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February 01, 1988 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 1988-02-01

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4

OPINION

Page 4

Monday, February 1, 1988

The Michigan Daily

White people

profit from

racism

I

x By Sandra Steingraber
I flewatoEurope in 1986. En route
there was some problem with the plane
and much confusion and general scariness.
When we landed for refueling, the blue-
eyed captain walked through the cabin.
His. presence was calming, and I felt
grateful to him.
'n 1987 I flew to Sudan. There was
some problem with the plane, much
general scariness, and we made an
emergency landing. In the airport, our
pilot walked by the mass of shaken
passengers, and someone asked if w e
would be departing again soon.
"Insha'allah" (if God is willing), he
nodded. Suddenly I was engulfed in a rage
of contempt. My brain was throbbing
with two words: fucking Arab.
And there it was - my own bald,
undeniable, racist reaction. And this from
a progressive, Palestinian-sympathizing,
college-educated individual, who under
calm circumstances espouses deeply held
convictions about equality and civil rights.
I was appalled at myself.
This story is embarrassing for me, but
it illustrates two points. The first is that
no white American should presume they
have escaped the taint of racism. It is
naive to believe we can remain pure of
racist notions in spite of a daily onslaught
of racist attitudes, images, and messages
Sandra Steingraber is a doctoral student in
biology.

just because we nod in fervent intellectual
agreement with the principle that all
people are equal regardless of race.
As Malcolm X once observed, a white
man buying a gun to defend his home in
America is an image of freedom, while an
armed Black man is written up as an
"ominous sign." Can we say truthfully we
have escaped this legacy of double
meaning?
The second point is that racist attitudes
tend to surface in times of crisis. This
creates the false impression that racism is
not so much a problem among educated
upper-class white Americans - whose
lives more closely approximate a pleasure-
boat ride than a struggle for survival - as
it is among the lower classes, whose ranks
harbor such scurrilous characters as
skinheads, Arayan supremacists, and KKK
mobs.
But the fact is that institutional racism,
with its glass ceilings and walls, is
maintained by those who control the
institutions: white folks with white
collars who claim that some of their best
friends are minorities. People like the
people we're all trying to become with our
Go-Blue educations and American dreams.
Or as Ossie Davis said in 1965, "Every
white man in America profits directly or
indirectly...from racism even though he
does not practice or believe in it."
Everyday I walk up to my office and say
hello to my biologist colleagues. They are
all white. Every night I lock the door and
say hello to the workers mopping the
floors. They areBlack. Who me? I'm not

a racist. Just keep me out of crippled
airplanes.
Every white American profits directly or
indirectly from racism even though we
don't practice or believe in it. The
Commission for Racial Justice has
documented that the majority of toxic
waste dumps in the U.S. are located in
non-white communities. Three out of
every five Black and Hispanic Americans
live in areas with uncontrolled hazardous
waste. Lack of political clout and access to
information prevent these communities
from taking action. The commission
termed this situation "environmental
racism."
Undoubtedly the owners of the dumps
would reassure us their intentions are
purely economic and not racist at all. Are
we safer because most landfills are in
minority communities where land is
cheap? What if three out of five white
Americans lived near uncontrolled waste
sites? Would this be acceptable?
Exhibit B: although their overall
incidence of cancer is lower, Black women
of all ages are more likely than white
women to be diagnosed with advanced
breast cancer. Why? "Having money to
pay the rent may take priority for women
of lower income," according to the
Michigan Cancer Foundation.
So non-white Americans are dying for
lack of information, clout and money -
all those things higher education make
possible. And here we are at the training

grounds. And Dean Steiner says we don't
want minorities naturally flocking here.
But he's not a racist either--he just suffers
from poor word choice.
UCAR has done a remarkable job
showing us how racism is not only an
intent but an effect and how it can be
embedded in the structural practices of an
institution itself. They have forced us to
confront the unconscious racist notions
that underlie these practices, and I applaud
their vigilance.
Some students resented the choice they
had to make last week when they found
the front doors to their classrooms
barricaded. These same people are also
probably .a little fuzzy on how women's
suffrage and minimum wage laws were
established. It certainly wasn't through
polite, intellectual debate with the powers
that be. More than a few buildings have
been occupied and barricaded to win rights
we now take for granted.
Some say that UCAR's militancy
violates the spirit of Dr. King's message
of love and racial harmony. If those quick
to shout hypocrisy would educate
themselves about what King really said -
which is all UCAR asked us to do - they
might have read the following in the
"Letter from Birmingham Jail":
"We had no alternative but to prepare for
direct action, whereby we would present
our very bodies as a means of laying our
case before the conscience of the
community....Nonviolent direct action

