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February 21, 1989 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 1989-02-21

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9

OPINION
Tuesday, February 21, 1989

Page 4

The Michigan Daily

Fight

AIDS

through

mass

action

By Members of LaGROC
The opinion piece entitled "Unite to
fight AIDS" written by Cathy Cohen and
David Fletcher of the United Coalition
Against Racism (Daily, 2/9/89) provides a
fundamentally correct basis for developing
the political struggle in the national -
and international -fight against the AIDS
crisis. We, of the Lesbian and Gay Rights
Organizing Committee (LaGROC), the
Ann Arbor affiliate of the national AIDS
Coalition to Network, Organize, and Win
(ACT NOW) wish to express our overall
agreement with the perspectives outlined
in the statement and to reaffirm our com-
mitment to building a movement to fight
AIDS that is linked to the struggle against
racism and the fight for the liberation of
lesbians and gay men.
As the authors pointed out, this politi-
cal movement must also make central the
question of class oppression; why so
many working and poor people lack access
to health care, decent nutrition and hous-
ing, as well as the question of imperial-
ism; what economic and political condi-
tions are allowing the epidemic to spread
unchecked in Africa and other parts of the
neo-colonial world.
The authors state that the AIDS fight-
Authors Paul Henry, Paul Lefrak,
Ginny McCulloh, Kathy Rudzki, Jo
Serrapere, Wendy Sharp and Amelia
Valdez, and are all members of the Lesbian
and Gay Rights Organizing Committee.

back movement has thus far "focused on
the condition and needs of white gay men,
a population that is now beginning to
show some optimistic developments in
their fight against AIDS."[emphasis added]
This assertion must be looked at for both
the truth it contains, and also for what we
see as the dangerous illusion it succumbs
to.
It is true that the movement against
AIDS has for the most part neglected the
needs of Black and other minority gay
men, as well as those of IV drug users and
prostitutes. It is also true that the rate of
new infections among white gay men is
beginning to level off. This is largely a
result of, as Fletcher and Cohen acknowl-
edge, the extensive safer sex education that
has been done within the gay community.
Yet while the rate of new AIDS cases
among non-IV drug using white gay and
bisexual men is not increasing at the same
exponential rate it had risen in the early
part of this decade, the rate of new cases
among both white and Black gay and bi-
sexual men is still increasing at a very
alarming rate. This is partly due to the
extremely long incubation period of the
AIDS virus. Nationally, the number of
new AIDS cases among gay and bisexual
men still grew 50% in 1988. Sometime in
1994, the United States will have its
500,000th person diagnosed with AIDS.
While the percentage of gay and bisexual
men in that total will have shrunk, there
will still be hundreds of thousands of gay
and bisexual men with AIDS or HIV-re-

lated disease.
This is not to understate the very real
danger the AIDS crisis is posing to IV
drug users, their sexual partners and their
children, all groups who are the fastest
growing populations of people with
AIDS. Eighty-one percent of IV drug users
with AIDS are Black and Latino. A Black
person newly diagnosed with AIDS can
expect to live an average of one-third as
long as a white person newly diagnosed
with the disease. Clearly, as Cohen and
Fletcher point out, the need to attack
racism, economic misery, and the rotten
for-profit health care system are absolutely
crucial in the fight against AIDS.
Unfortunately, rather than seeing the
rapid spread of AIDS into minority com-
munities as demanding an even greater ur-
gency to fight racism and class oppres-
sion, many white misleaders of the AIDS
action and gay movements are echoing the
false claims of the government, private
industry, and the media by wrongly
implying that the worst is now over. They
claim that the gay community (meaning
white gay community) has done "its
share" and now the responsibility for
fighting the epidemic lies solely in the
hands of the Black and Latino communi-
ties. Often, phony rhetoric about "self-de-
termination" accompany this racist logic,
as does a self-defeating unwillingness to
unite with other groups of people affected
by the crisis.
Cohen and Fletcher correctly point out

that the AIDS action movement cannot
simply limit its demands to only fighting
around issues of AIDS treatment. The
movement's demands must include: a fight
for free, quality health care for all, afford-
able housing, a massive expansion of so-
cial services, support for the demands of
workers, and a consistent fight against
racism and the oppression of women, les-
bians, and gay men. Such a fight draws in

reality of death and needed experimental
drug treatments immediately to prolong
their lives.
The "broad" political approach and the
strategy of building mass mobilizations
are perspectives currently favored by a mi-
nority of the AIDS fightback and les-
bian/gay movements. Locally, LaGROC
has been leading a fight to demand that the
University devote more than a token

'Mass actions like demonstrations, building occupations, and
political strikes are needed to force the health industry and
government into meeting peoples' needs.'

