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January 17, 1989 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 1989-01-17

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OPINION

Page 4

Tuesday, January 17, 1989

The Michigan Daily

Th

By Mark Weisbrot
"I am convinced if we are to get on the
right side of the world revolution, we as a
nation must undergo a radical revolution
of values. ... When machines and
computers, profit motives and property
rights are considered more important than
people, the giant triplets of racism, mate-
rialism, and militarism are incapable of
being conquered." - Dr. Martin Luther
King, Jr., "A Time to Break Silence,"
April 4, 1967.
In the context of this week's celebration
and widespread recognition of the late Dr.
Martin Luther King, Jr's contribution to
the struggle for civil and human rights, it
is worth looking at how the media treated
King when he was still alive. The Ann
Arbor News provides a representative and
instructive example.
On April 4, 1967, exactly a year before
he was killed, King delivered a powerful
and eloquent speech against U.S.
Mark Weisbrot is a Ph.d. candidate in
Economics at the University of Michigan.

e A2
intervention in Vietnam. In a scathing
moral indictment of U.S. policy, he raised
questions that could be applied almost
verbatim to the current aggression against
El Salvador: "What do the peasants think
as we ally ourselves with the landlords and
as we refuse to put any action into our
many words concerning land reform? What
do they think as we test out our latest
weapons on them, just as the Germans
tested out new medicines and new tortures
in the concentration camps of Europe?
Where are the roots of the independent
Vietnam we claim to be building? Is it
among these voiceless ones?"
In this speech, entitled "A Time to
Break Silence," King called for young men
to resist the draft by becoming con-
scientious objectors. The News' response
was typical of the mainstream press
throughout the country. "..[F]oreign af-
fairs has never been King's strong point,"
they said. "....King made his mark in civil
rights. There is plenty of unfinished busi-
ness in the field of civil rights to occupy
King's time; that being the case, Dr. King
should let others hit the bricks on Viet-
nam." (News Editorial, "Not His Strong
Point" 4/14/67)

News
This condescending attitude, that a bril-
liant Nobel Peace Prize winner should
confine his comments to domestic con-
cerns, and leave foreign policy to the
(white) experts, was also expressed in a
cartoon the News ran on its editorial page
a week earlier. The cartoon, entitled
"Vietnam is Burning," shows King dressed
in a firefighter's outfit and carrying a fire
hose, running past a Black man whose
house is on fire.
In his speech, King had anticipated
those who would say that Vietnam was
none of his business, and patiently ex-
plained why he was "increasingly com-
pelled to see the war as an enemy of the
poor and to attack it as such." He knew
"that America would never invest the nec-
essary funds or energies in rehabilitation
of its poor so long as adventures like
Vietnam continued to draw men and skills
and money like some demonic destructive
suction tube." He offered a number of
other reasons- political, moral, and reli-
gious - for his decision to speak clearly
"to the greatest purveyor of violence in the
world today- my own government." The
editors of the Ann Arbor News - then
and now - could learn a great deal from

nd Ki
this speech.
I mention this episode not to embarrass
the News, but to shed some light on the
historical roots of their current editorial
positions. The News of today is nomi-
nally opposed to racism, but unwilling to
suppoert any movement or measure that
might do something about it.
In a recent editorial, the News spoke out
against the proposed course on racism as a
degree requirement. Previous editorials

ng

the University to become a place (like
Wayne State) where "minorities would
naturally flock in much greater numbers."
And in their news reporting, the News1
systematically ignores or downplays the
role of anti-racist groups like UCAR, in
bringing about change at the University.
The most obvious example of the latter is
the cancellation of classes for King'st
birthday, which has been a demand of the
movement, but is paraded in the News'"

'The News of today is nominally opposed to racism, but
unwilling to support any movement or measure that might do
something about it.'

have berated The United Coalition Against
Racism (UCAR) for its "confrontational
approach" and "cynical attitude towards
university leadership" (1/14/88; 1/13/88).
At the same time the News feels com-
pelled to defend LSA Dean Peter Steiner,
whom they see as getting too much grief
for the "perceived insensitivity" of his
"allegedly racist remarks" - i.e. his ex-
plicit statement that he would not want

fluff pieces as the beneficent result of
Duderstadt's "mandate."
Perhaps after the activists of UCAR are
long dead, the News will in some way
recognize their contribution to the local
struggle against racism and for social jus-
tice. But in light of the way the News'
treated King and the movement during his
lifetime, it's not likely to happen while
they're still alive.

be £iriVgrn iailg
Edited and managed by students at The University of Michigan

Q0s

Vol. IC, No. 76

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.

