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September 08, 1988 - Image 33

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The Michigan Daily, 1988-09-08

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The Michigan Daily - Thursday, September 8, 1988 - Page 7

in 1980s
Often when we discuss political
activism, especially among students,
we tend to confine our discussion to
the events of the 1960s. After all,
Activism there was more
, than enough going
on to be active
about then: deseg-
regation and voter
registration, the
Vietnam War, anti-nuclear demon-
strations. Yet what our historical
tunnel vision prevents us from see-
ing is that each of those issues and
the ones that preceded them rarely
disappear in such a short span of
time. More than likely they evolve
into other or more complex issues
with a whole new set of implica-
This is particularly true if we
discuss the issues of race and racism
in American society. While racism
for the most part manifests itself
quite differently today than it did in
1968, it is nonetheless a serious and
pervasive aspect of the society we
live in. Additionally, today there are
a whole new set of young political
activists prepared to challenge a sys-
tem that benefits some and not oth-
ers. Many of these activists can be
found on America's college campu-
ses, challenging the elitist and ex-
clusionary nature of our institutions
of higher learning and making the
inks between their struggles and the
struggles of people of color all over
the world.
IN THE PAST two years, the
University has seen a reinvigoration
of student activism around the issue
of institutionalized racism. Preceded
by the Free South Africa Coordinat-
ing Committee, which was pivotal
in the divestment movement at the
University and brought the issues of
the oppressive South African regime
to the fore, the United Coalition
Against Racism has had an active
role in the anti-racist movement at
the University of Michigan.
Originally formed as an ad hoc
coalition, after almost one and a half
years of existence, UCAR has
evolved into far more than a group
of angry students. Combining con-
frontational protest with educational
activities, UCAR has played a major
role in many of the changes that
have taken place on campus in the
last school year. Challenging an op-
pressive system is never easy and in
the process of developing the "tools"
for social change also exists the
process of developing a theory of
political struggle. Thus education of
UCAR's members is also crucial.
This was particularly evident at
UCAR's national conference last
summer at which several national

figures and representatives from

IStudent activists
Sdon't give up the fight

other active college campuses were
in attendance.
Yet even beyond the University
campus, students are challenging in-
equity both at their schools and in
our society as a whole. Because of
such activism, there has been a
strong media portrayal of a "resur-
gence of racism." More accurately,
however, one could say that there
has been a resurgence in the ac-
ceptability of racism and that it has
become all the more visible because
of student activism to combat it.
THE ROLE OF national
mainstream media in this increased
visibility has not necessarily been a
beneficial one. Recently, there were
several articles in publications such
as the New York Times Magazine
and The Wall Street Journal that ba-
sically concluded the death of the
student movement due to apathy.
Even those media that have rec-
ognized the problem of racism have

gone so far as to suggest that insti-
tutions change faster than people do,
indicating that the fault of racism
and its debilitating effect lies with us
and not with any sort of institution.
This was the case on a recent PBS
Despite the apathy that still
abounds across the coun-
try, there still exists a
strong current of active,
anti-racist students who
are willing to help build an
even stronger movement.
"Frontline" feature, which also in-
vestigated the problems at the Uni-
The problem with such negative
media portrayals is that they detract

from the accomplishments of student
movements and belittle the ever-in-
creasing power of students on their
college campuses. As demonstrated
by the Student Nonviolent Coordi-
nating Committee of the 1960s with
sit-ins that desegregated hundreds of
eating establishments; Freedom
Summer in which students did mass
voter registration and education ac-
ross the deep south; and the SNCC-
initiated Mississippi Freedom Dem-
ocratic Party of 1964, students have
an incredible power to affect change.
DURING A slightly later pe-
riod, students on the campuses of
Columbia University and the Uni-
versity of Wisconsin at Madison
were also demonstrating the more
active role students were willing to
take in deciding the future of their
society around such issues as racism
here and in the U.S. aggression in

Thus from the past to the present
we can see a trend more toward stu-
dent activism than away from it.
Certainly there are periods of apathy
and even more certainly, all students
are not active. But to discard the
reality of an increasing student
movement based on that recognition
is a gross mistake. The University is
only a reflection of other active anti-
racist students around the country -
active particularly in the Free South
Africa Movement and the domestic
anti-racist struggle.
Recently Black students have been
particularly vocal in the anti-racist
movement. This winter, students at
the University of Massachusetts at
Amherst held a week-long sit-in un-
til their demands were recognized.
When the New Africa House at Har-
vard University (similar to our Trot-
ter House) was threatened to have
some of its space turned over to
other sectors of the University,
Black students held the building.
And the Free South Africa Move-
ment, though recently not as vocal,
has been present for years on cam-
puses such as the University of
Texas and Columbia.
What we are seeing then is a na-
tional trend toward student activism,
with the University as no exception.
Despite the apathy that still abounds
across the country, there still exists
a strong current of active, anti-racist
students who are willing to help
build an even stronger movement.
-Waller is an LSA graduate and
UCAR steering committee member.

Group has anti-
rape POWOR
People Organized to Wipe Out Rape developed in response to the
Griffith Neal rape trial last fall. The verdict - Neal was not convicted
- angered many people on campus who had followed the trial. In both
this case and another publicized case this past year (the Rosenboom
trial), the defense filed counter civil suits against the women who had
filed charges.
The trial as well as the media raked the women's characters through
the coals. Both women and men saw the revictimization of the woman
during the trial process and they decided to organize around the issue to
bring attention to this specific case as well as to the conditions for
women at the University in general.
FROM THAT point last fall, POWOR has continued to develop
as a group. Cathy Cohen, one of the original members of POWOR,
said "a major goal for us is to bring together people, mainly students,
concerned with the status of women on this campus. There is a need to
pressure the University to examine the treatment of women as students,
as workers, and as parents. Because of the high correlation between the
exploitation of women and the exploitation of people of color, specifi-
cally women of color, POWOR has an organizational agenda that fo-
cuses on the needs and concerns and status of women of color within
the University."
This past year, POWOR sponsored a number of public demonstra-
tions in response to the two rape trials on campus. They also were
vocal in their disapproval of former University President Robben
Fleming's code on discriminatory acts. This year they plan to continue
their public actions and education but with a larger agenda to include all




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