repression would
be so vehemently opposed to a clear
First Amendment right. However,
whatever their motives the members
of the NAARPR have the right to
protest the showing of the film. We do
not believe the protest to be
constructive, but it is their right.
If the group wanted to help eliminate
the kind of racism depicted in Birth of
a Nation, it would be constructive to
distribute literature which accurately
portrays the history of the
Reconstruction era. This would be
commendable.
Many of our civil liberties in this
country are based on our First
Amendment right to freedom of
speech. No one person or group should
ever have the privilege of deciding
what the public should or should not
see. We must always be vigilant to
protect everyone's right to say and
think whatever they may wish as long
as it does not infringe on the rights of
others.

Tonight, Cinema Guild is
sponsoring a screening of "Birth
of A Nation", a film based on the
book "The Clansmen" by
Thomas Dixon, Jr. The National
Alliance Against Racist and
Political Repression is
adamantly opposed to the
showing of this film. In its review
Cinema Guild describes the film
as being a "flawed but passionate
history of the Civil War." This,
however, is a gross
understatement. Both the book
and the film present a distorted
and virulent racist picture of the
post Civil War Reconstruction
and they glorify the role of the Ku
Klux ,Klan in destroying the
democratic gains of that period.
Together they are a dangerous
and insidious incitement to racial
hatred and violence.
The reconstruction period was
an attempt to lay the basis for a
democratic society in the South in
the post-Civil War period. In
many arear the former political
structures dominated by
Southern planters were replaced
by institutions which represented
the former black slaves as well as
poor whites. Many black people
came to hold office during
Reconstruction. Southern
planters opposed these changes
and soughtrtoaprevent them.
Through fear and intimidation
plantation owners recruited poor
whites by convincing them that
free blacks had the potential to
dominate the post-war South. The
Ku Klux Klan emerged as the
armed wing of the planters'
assault on Reconstruction. The
KKK terrorized blacks and
whites , and frightened them into
not taking advantage of their
right to vote and hold office.
"The Clansmen", printed in
1905, was released in an
atmosphere of intense racism. In
fact its publication was a
deliberate attempt to accentuate
racism. The book perpetrated the
myth of 'black domination' and
romanticized the Klan's crusade
against reconstruction. The film
"Birth of a Nation", based on
"The Clansmen", and released in
1915, espoused the same racist
ideology. The filri was both
insulting and dangerous to the
whole population. In fact, the
release of the film coincided with
the resurgence of the Klan when
hundreds of black people were

National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression

lynched each year, when Jim
Crow had been institutionalized
and when the complete
disenfranchisement of black
people had been accomplished.
By 1924, Klan membership had
grown to four and a half million.
The film was greeted by massive
opposition by blacks and whites.
On April 19, 1915, in Boston, to
cite just one example, 1000 people
led by the NAACP, W.E.B.
DuBois and William Monroe
Trotter marched through the
streets to the State House
demanding that the governor ban
the film from being shown. Since
the governor refused to ban the
film at this time, theaters
showing the film were picketed
until the film left. Despite the
waves of protest, however,

minute racist anti-semitic
propaganda speech by a
representative of the Nazi party
on Channel 2 TV. In 1975 after a
showing of "Birth of A Nation",
four blacks were beaten outside
the theater by a gang of. white
students.
It is in such an atmosphere that
we must consider the potential
danger of tonight's showing. The
film is so persuasive and so
inciteful that one Cinema Guild
member admitted Monday that
by the end of the film it is
actually cheering for the Klan.
The Guild argues that it has a
first amendment right to show
such a film, and that viewers
have the same right. But every
right coincides with a
responsibility, and the Guild has

,I

Racism

is perhaps the central

destructive force in American society.
Over one hundred years after the
abolition of slavery, black Americans

