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December 05, 1988 - Image 4

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4

OPINION

Page 4

Monday, December 5, 1988

The Michigan Daily

4

3br £kidwu iailsg
Edited and managed by students at The University of Michigan

BSU: Focus

the

fire

Vol. IC, No. 61

420 Maynard St,
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

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.

Open another section

RACISM, SEXISM, HOMOPHOBIA:
they are mentioned in almost every
issue of the Daily. You know these
terms refer to problems people of
color, women and gays struggle with
in our society, but do you know how
these 'isms' are structured into our
lives at every turn, and what their
history is? Most people don't. Most
people see only the surface
manifestations, the tip of the iceberg,
and many would like to believe that's
all there is.
A class on understanding racism may
soon become a requirement for LSA
students. It would be useful for
students to look at the issues of sexism
and homophobia at the same time.
Although all three 'isms' can operate
similarly at times, there are many ways
in which they differ. Anyone who
wishes to learn how not to participate in
oppression needs to study the history
and workings of racism, sexism and
heterosexism (along with Third World
perspectives on the effects of U.S.
foreign policy).
Until now, there have been no classes
at this University on gay issues. Next
term, after much prodding of the
University by Lesbian and Gay Rights
Organizing Committee (LaGROC), a
trial course on Lesbian Issues will be
offered for the first time (WS 110).
This would be an exciting opportunity

for students to learn about gay
women's lives, in the process learning
much about sexism and heterosexism.
Unfortunately, the course has only one
section, which filled after only three
days of registration. Frustrated students
well know that, as a result, no first or
second year students will be able to
take this course.
Another problem with the course as it
stands is that it is currently a one-credit
mini-course. There is a wealth of
fascinating material by and about
lesbians that cannot be used, due to the
time limitation. In particular, fiction is
often especially useful in developing a
well-rounded perspective, but it is
difficult to ask students to read whole
novels for a mini-course.
It is a telling indicator of how
heterosexism works to realize that the
instructor of this course is taking a big
risk, perhaps endangering her whole
academic career, by teaching this
course and identifying so publicly her
interest in lesbian issues.
The University should offer more
sections of this valuable course next
term, and expand it next year to a two
or three credit course. LaGROC, the
Women's Studies Program, and the
courageous course instructor should be
commended for their efforts to bring
Lesbian Issues to the University.

By the Executive Board of
the Black Student Union
To Black students and concerned
allies:
Since the Democratic National Conven-
tion, Jesse Jackson has sent out a crystal
clear call to Black Americans and others
comprising "the dispossessed" to "Keep
Hope Alive." With the inevitable trounce
of Michael Dukakis by the Bush electoral
forces, it is obvious that more than mere
rhetoric is necessary to prevent hope's
flame from being extinguished. The Black
Student Union would like to strongly
suggest certain things concerned Blacks
students and our allies must do, outside of
the Democratic party, to keep guard over
hope's flame, and in some cases, rekindle
the fire all together.
Despite the rising tide of Republicanism
and conservativism that has engulfed
America, there is a concomitant and bur-
geoning mood of activism that is
revitalizing the Black student movement.
This movement is slowly being set in
motion upon predominantly white cam-
puses such as the University of Mas-
sachusetts, Princeton, and our own cam-
pus, as well as historically Black schools
like Howard University, Morgan State,
and Hampton. However, in paraphrasing
James Baldwin, "the firethis time," unlike
what sparked in the 1960's, must be fo-
cused, consistent, relevant and systematic.
Black student activists must fuse the
idealism of Black consciousness with the
pragmatism of meeting Black community
needs. This means, as Amiri Baraka notes,
that we must learn much more in our
classes and from our personal reading than
a few clever lines of Shakespeare or the
characters in Harlequin Romances. We
must aggressively pursue knowledge about
great Black leaders and thinkers such as
Harriet Tubman, W.E.B. DuBois, Mary
Church Terrell, Marcus Garvey, Assata
Shakkur, Malcolm X, Ella Baker, Medgar
Evers, and the movements they inspired.
As we gain knowledge, we must use it as
a basis for fighting for our rights on
campus, as well as developing alternative
institutions which fortify the intellectual
and material resources of our people.
In his November 4th Black Solidarity
Day address, Dr. Manning Marable sug-
gested the building of freedom schools

modeled after those of the Student
Nonviolent Coordinating Committee or
the offering of services such as health
clinics and hot-lunches to inner-city chil-
dren like those of the Black Panther Party
of Chicago. Concerned Black students
must collectively begin now ; not when
we have conveniently reached the top of
the status quo, to contribute the time and
energy necessary for promoting the well-
being of those Black Americans most de-
nied. This "self-help" strategy does not
promote self-defeat, but rather, self-deter-
mination; for as Prof. Michael Dawson in
the Center for Afro-American and African
Studies has stressed, African Americans
must defend their interests no matter who
occupies the White House or Capitol Hill.
Also, since we are talking about gener-
ating efforts toward the Black community,
we must not isolate and insulate ourselves
from the harsh, daily realities that confront
our people. Instead, in whatever way we
can, we must face these realities head on
and help our brothers and sisters brace