01

larger sectors of society and add strength in
numbers. Mass actions like demonstra-
tions, building occupations, and political
strikes are needed to force the health
industry and government into meeting
peoples' needs.
Unfortunately, the AIDS action move-
ment has been dominated by the "narrow"
as opposed to the "broad" approach. To a
certain degree, this perspective is under-
standable given the fact that the people
who had the resources and networks to be
drawn first to the movement were largely
white gay men with AIDS/HIV infection
-people who were faced with the sudden

amount of resources to combat the AIDS
crisis. We share the authors' perspective in
developing a winning struggle against
AIDS: a movement that links together the
fight against AIDS with the fight against
heterosexism, racism, sexism, and eco-
nomic oppression.
We invite anyone interested in fighting
AIDS to join together with LaGROC in
building this movement locally, nation-
ally, and internationally. As was suc-
cinctly pointed out in Cohen and
Fletcher's statement: "Only through such a
movement can we bring true liberation and
stop the deaths of all people with AIDS."

Edited and managed by students at The University of Michigan
420 Maynard St.
Vol. IC, No. 101 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.
The poliCtics o hate

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.:.:........: .
it
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IF YOU received a letter soliciting
money to combat "the Jewish presence
on the college campus [which] is poi-
soning the minds of our young peo-
ple," you'd know the Klan had you on
its mailing list.
The sentence "the Arab presence on
the college campus is poisoning the
minds of our young people" appeared
in a B'nai B'rith International fund-
raising letter. It went on to mention
"Arab money.. .pouring into college
campuses all over the United States" as
one of the "forces that would destroy
our Jewish heritage," and it urged po-
tential donors to "join forces and attack
the evil.".
Several important factors are at work
here. First, the letter dehumanizes
Arabs by reducing them to an "evil,"
poisoning innocent minds. Second,
Arab "influence" is decried in order to
delegitimize any political, cultural or
social impact Arab students or profes-
sors may have on American campuses.
Third, Arabs are equated with legiti-
mate threats such as anti-Semitism,
cults, and the "dissolution of Jewish
tradition and culture."
The fundraising letter exceeds the
bounds of decency in its vulgarity, op-
portunism, and sheer racism. The let-
ter was retracted but B 'nai B'rith has
refused to discuss the issue of racism,
preferring to consider the incident
closed.
But this growing trend of racism

against Arabs motivated by political
interests must be examined. One ex-
ample of this trend is the Tagar bus on
the Diag that originally condemned
"Arab Terrorism." Also, comments by
Israeli officials defending governmental
policy have slandered Arabs by label-
ing them as naturally violent and
untrustworthy. This type of racism
distorts the political issue at hand and
makes solutions more difficult to
achieve. In addition, it poisons the
minds of individuals, creating hate
where understanding and logic are
needed. For B'nai B'rith - an
organization ostensibly committed to
fighting racism - to ignore this issue
is irresponsible and hypocritical.
The urgent problem comes from the
union of racism and politics, which
must be divorced in order for responsi-
ble political debate to occur. Just as
anti-Jewish racism disguised as anti-
Israel sentimentis unacceptable (and
we must recognize that this charge is
often made falsely to discredit honest
criticism of Israel), so too is anti-Arab
racism in support of Israel.
The Daily urges you to tell Seymour
D. Reich, president of B'nai B'rith In-
ternational, that you won't stand for
racist attacks on Arabs. His address is
1640 Rhode Island Ave. N.W., Wash-
ington, D.C. 20036. We also urge you
to consider further the relation between
politics and racism - an unfortunate
reality that characterizes much political
debate.

Editor's Note:
The Daily makes every effort
to print letters in a timely
manner. An earlier version of
the following letter was
brought to the Daily on
February 2. The signers of that
version requested that their
names be withheld "to avoid
the appearance of currying fa-
vor from the faculty." It is the
Daily's policy not to print
anonymous letters, except in
cases where individuals have
some realistic fear of reprisal.
Last Thursday, Professor
Edward Gramlich, a former
chair and current chair-elect of
the Economics Department
came to the Daily and
demanded that the earlier draft
of this letter be printed. When
we explained our policy on
anonymous letters, he asked us
to print the letter with the
names of the individuals who
had requested anonymity. The
Daily refused to print the
names without first receiving
the permission of the letter's
signers. Professor Gramlich
left, saying that we would get a
phone call in two minutes
from one of the signers. (The
Daily did receive a phone call
shortly thereafter, but the caller
declined to identify herself
except as an economics
graduate student).
The revised version of the
letter, which appears below,
was brought to the Daily on
Sunday, Feb. 19.
In defense
of the econ.
department
To the Daily:
The recent article citing
anonymous economics students
complements two letters last
Fall criticizing the Economics
Department at the University.
These attacks have been made
in a variety of essentially
unrelated contexts: institution-
alized racism and sexism, tax-
ing the poor, and now, the ad-
ministrations' decision to pre-
vent the Sociology Department
from offering a tenured posi-
tion to a highly regarded Black
female scholar from the Uni-
.._rnroi. ,,