sponsors of a film such as "Birth
of a Nation" would attempt to
hide behind the first amendment.
The Alliance would argue that
such persons could better utilize
their time defending those who
have historically been denied
their First Amendment rights
rather than those who have
withheld and abused those rights.
Racism is perhaps the central
destructive force in American
society. Over one hundred years
after the abolition of slavery
black Americans are still
struggling in the economic,
sociological, and psychological
deprivations of slavery's
aftermath.
It is begging the question to
assert the 'unlikelihood of
violence occurring through the
showing of this film. All public
media bear a critical
responsibility to the public,
certainly the elimination of
racism should be a major part of
that responsibility.
Organizations and institutions
which perpetuate racist
ideologies, attitudes, and
stereotypes either .by not
countering those ideas or by
presenting them as harmless and
dispassionate must be held
accountable.
Racism is not art, it is
irrational and inhumanetand
noncreative. Film producers
have an obligation, considering
the power of their medium, to
eradicate lies as blatant and
hurtful as "Birth of a Nation". In
the 1900's the NAACP led by Dr.
W. E. B. DuBois, lobbied for
national anti-lynching
legislation. The 14th, 15th, and
16th amendments were not
sufficient to protect the lives of
black citizens. Today, national
black organizations are lobbying
for housing, better education and
health care. Again the previous
legislation enacted 'was not
sufficient to guarantee black
citizens the same rights and
privileges enjoyed by whites.
It is not censorship to ask that a
public organization use
discretion and good judgement in
choosing films for public viewing.
It is however, asking them to
contribute to the community in as
positive and humane manner as
possible rather than
irresponsible and destructive
ones.

are still

struggling in

the economic,

sociological and psychological
deprivations of slavery's aftermath.

"Birth of a Nation" was seen by
millions of people throughout the
country. The screening of this
film certainly played a role in the
murders of hundreds of black
people which occurred through
the nation in the next few years.
These are historical facts, but
they ring no less true today than
65 years ago. Racist thought is in
a period of proliferation as
evidenced by the growth of the
Klan and the American Nazi
Party, for example. The Klan has
burst onto the scene in Boston,
Louisville, Detroit, and St. Louis
which is the home of its new
national headquarters.
In Detroit last August, white
youths brutally assaulted a group
of black high school students
immediately following a three

failed to observe its
responsibility to the community
by showing such a film without
even considering the possible
adverse affects. It-is easy for the
Guild to hide behind the first
amentment to avoid facing its
responsibility in this affair.
The National Alliance since its
inception in 1973 has been
involved in hundreds of cases
defending the rights of political
activists under attack. The
Wilmington 10 in North Carolina,
Joane Chesimard and George
Merrit in New Jersey, University
professors Phil Schinnick and
Harry Edwards, attorneys like
Jerry Paul whose colleagues
attempted to disbar him for his
defense of Joan Little in North
Carolina. It is distressing that

Letters to the Daily

A criminal is rebuffed

THE HUMAN RIGHTS policy of the
United States took on an air of
legitimacy Tuesday when the State
Department, after some pressure from
key aides of President Jimmy Carter,
revoked the visa of Kallie Knoetze, a
South African boxer, on the grounds of,
"moral turpitude." Knoetze, a former
Pretoria constable, shot a 15-year-old
black child in both legs during a racial
disturbance in 1977 and, although that
incident was not cited by the State
Department for the visa revocation,
the act was criminal in every sense of
the word. That bloody assault is
symptomatic of the unchanging
injustices of the apartheid South
African regime; injustices that often
become blatant terrorism.
The precise rationale for the State
Department's decision was Mr.
Knoetze's obstruction of justice
conviction handed down by a South
African court in 1977. But that
rationale is a mere technicality. What
had justly enraged anti-aparthied
groups in the United States was, that
Mr. Knoetze shot a black youth after
the 15-year-old had allegedly thrown
.rocks at his car. The youth was later
acquitted of all charges in connection
with the incident as was
Knoetze.
The decision is an encouraging sign
that the State Department and the
Carter Administration is now ready to
back up at least some of its human
riohte rhatnrir with suhtantivp etinn.

long the position of "leader of the free
world" has meant that the United
States will supply armaments to
national leaderships that are opposed
to the spread of communism and
Soviet influence ; standing idly by
while the real human rights of millions
around the world were repressed, often
by the same leaders. Unfortunately,
this paradox in American foreign
policy is still practiced. But revoking
Mr. Knoetze's visa is a significant step
towards making the United States a
true leader of freedom and a champion
of human rights.
We hope that the actions of four key
White House aides, Hamilton Jordan,
David Aaron, Louis Martin, and
Landon Butler who lobbied the_ State
Department, are a harbinger of a new,
more aggressive pursuit of the
announced human rights policy of the
Carter Administration. The decision is
an encouragement to the repressed
people of South Africa and other
nations. It is a sign of hope; that
someone is aware and sympathetic to
their plight.
What is discouraging about the
Knoetze case is that American
business interests, although aware of
the human rights policy and the
significant violations of human rights
perpetrated by Kallie Knoetze, were
still willing to sanction Mr. Knoetze's
fight in Madison Square Garden. The
Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS)
was willing to televise the fight and