Racism in the courts

IN A MOVE exemplifying institutional
racism in the judicial system, the
Supreme Court recently upheld the
right of defense lawyers to eliminate
jurors because they are Black.
In the case of State of Alabama vs.
Cox, the Court denied an appeal by the
state which challenged a tactic of the
defense lawyers. The defense used its
peremptory jury challenges to eliminate
all Blacks from the jury without ques-
tioning them individually. Representing
two Ku Klux Klan members accused
of aiding in the murder of a Black man,
the defense removed the jurors solely
because of their skin color.
The defense counsel discriminated
against the Black jurors on the basis of
their race. Racism should not be toler-
ated in any circumstances, and to allow
for exclusion by race in a system which
stresses "equality under the law" is a
dangerous contradiction.
Of course, this idea was intended for
defendants, yet it loses its credibility
when defense counsels are permitted to
discriminate against Black jurors. A
Black defendant cannot feel secure in a
system that rules in favor of racism.
Institutionalized racism cannot be al-
lowed on any level.
In rejecting the appeal, the Court is
accepting the absurd notion that race is
a primary determinant of thought and
action. This idea is similar to the Nazi
ideal that genealogy determines behav-
ior. The Court is tacitly promoting the
false stereotypes that surround different
races, like the belief that all Blacks
share similar behavior.
These stereotypes serve to stratify the

different races and discourage interac-
tion between them. Individual ability is
deemphasized and people are judged on
the basis of their skin color. This
situation generates ignorance and
hostility and promotes violence against
people based on how they look.
The ironic aspect to the Court's de-
nial of the appeal is that it ruled in 1986
that prosecutors could not remove
Blacks from juries without individual
questioning. The Court only needed to
extend this ruling to the defense coun-
sel to satisfy the Alabama appeal.
The Court is not wrong in having
restrictions that pertain only to the
prosecution because in criminal trials
the burden should be on the prosecu-
tion. This current restriction should in-
clude both the prosecution and the de-
fense because it is not possible to prove
that one's skin color causes bias. After
all, the prosecution can still remove all
the Blacks from a jury because of their
skin color. It only needs to question the
individual first and fabricate a reason
for dismissal based on the questioning.
The 1986 Court did not create this
restriction for legal reasons but rather
for the the purpose of fighting racism
in the judicial system.
Nothing justifies institutional racism.
No possible benefit of this decision
can offset the damage done by a deci-
sion which will transcend the confines
of the judicial branch and affect Blacks
in all areas of their lives.
The Court does not exist in a vac-
uum. When it institutionalizes exclu-
sion by race it sets a precedent which
has dangerous implications.

By the Black Student Union
Black students are upset! We are not
alone in our frustration, but Black students
at the University are disenchanted with the
so-called Martin Luther King, Jr./ Diver-
sity Day partly sponsored by the adminis-
tration. Although this day is well-meaning
in its intent, we must call into question
the rationale undergirding this dual-pur-
pose day. Simply put, the University
contradicts its stated ends by half-heartedly
admitting that it is not willing and/or able
to take the necessary step that most public
institutions throughout the state have
taken and recognize the third Monday of
each January solely as "Martin Luther
King, Jr. Day".
It is not that the theme of diversity is
unworthy of recognition-quite to the
contrary. The problem is that probably no
two people in the University can give the
same exact definition of the term diversity
(without reading the Michigan Mandate-
and even some administrators concede that
the Mandate is vague.) Thus, diversity is
not only a very amorphous but also a very
untenable goal, at present. How can a
concept be recognized when few truly
agree on its definition? With all the good
intentions aside, "diversity" can evolve
into an administrative code-word for let's
recruit afew more "faces of color" to quell
student demand. And that would be a
sorry state of affairs.
Now, on the other hand, the recognition

'For the University of Michigan to not solely recognize Martin
Luther King, Jr., is to say that it is not quite ready to fully rec-
ognize one of the greatest social activists of our time ...'