sessed peoples. Such an alliance will only
be possible when we are sure our leader-
ship is dedicated more toward life-service
than lip-service.
Political organization will inevitably
move us closer toward constructing an
agenda that serves the interests of Black
America overall. We are not part of one,
monolithic community, for some of the
Black middle-class is ensnared and lost in
the materialism and individualism of
America. Yet, for those of us who actively
identify with the plight of our working-
class and poor brothers and sisters, we
must independently decide what stances we
will assume on key local, national, and
international issues.
Mather than just mimicking the Demo-
cratic party's rhetoric, we must make up
our own collective minds on issues such
as drugs, crime, homelessness, and educa-
tion in the local and national spheres; as
well as the impending South African
revolution, and the Palestinian uprising in
the international sphere. This means we

4

'As we gain knowledge, we must use it as a basis for fighting
for our rights on campus, as well as developing alternative
institutions which fortify the intellectual and material re-
sources of our people.'

against the impending storm of Bush and
his political minions. This means that we
must make political alliances with exist-
ing community organizations to affect
change within in our community, and to
harness power that sways the politics of
our communities and cities.
In 1965, Malcolm X formed the Orga-
nization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU)
as an attempt to deal with the practical
problems plaguing our people. The power
of the vote is limited, but as Malcolm
states in his "Ballot or the Bullet" speech,
it must be effectively utilized as part of a
larger program of empowerment to force
mayors, governors, congressmen, and
presidents to be responsive to our needs.
In the coming decade, we must particularly
work to insure our Black leaders and
politicians (particularly when self-pro-
claimed) are accountable to our needs and
not beyond constructive criticism and cen-
sure. Many have advocated building an in-
dependent political base, cemented by sev-
eral strategic alliances with other dispos-

must be informed. We must have both a
local and global understanding and ap-
proach to our problems and those of other
people of color. Malcolm X informed us
that such an approach is not only impor-
tant but vital.
Therefore, much is to be done in the
next four years and beyond to move our
people's interests forward, despite the Re-
turn of the Right. We must begin,
upon this campus, by affirming
our cultural identity and building
a family among students of
African descent at the University
of Michigan. We can use such a basis
to move, as a collective, cohesive force in
generating change upon campus and in our
community. As students of African de-
scent, we have a special obligation to de-
velop our knowledge; to contribute our
resources; and to help set agendas. If you
take this article to heart, it is possible that
this process has already begun and hope's
flame burns ever brightly.

Unbalanced scales

THE SUPREME COURT recently is-
sued an opinion stating that loss of evi-
dence by the police does not violate a
defendant's right to due process of law
as long as the police do not act in "bad
faith." The case, Arizona v. Young-
blood, involves a man who allegedly
kidnapped and sodomized a boy. The
police, however, lost a key piece of
evidence - the boy"s clothing which
contained the perpetrator's semen
residue - that would have determined
through lab tests whether it was Mr.
Youngblood who committed the crime.
The Court defined "bad faith" as the
intent on the part of the police to lose or
destroy evidence that they knew to be
helpful to the defense. It went even
further by holding the defendant re-
sponsible for proving police "bad
faith." This ruling contradicts an innate
characteristic of the criminal judicial
system: the burden of proof belongs to
the prosecution, not the defense.
The ruling further unbalances the
scales of justice because defendants
cannot adequately investigate the po-
lice. Most likely, they lack the re-
sources, namely knowledge of inves-
tigative procedure or the money re-
quired to hire a private detective. Even
if they have the resources, they lack the
authority to fully investigate the closed-
door premises of the police department.
The Court is adding a subjective fac-
tor to this trial within a trial by allowing
the police to use the "but we didn't
mean to do it" excuse to. get off the
hook. If the Court is willing to accept
this defense for the police, it is opening
the prison door to accepting it for those
who do not mean to commit their