debate within our department
concerning issues of
methodology and ideology, but
our situation is not unique in
this respect. To say that the
debate is being conducted in a
"climate of fear" is to
characterize incorrectly what we
believe to be the experience of
the majority of graduate stu-
dents in the Economics De-
partment.
While we disagree among
ourselves on important mat-
ters, we can agree that these
attacks on the department
which have appeared in the
Daily have been destructive in
intent, amateur in composi-
tion, and insulting to those
who are seriously concerned
about these issues. Further-
more, the Daily's reliance on
such narrow sources not only
revealed a severe deficiency of
journalistic judgment, but ren-
dered the article libelous and
absurd.
Notwithstanding these
points, it is clearly possible
that the administration made
yet another tragic mistake in
the recent hiring decision.
There is a striking dissonance
between the longstanding poli-
cies of the President's office,
the actual composition of
tenured and untenured faculty,
and the actions of the adminis-
tration in this case. Institu-
tional racism and sexism are,
in fact, real phenomena. One of
its mechanisms is inflexible
reliance on a set of narrow cri-
teria that reflect the research
agenda of the majority. It is
evident that the criteria are
flawed: we are not meeting our
stated goals.
- David Andrews
Alex Bernasek
Dallas Burtraw
Laura Kalambokidis
Aileen Thompson
February 17
Women
demand
response
To the Daily:
On January 3 four U of M
hr~nra , r -b s --n -,v.. _n.

egocentric remarks by hockey
coach Red Berenson, in which
he subordinates the experience
of the two survivors to his sole
concern for the sanctity of the
hockey team and its season.
Statements such as the depart-
ment's "been through these
kinds things before," and that
Berenson's not going to "wash
[the team's] laundry" in a pub-
lic forum, reveal the lack of
concern for women by the
University. Women in this
community deserve, demand,
and are still waiting for an ade-
quate response. Its been almost
two months Duderstadt, how
many times do women have to
be assaulted this semester be-
fore you say something?
-Women's Crisis Center
Lesbian-Gay Radio
Collective, WCBN
Latin American Solidarity
Committee
Palestinian Solidarity
Committee
United Coalition Against
Racism
People Organized for
Women, Equality and Rights
February 14
U.S. wants
peace
To the Daily:
In its Februaryt1editorial,
the Daily insists that the U.S.
government gives El Salvador
$1.5 million dollars a day in
"murderous aid," and "quietly
turns the other way" when El
Salvadoran leaders act undemo-
cratically. The editorial claims
that the U.S. government
opposes the communist
insurgents' peace plan, which
calls for free elections, because
the U.S. supported candidates
would lose. These assertions
are entirely untrue.
In fact, the U.S. government
desperately wants El Salvador
to accept the peace plan--pre-
cisely because the plan calls for
free elections and an end to the
civil war. The El Salvadoran
people do not approve of the
;nerz ntnhNoe tNAT .T - .n-

This fact makes the peace
plan especially attractive to the
Bush administration. If the in-
surgents abide by the promises
they make in their peace plan;
the war will end and the com-
munists will be defeated demo
cratically; if the insurgents
break their promises, Bush and
the El Salvadoran government
will be praised for having tried
to negotiate, and Congress will
likely increase aid to El Sal=
vador. Either result would im'
prove Bush's reputation for
handling Latin American af3
fairs, and subsequently' could
only help the President in his
quest to secure additional none
military aid to the Nicaraguan
Contras.
Unfortunately for the U.S.,
the FMLN's civilian-targeted
terrorism has shifted the alle-
giance of most El Salvadorans
to the far right. Contrary to
American wishes, the U.S.
backed Christian Democratic
government--fearing that it
might lose public support to
the increasingly popular,
severely anti-comnunist,
ARENA Party--rejected the
FMLN's peace plan. While the
U.S. is trying to convince El
Salvador to agree to the plan,
some Americans are concerned
by the growing anti-American
rhetoric espoused by right-wing
leaders. This anti-Americanism
is a direct result of U.S. pres-
sure to bring about democratic
reform within El Salvador.
Although, such pressure may
backfire, the United States will
nevertheless keep trying to'
promote democracy and free-
dom in El Salvador, and else-
where.
The Daily claims that the
FMLN has presented a peace
plan because it has "the Sal-
vadoran military on the ropes."
Actually, the FMLN produced
the plan after its leaders toured
Latin America and Europe, and
realized that they had only
limited support.

0

a

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
. a ,,;rins rfu ,,-The Taix cuts ltters and colimns for

-William

R. Horwitz
February 2;

The Daily welcomes
letters from its readers.

0

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