of Martin Luther King not only can be a
well-defined endeavor, but as the Univer-
sity partially admits, it is a crucial one.
We remind all that King died a man who
was deeply committed to social, eco-
nomic, and political justice for all hu-
mankind. By the end of his life, he op-
posed the war in Vietnam, advocated
greater social welfare and education spend-
ing, and was attempting to develop a pro-
gram to push the rights of the poor even if
it meant marching to Washington to really

we forget King did much more than dream
his dream. He refined it, worked for it and-
died for it. And the very least we can do is
to give not only him but his ideal an un-
interrupted, undiluted twenty-four hours of
a year to say that we believe in and will
work for his vision as well.
For the University of Michigan to not
solely recognize Martin Luther King, Jr.,
is to say that it is not quite ready to fully
recognize not only one of the greatest so-
cial activists of our time, but, particular to

close it down this time. King said,
"Equality with whites will not benefit ei-
ther Negroes or whites, if it's equality in a
world stricken by poverty, and in a uni-
verse doomed to extinction by war." So,
he envisioned the need -for a more hu-
mane, multi-cultural America to rise out
of the present one in which the essential
dignity and welfare of each citizen and
collective groups of citizens were affirmed.
Yes, King spent most of life organiz-
ing and marching with and for Black
Americans, but he had a broad vision
which embraced the well-being of persons,
regardless of their color, creed, religion, or
nationality. Sometimes we get so caught
up virtually canonizing "The Dream" that

Students

lead.

By Nikita Buckhoy and Pam
Nadasen
Globally and historically, students have
played a pivotal role in the struggle for
social change. In Seoul, South Korea,
over the past year, university students
have been at the forefront, leading demon-
strations against capitalist influence, par-
ticularly that imposed by the United
States. At the University of El Salvador,.
students have been so crucial in the effort

organization, challenged racist U.S. poli-
cies and demanded enforcement of desegre-
gation laws as they set the tone and set the
pace for student struggles nationwide. Like
their counterparts in the Third World,
SNCC's radical analysis and militant, di-
rect action approach set them apart from
other civil rights organizations.
SNCC took on responsibility for de-
segregating interstate transportation facili-
ties, known as the Freedom Rides. These
young activists confronted southern racism
head on, facing violent white mobs, who

this case, an American of African des
scent- a Black man. That may sound like
a horrendous conclusion, but it is the only
one to which some Black students and our
allies can come. We know, that in solely
celebrating King, diversity's ends will be
served. There is no need for overlap.
King's life was a testament to all the pre-
scribed (although still vague) goals of di-
versity, and thus let's complete the circle
of the student struggle which began in
spring of 1987. Let's give King and hu-
manity their due.
We know that the University admin-
istration will agree with us one day, for a
well-meaning contradiction can only con-
tinue for so long before well-meaning
people are convinced to end it.
truggl
elections. Obstacles, such as racist local
officials and biased literacy tests prevented
Blacks in the deep south from registering
to vote. SNCC set up Freedom Schools
to prepare people for the literacy tests. In
the process of establishing these schools,
SNCC members were well aware of the
contradiction of educating people to pass a
test known to be racially and culturally
biased; particularly in light of the fact that
the Black community has historically been
denied equitable educational opportunities.
SNCC's work in the Black community
was unique: they chose not to dominate,
but to empower, they chose not to lead
but to seek leadership. The National
Association for the Advancement of Col-
ored People, the Southern Christian Lead-
ership Conference and the Congress of
Racial Equality never developed the types
of relationships with the Black commu-
nity that SNCC developed.
We feel that it is important to praise the
Student Non-Violent Coordinating Com-
mittee as part of remembering and cele-
brating of the civil rights movement, not
solely Dr. King. It is important to recog-
nize the historical significance and accom-
plishments of student organizations, as
contemporary students struggle for change

Daily Opinion Page letter policy
Due to the volume of mail, the Daily cannot print all the letters and
columns it receives, although an effort is made to print the majority of the
material on a wide range of views. The Daily cuts letters and columns for
space in both the editorial process and in production.
The Daily does not print blatantly sexist, racist or homophobic letters or

'These young activists confronted southern racism head on,
facing violent white mobs, who beat passengers and set fire to
busses.'

to overthrow the American-backed regime
and reaching the goal of self-determina-
tion, that they have suffered torture, arrest
and even met death at the hands of gov-
ernment forces. In South Africa, at
Witswaterstrand University, the University
of Cape Town, Natal University and in the
township of Soweto, students have orga-
nized boycotts, rallies, and strikes as a
nmnnn o n~nvnc rthP.hnroh n-nlt i-.c of

beat passengers and set fire to busses. But
their sacrifices were not in vain. They ul-
timately achieved victory with the bus
and train desegregation on September 22,
1961.
Additional testimony to SNCC's com-
mitment to grass roots organizing was
their voter registration .drive, which
reached it peak in the summer of 1964.

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