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September 08, 1988 - Image 29

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1988-09-08

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The Michigan Daily -- Thursday, September 8, 1988 - Page 3





Why haven't
you seen my
face at
But we believe these stereotype





A few months ago, at the Ann Arbor
Denny's on Washtenaw, three Asian students,
having dinner, were racially harassed by two
couples sitting in the booth behind them. The
men harassing the Asians were making
noises, attempting to mock Oriental sounds
the same way children make sing-song noises
Issues imitating Chinese or Jap-
anese. This story is different
because the men were Black.
They were harassing the
Asians despite the fact that
the three students all
spoke English, and that
all of them together, Asian and Black, were
minorities. You don't always hear about the
conflict between Asians and Blacks. You al-
most never hear about the conflict minorities
have with each other.
It would be a lie to say that Asians haven't
done the same or similar to Blacks. Asians
call Blacks nigger just as much as Blacks call
them chink or jap. It happens more than we
like to think. It would also be ridiculous to
assume that the same doesn't happen between
Hispanics and Native Americans. Of course it
does. It happens between us all.

Why we must

es. We believe

THAT KIND OF prejudice is the most
senseless of all. Notice the term "prejudice."
Racism doesn't quite fit here. Racism is too
strong a word; it implies something much
broader, much more oppressive. It's difficult
to imagine any minority group oppressing
another; we simply don't have the numbers or
the power, economically or otherwise. Racism
is the act of one race asserting its domination
or superiority over another. Prejudice is the
stupidity of actually believing that illusion:
that somehow WE are better than THEM. As
minorities, we're very capable of believing
that illusion. We keep that prejudice alive to
the point where we work against, rather than
with, each other.
So why can't we work together? That may
sound like a naive question, but it is a ques-
tion necessary to ask. We can work together,
but don't because we don't know each other or
each other's respective histories. Many of us
have been cut off from our own histories.
Sure we know about slavery and the railroads
and the concentration camps and the reserva-
tions, and maybe we know a little about the
civil rights movement. But do we know how

all that has affected us? Do we know what has
been happening to us - all of us - in the
last 20 years? Or today, now? Chances are, we
don't. And there's a reason for that.
WE LIVE IN a predominantly white
culture. This is not an indictment of whites;
we, as a combined minority, constitute a little
less than 20 percent of the American popula-
tion. We can't escape the influences of that
culture. We see whites on television, in the
news, read about them in our books and mag-
azines. When we see minorities in the media,
we do not always see a fair or accurate repre-
sentation of who we are. We grow up believ-
ing ourselves to be deficient because we do
not meet the white standard. Our hair is
wrong, our skin is too dark, our eyes are ugly
and distorted. We see stereotypes of ourselves
and accept them even though we know them
to be wrong. As Hispanics, for instance, we
do not all come from poor families and are not
all illegal aliens. As Blacks, we are not all
pushers and are not all violent. As Native
Americans, we do not walk around with fea-
thers in our hair. As Asians, we are not all
mathematical geniuses who desire to be white.

them about ourselves and believe them about
each other.
This is where our misconceptions become
weapons against us. If we are wise enough to
see a clearer picture of ourselves we are lucky;
we have our family and friends to help us. We
don't always have other minorities beside us,
however, to help us see a clearer picture of
them. We place trust in these misconceptions,
and we start to think: why should I help the
Blacks? They've got to help themselves. Why
should I help the Asians? They have no prob-
lems. What do Hispanics want? Let them pull
themselves'up by their own bootstraps. We
can't give America back to the Indians. They
have to fend for themselves. Sometimes we
go even further: we think that if we can con-
vince ourselves the other group is inferior
then that will make us feel superior. The op-
pressed sometimes take on the characteristics
of the oppressor. In our attempts to join the
status quo we indirectly support the oppres-
sion of others. And that illusion defeats us. It
will always keep us apart. We can't use stere-
otypes to combat each other; that's useless.
We have to combine with one another to
combat the stereotypes.
See Cooperate, Page 5

Crying freedom
Some 100 marchers take to the streets of Ann Arbor to raise their voices against South African apartheid and American racism at the 3rd annual Unity Day Freedom March. The
April 4 march, sponsored by the United Coalition Against Racism and the Free South Africa Coordinating Committee, was timed to coincide with the 20th anniversary of Martin
Luther King's assassination.
UCAR center to combat racism

"I don't claim to have any corner
on the answer, but I believe that the
struggle is eternal. Somebody else
carries on."
These words, taken from a quote
by Ella Baker in Ellen Cantarow's
1980 publication Moving the
Mountain: Women Working for So-
cial Change, speak to one of the
goals of the Ella Baker-Nelson
Mandela Center for Anti-Racist Ed-
ucation, a project initiated by the
United Coalition Against Racism.
THE CENTER, which will
officially open this fall at the Uni-
versity, seeks to promote anti-racist
research and education and to en-
courage an environment in which
young political activists and radical
scholars can think in order to act,

struggle lay in the hands of the
young, so their active involvement
in the anti-racist struggle is pivotal.
BEFORE HER death in 1986,
Baker had been an activist for more
than 50 years, working first with the
National Association of the Ad-
vancement of Colored People in the
'30s and '40s, and then with the
Southern Christian Leadership Con-
ference (SCLC) and In Friendship in
the late '50s. It was her emphasis on
grassroots organizing and group-
centered leadership that eventually
sparked the pivotal, Student Non-
violent Coordinating Committee
(SNCC) of the '60s.
Nelson Mandela, who has come
to be a world-wide symbol of anti-
racist struggle, is one of the impris-
oned leaders of the anti-apartheid or-

"We really want to avoid calling
the center a 'think tank' because we
think that such a label is intellectu-
ally elitist and really doesn't speak to
what we hope to accomplish with
the center," said Tracye Matthews, a
UCAR steering committee member.
"Rather, we hope that the center will
be accessible to those outside of the
academy and that its work will be
presented in such a way that ev-
eryone can understand and benefit
from it."
Indeed, one of the primary goals
of the center is to bring younger,
less experienced activists together
with more experienced radical schol-
ars in order to discuss and analyze
issues pertinent to the anti-racist
struggle. In addition, the develop-

and debate of these issues without
being alienating, without the usual
lack of connection between theory
and life experience, and with an em-
phasis on the importance of young
student participation and the leader-
ship of people of color in an anti-
racist struggle."
Deriving inspiration from centers
like the Highlander Folk School and
the London-based Institute of Race
Relations, the Baker-Mandela Center
will have four specific functions that
will help it to achieve its goals. The
center will have a Speakers Bureau
that will hold workshops, speak
with classes and community groups,
and speak on request on various as-
pects of racism and social activism.
In addition, the center will main-
tain a massive resource center of al-

lications that will discuss in depth
and in a scholarly manner the issues
that the project was designed to
explore - issues that are tradi-
tionally marginalized by mainstream
These publications, which will
include- everything from position
papers on "Incorporating a Non-sex-
ist Agenda into an Anti-racist
Movement" to recorded oral histories
of former and current activists, will
be made available as "tools" for anti-
racist activism.
Probably one of the most im-
portant functions of the Baker-Man-
dela Center, however, will be its
program in leadership training. Ella
Baker was once quoted as saying, "I
just don't see anything to be sub-
stituted for having people understand

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