credit where
credit is due
To the Daily:
Recently, I read a letter in the
University Record, re: The
decision to pay University
employees for days missed
during inclement weather (snow
days) naming many departments
that are open 24 hours a day, 7
days a week, praising them for a
job well done, but not one
mention of telephone
communications department.
I have been employed for the
University since '73 and never
have the operators gotten a
thanks from anyone connected
with the University from any
department.
I remember how our
supervisor's worked 24 hours plus
without a break last winter when
we had the big blizzard, and
personnel couldn't make it in. I
,also remember my husband
driving me in to assist heron
roads that were nearly
impossible. I remember the
abuse my supervisor's and the
operators took from persons
calling when we tried to explain
to them we were under special
orders and could put through only
those calls through considered
emergency. However, I do not
remember one word of thanks,
either written, or oral from
anyone tothose of us who did
work beyond the call of duty to
keep the board open and calls
going through.
Snow days just add to a lot of
slowly building frustration re:
our department. Because of the
nature of our work, our positions
must be covered 24 hours a day.
It is very easy to blame the
operator if your call does not go
through properly when there are
many factors involved. Very few
people from the University
realize we handle all kinds of
information, including patients,
clinics, doctors, faculty and staff
for the hospital & campus, all

can, she is bogged down in
University red tape and loses
many good operators who simply
give up becausethe hassel for
improvement is not worth it.
Why is everyone else
acknowledged except the
department in which I work?
How about giving credit where
credit is due - weare human too.
-Helen DuCharme
Robbing students?
To the Daily:
A recent- issue of "Business
Week" had an article dealing
with the 1984 Summer Olympics
in Los Angeles. In discussing the
potential profit of the games (if
managed properly), the
magazine surely did an honor in
quoting our Donald B. Canham,
"There's no question they'll
make money-it's like robbing a
bank." I wonder if Mr. Canham

had to think twice, for did he want
to say "-it's like robbing
students"?
-Robert Hayssen
The meaning
of education
To the Daily:
Dennis Sabo's article of
January 10, "Film foes-to protest
'Birth of a Nation,' " quotes John
Sokolow as follows: "We feel this
film . . . glorifies racism, and not
only distorts history but is very
detrimental to society. . . The
purpose of showing a film is to
educate people. This film doesn't
do that. It's a disservice to the
community."
This is banal. To be educated
means to become familiar with
all of society's nuancesaand
shades, many of which are, or

course, ugly. People who oppose
racism attend showings of Birth
of a Nation for the reasons that
people who oppose anti-Semitism
read Mein Kampf, for the reasons
that people who oppose Marxist
economics read Das Kapital, for
the, reasons that people who
oppose rape and pillage, for
God's sake, read about Attila the
Hun. Mr. Sokolow, I assume,
believes crime is "a disservice to
the community;" will he picket
this term's showing of The
Godfather?
I have not seen The Birth of a
Nation. I think I am worse off for
that. Life without hate and
racism would be blissful 'indeed.
But fantasy is best left to John
Sokolow and the Ann Arbor
Chapter of the National Alliance
Against Racist and Political
Repression, who have experience
in the field. T
-Jim Tobin

. I

An open letter

An open letter to
The Inteflex promotion board,
Dr. Robert Reed,
The Inteflex program in general
Dear Sirs :
While in high school, I worked in a hospital for
two years. From that experience I felt I could
make a good career choice. I enjoyed being an
orderly, worked well with people, and observed
firsthand the physician's role. Therefore, I applied
to the Inteflex program, not for it's length, but for
the emphasis supposedly placed on humanism.
My understanding was that the primary goal was
to educate doctors who are, "scientifically
competent, compassionate, and socially
conscious." My contact with the sciences in high
school was admittedly small, an unfortunate thing
in retrospect.
I came to college with very high ideals, hoping
to keep them intact throughout my education, but
all academic decisions were taken out of my hands

of questionable value set early in life. Those who
are sure of their decision, and have mastered the
game presented to them, do quite well at pleasing
the powers that be. If the milk of human kindness
survives this test of will, "it is a blessing, and
inconsistent with the programming of individuals
that occurs.
I guess that my attitude towards humanism,
conformity, independence, and the sensitivity that
people say is a part of me has gotten in the way of
my academic success. Indeed, my performance in
Inteflex has been dubious, which I can only regard
as a positive note for my ability to think for myself
and realize what I am. The time spent in Inteflex
has been full of soul searching and personal
evaluation at every step. I believe this program is
destructive of individuality.
To me the question is whether a person can
survive a medical education with his humanism
intact. In my case the answer is no. I will not let go
of my humanism and will to live. Therefore, I

I

I

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