seeks to create such a crisis and foster such
a tension that a community which has
constantly refused to negotiate is forced to
confront the issue... .The purposeofeour
direct action program is to create a
situation so crisis-packed that it will
inevitably open the door to negotiation."
King made it clear that love and racial
harmony are made possible only after
demands are met, not before. UCAR's
actions are consistent with this
philosophy.
Why do we react with contempt in the
face of confrontation, screaming that our
right to apathy has been violated?
Brazilian educator Paulo Friere explains:
"Those conditioned by a culture of
achievement and personal success...realize
that if their analysis of the situation goes
any deeper they will either have to divest
themselves of their myths, or reaffirm
them....Denouncing their myths
represents...an act of self-violence. On the
other hand, to affirm those myths is to
reveal themselves."
Change comes about by confronting
people with choices. King himself said
this. And it seems clear enough what our
present choices are: either we do nothing
and continue to profit from and contribute
to a form of racism. we say we neither
practice nor believe in - a hopeless
hypocrisy - or we work to dismantle
institutional racism by taking our directive
not from those who run the institution but
from those who are victimized by it.
Affirm or divest. To quote an old
mineworkers' song: "Which side are you
on?"

1 ^ ,.

«,a

Edie mgdaant
Edited and managed by students at The University of Michigan

Steiner initiatives fall short

Vol. XCVIII, No. 84

420 Maynard St.
An Abhn MI 4ARI9Q

mnn/ r or, I 4oI'Lr
Unsigned editorials represent a majority of the Daily's Editorial Board. All other
cartoons, signed articles, and letters do not necessarily represent the opinion
of the Daily.

1Y

Control public safety

QN JANUARY 19, MSA passed a
resolution mandating a written and
p4blic set of guidelines regulating
the use of force by campus safety
olicers. There are no existing
guidelines requiring University
Public Safety officers to identify
themselves to students nor are there
restrictions on the use of force
against students.
The MSA resolution is corm-
mendable: such guidelines must be
formulated if University students
arg to be protected from the officers
wlo are supposed to protect them.
This resolution was formulated in
response to the CIA protest held last
November 25. A student par-
ticipating in the protest was kicked
in the groin by Robert Patrick, the
Assistant Director of Public Safety.
Leo Heatley, director of the Uni-
versity's Department of Public
Safety, has indicated that decisions
regarding the use of force are left up
to a security officer's discretion.
However, such "discretion" obvi-
ously leads officers to use unneces-
sary violence.
In a tense, emotionally charged
situation such as a political protest,
relying upon the "discretion" of a
security guard is not sufficient. Of-
ficers are human beings with human
biases, and may be prone to let

personal feelings override their
better judgement."Discretion" leads
officers to act on the basis of
unwarranted fears, personal
grudges or even political beliefs.
Nor should the legitimacy of
Campus Security's actions be left
up to the discretion of Leo Heatley,
who declines to comment when
events such as those of last
November occur. A concrete, writ-
ten policy will both make him more
accountable for such events, and
help clarify where his staff has gone
wrong.,
The risk of violence without
guidelines seems insignificant in the
face of the impending "Deputization
Bill" which has passed the state
Senate. This bill would deputize a
campus police force and allow act-
ing campus security officials to
carry guns.
The events surrounding the CIA
protest demonstrate that security
guards misuse their power. If pub-
lic safety officers carry guns, they
will be capable of even more dan-
gerous abuse of their authority.
The MSA resolution addresses a
substantial problem and student
safety hazard on this campus. The
Department of Safety is a dangerous
and powerful institution that will be
made still more dangerous if. the
Deputization Bill passes.

By Kim Smith
On Friday, January 22, Dean Steiner
issued a press release outlining three "new
initiatives" to improve minority relations.
While UCAR recognizes that these so-
called initiatives are a direct result of
pressures placed upon the University by
student protests, we also recognize the
inadequacy of the proposals put forth.
First of all, the characterization of these
three points as "new initiatives" is highly
misleading as is the suggestion that the
Dean is consulting with a representative
group of LSA Black faculty. The first
"initiative," the appointment of a Black
administrator of the Comprehensive
Studies Program, is something that has
been underway for quite some time. The
particular appointment of Dr. Melvin
Williams has also been under negotiation
for some time. It would be like saying -
we're going to build a new chemistry
building while construction is underway
and taking credit for the idea and labeling
it a "new initiative."
Secondly, the provision of base budget
support for the recruitment of more
minority faculty in LSA is an expansion
of the already existing "target of
opportunity" program through Provost
Duderstadt's office. The allocation of
additional funds was more likely an
initiative of Provost Duderstadt and/or the
Provost of Minority Affairs, than the
Dean of LSA.
The third "initiative" is the most vague:
the establishment of an advisory
committee of minority faculty to advise
the Dean on minority concerns. It is not
only unclear how such a committee would
be constituted, but it is also unclear what