crimes. The drunk driver who kills a
person does not mean to do it but is
still convicted for manslaughter. Ac-
cording to the logic of this new ruling,
they should also get off the hook. The
reason that they do not and should not
is that everybody is held responsible
for their own actions, except for the
police, of course.
Police officers not held responsible
for their actions are a dangerous
weapon. The police can now act negli-
gently and lose evidence in important
cases, and as long as their intentions
can not be proven, they are not held re-
sponsible. They are no longer held in
check by the threat of the defendant
getting off on a technicality. They can
now assume an attitude of apathy to-
wards the evidence-gathering process,
which should be administered with
great care because concrete evidence
does not lie. It is usually the most ob-
jective evidence in a trial, and creates a
more effective judicial system. Defen-
dants should not have to suffer for the
mistakes of the police.
The end result is that the defendant
does not get a fair trial. In Mr. Young-
blood's case, there were no witnesses
to the crime. He will not have a fair
chance of winning because the case
rests on the ten-year-old victim's iden-
tification of him as the perpetrator.
There is no objectivity in this trial.
This Supreme Court decision
encourages incompetence on the part of
the police and gives them unwarranted
power to manipulate the fate of the ac-
cused. In allowing for the possible
conviction of innocent people, the
Supreme Court is itself committing a
serious crime.

A

winter

mythology

By Sandra Steingraber
Even if the price is death... this heroine
revels in her own degradation, in her
white-heat highs and her desperate,flame-
out lows.... [She] stalks the streets with
the lusting fervor of a bitch in heat.
- Christopher Potter in his review of
the film A Winter Tan (Ann Arbor News,
11/19)
In spite of its four-star review in the
Ann Arbor News, I'm not going to see A
Winter Tan.
There are those who will no doubt say I
shouldn't write about what I haven't seen.
But in fact, after reading the reviews, I feel
as though I have seen this film already
(again, again and again): A once reputable
woman breaks free from social constraints
and heads out on a sexual odyssey (read
"the road to ruin") fueled by desperation
and insecurity. This leads to victimization,
degradation, psychosis and, ultimately, to
her violent death (read "she pays the
price").
This plot line has become almost a
mythic archetype in cinema. I am more
interested in why filmmakers are fixated
on telling and retelling this story than I
am in finding out whether this is the most
brilliant cinematic treatment to date on
this theme. And I am more interested in
exploring the effect these films have on
the women who see them than whether or
Women's Words is a weekly column that
provides a forum for feminist perpectives
and a voice for women in the community.
The Daily encourages responses and
contributions from its readers. Contact
Amy or Betsy at the Opinion Page for
more information.

not the details of this or that particular
rendition are based on a "true story." (A
Winter Tan is based on the life of New
York academic Maryse Holder who was
murdered in a seedy Mexican hotel room )
And I am less interested in condemning
specific films I haven't seen than I am in
exploring why women like myself feel the
need to protect themselves from certain
kinds of cinema.
In the words of one woman friend of
mine who decided against seeing A Winter
Tan after skimming through the reviews:
"Nope, this is called a mind fuck."
Several years ago, a friend and I saw
Looking for Mr. Goodbar, a previous in-
carnation of this same myth. Diane
Keaton played the Catholic schoolteacher
by day and the fevered seductress by night.
Tormented by an unexplainable death
wish, she haunts low-life discos, slides
into a spiral of sexual abuse and humilia-
tion (which she mysteriously desires) and
is finally knife-fucked in her own bed by a
deranged stud. She bleeds to death. The
strobe light keeps flashing. The end.
I remember walking home afterwards in
stunned silence; neither of us could speak
about what we had seen for several days.
And when we did, it was not to say that
the last scene depicted something unreal or
fantastic. Misogyny is real. The
rape/murder of women is real. In fact, both
of us at the time were terrified that our
younger sisters back at home had lifestyles
that could set them up for a similar fate.

When we finally spoke, we asked each
other two questions: At what point does
the serious cinematic depiction of the sex-
ual destruction of women legitimize and
sanction what is in fact very real and very
horrible? And, given how much of this
destruction we felt we had internalized,
why should we go to see these movies?
The first question I still haven't an-
swered for myself. I want to say that the
purpose of cinematic art is to explore all
truths, however dark. But what do you say
about filmmakers who see truth in the
sexualization of violence and degradation?
Who depict women who somehow desire
this state? (I am talking now about serious
cinema and not uncut pornography or
cheap slasher films in which it is clear
that the victimization of women is de-
picted purely for pruient entertainment).
There is the avant garde French film,
Moon in the Gutter, which features a deli-
cate, high-class beauty inexplicably drawn
to the seamy, underworld of rape-murders,
seductions, batterings. The recurring im-
age is a billboard proclaiming "Try An-
other World." The moon in the gutter
shines on the body of a dead woman. I had
a hard time speaking after walking out of
this movie as well.
The answer to the second question is
easier: women don't have to see these
movies. It is legitimate to say that we
refuse to see certain films - however
scintillating in technique - in order to
protect ourselves from the damage that
occurs from internalizing these images and
from vicariously living out this narrative
myth.
In saying so, we should be clear we are
not pretending the destruction of women
doesn't happen. Instead, we are asking
why film cannot also be used to deliver us
from the images that degrade and disem-

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