its powers and mandate would be. Would
it, for example, be a buffer between the
Dean and public criticism on "minority
issues?" Would it advise the Dean on how
to be more discreet in his public
comments on these matters? Or would it
have the authority to oversee
implementation of new policies?
Moreover since student activists have
literally been the conscience of the
University with regard to racism, any
advisory committee that excluded student
participation would be highly suspect.
Therefore, while we welcome any
improvement in the status of minorities
on campus and any open dialogue on the
issue of racism, we should also not
overact to carefully arranged public
relations packages. If Steiner is so con-
cerned with improving "minority
relations," why doesn't he meet with those
most offended by his recent comments,
UCAR and the two groups of faculty who
submitted letters of criticism.
As Dean Steiner stated last week, his
attitude seems to be that this whole thing
will just blow over. Well, for those of us
who have to live with the effects of racism
day in and day out, it will not blow over
and for all members of the University
community concerned about this issue, we
must now allow it to blow over. Every
racist comment that we allow to go un-
challenged represents out tacit acceptance
of the racist policies, practices and ideas
that permeate our society.
The series of racist comments by Dean
Steiner have caused him to 1) lose
credibility in the Black community 2)
demonstrate his view that it is people of
color, not the University that. has to
change before greater diversity can be
achieved and 3) express that the ultimate
goal of the University's Affirmative Ac-
tion policy is tokenism and not maximum

representation of people of color.
Therefore, we feel Dean Steiner can no
longer effectively serve in his capacity as
Dean and aggressively recruit minority
candidates for LSA.
The Michigan Alliance of Black
Educators, faculty at Wayne State
University and the National Association of
Black Faculty have already sent letters
expressing their offense. How is Steiner
going to effectively persuade potential
candidates within these organizations to
"consider Michigan". The University
central administration is still "standing
behind" Dean Steiner and thereby
exhibiting their own lack of sensitivity to
the issue of racism. If the University
wants to "initiate" something new - how
about full and serious consideration of
UCAR's twelve demands and an on-going
and open dialogue with the University
community on the issue of racism
including full disclosure of any and all
racist incidents reported. We hope the
University leaders will, in fact, initiate
some real and lasting changes in the
future. We also hope they will not close
the door on those most effected by their
decisions.
We intend to guarantee that this does
not happen. University officials have the
power to enforce their will neatly and
quietly through meetings and memos and
with little accountability to the larger
University community. Students often
have to be loud and numerous before our
voices are heard. Nevertheless, it is our
tuition dollars that pay Steiner's $110,000
salary. If we are silent and passive in
response to his comments, we allow him
to represent us. If Steiner's views do not
represent you, join us at our weekly
UCAR meetings 6:00 Thursdays in the
Michigan Union to discuss some real and
relevant anti-racist initiatives.

Smith is a member of
Coalition Against Racism

the United

LETTERS

4

Flemings a one-time rights activist

A ".U.
Si,. nnu
- . - O N E a l l
*
T. H
GDfpwr.

fIGhNI

To the Daily:
Interim President Fleming's
request that the Daily publish a
"laudatory citation" to him by
the American Civil Liberties
Union in 1970 is self-serving
and self-defeating. Almost
without exception, a university
administrator who is criticized
for his routine violations of
students' rights points to one
moment in his past when he
supposedly r e s p e c t e d
someone's rights or

rights in the South 1964." In
response to criticism that he
was not doing enough to stop
sexual assault, an administrator
said, "I have a daughter."
Finally, in response to
criticism of the university's
undemocratic procedures, an
administrator said, "But, I am a
Democrat." So what? S o
WHAT? SO WHAT? SO
WHAT!
In fact, students can
generally expect that an

favorite liberal credential he
flaunted in the Daily is self-
defeating because t h a t
document is a sound basis on
which to criticize his code. The
ACLU "citation" praises
Fleming for allowing
"representatives of every point
of view," including known
racists, to speak on campus in
1970. But the code which
Fleming recently proposed
explicitly prohibits such a wide
range of view points from
lo -Tnv- flQCP~d nn r tm t

editorial freedom existed in
spite of Fleming's vigorous
attacks. Fleming did not
support a free press in 1970; he
just could not shut down the
Daily without incurring
unacceptable political costs. If
the ACLU only knew what
forms of censorship Fleming
desired in 1970, it likely that
he would have been picketed
not praised.
Hence, the very document
which Fleming cites to prove

i

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