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March 10, 1989 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 1989-03-10

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4

OPINION
Friday, March 10, 1989

Page 4

The Michigan Daily

3be £irbian tdQaly
Edited and managed by students at The University of Michigan

Puerto Rican experience:
Imperialism and

I

By Jesus Irizarry and

420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

Vol. IC, No. 109

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.
High School hom---ophobia

HOMOSEXUALS are not inhuman
and should be allowed to exist. But if
someone does murder one or two, they
should not receive the same punish-
ment as if they killed a heterosexual."
This and other equally homophobic
statements were printed in a signed ed-
itorial in the Plymouth-Canton High
Senool newspaper, CEP Perspective
Opinion and Commentary, on January
19. The article was titled "Homosexu-
als forfeit judicial rights," and com-
mented on the sentencing of Richard
Lee Bednarski to 30 years in prison in-
stead of the maximum penalty of life
imprisonment requested by the State of
Texas.
In May of 1988, Bednarski and nine
other friends drove to a section of Dal-
las, which, according to the article,
was "known to contain homosexuals."
Bednarski and a friend got in a car with
two gay men and drove to a secluded
spot where he shot both of them. Texas
State Judge Jack Hampton admitted
that he handed down a lighter sentence
because he "didn't much care for
queers cruising the streets picking up
teenage boys."
The editorial began by saying that
"homosexuals, transvestites, and crim-
inals should not expect to receive the
same treatment as the rest of the popu-
lation." The author agreed with Judge
Hampton that the two gay men had
been "asking for trouble" because of
"the recent AIDS scare" and because

they were "out in public trying to pick
up young men."
This editorial, printed in a high
school newspaper which has a faculty
advisor and is overseen by the princi-
pal, is an example of the way the public
school system reinforces the homo-
phobia that is rampant in our society.
Homosexuals are often portrayed as
pathological in sexual education
classes, when they are discussed at all.
Gay faculty are discriminated against
by parents and administrators who be-
lieve the myth that gay people commit
more sexual assaults than heterosexu-
al s.
This systematic reinforcement occurs
at a particularly sensitive time and
place, when students are discovering
and confronting their sexuality, and
where attitudes towards homosexuals
are already unaccepting and condemn-
ing. One-third of gay male teenagers
attempt suicide and 30 percent of
teenage suicides are gay-related. Telling
gay teenagers that they are expendable
only deepens their oppression.
To stop the reinforcement of homo-
phobic attitudes, homosexuality should
be openly discussed in sexual educa-
tion classes. Public schools and their
student newspapers should actively
expose homophobic stereotypes - not
systematically reinforce them.
Voice your concern by writing to
Plymouth-Canton High School, 8415
N. Canton Center Rd. Canton, MI
48187

Luis A. Vazquez
Pregones, a Puerto Rican theater troupe
from the South Bronx, appears tonight at
8:00 P.M., performing "Alejandrina," and
Saturday, March 11 at 8:00 P.M., perform-
ing "Migrants," at the Trueblood theater in
the Frieze building. Tickets are $3.00 for
students. Migrants explores the various
social, historical, economic and personal
factors that have influenced the migratory
process ofPuerto Ricans to the United States.
After the U.S. invasion of Puerto Rico in
1898, a social and economic system was set
up by the U.S. government to ensure maxi-
mum exploitation of the island's resources
for the benefit and profit of large U.S. corpo-
rations. Vast
amounts of land
were bought and,
planted with export
crops - primarily
sugar. The dramatic
increase in trade be-
tween the United
States and Puerto
Rico, and the result-
ing expansion of the
Puerto Rican econ-
omy, did not reflectb
economic advance-
ment of the indi-
vidual Puerto Rican.
It did, in fact, reflect
heavy investment of
American corporate
capital, which led to
massive exportation
of profits and prod- Puerto Rican lab
ucts, while control-
ling Puerto Rican po-
litical life, and creating "sweatshop" condi-
tions for workers.
The majority of Puerto Rico's people
were landless and oppressed, and had few
opportunities to progress. Many jibaros
(peasants) left their mountain villages to
work in the canefields or the cities. Thou-
sands of Puerto Ricans, enticed by jobs in
the U.S., found discrimination and were
forced by necessity and poverty to live in
slums abandoned by whites who fled to the
suburbs of cities such as New York and
Chicago.
The emigration of Puerto Ricans did not
occur in a vacuum. Precarious economic
conditions on the island from the 1930s
onward acted as a "push factor," - the
Jesus Irizarry and Luis A. Vazquez are
members of the Puerto Rican Solidarity
Organization.

Puerto Rican people, confronted with an
alarmingly high unemployment rate and
widespread poverty, viewed emigration to
the U.S. as an alternative capable of solving
many of their economic problems. From
1940 to 1960, nearly 800,000 Puerto Ricans
emigrated to the U.S.
While mass migration partially allevi-
ated the economic situation of some Puerto
Ricans, in most cases it created more prob-
lems than it intended to solve. Traditional
Puerto Rican family structure changed, with
families separated for long periods of time,
and many women taking jobs outside the
home. Cultural identification suffered, with
many Puerto Ricans experiencing feelings
of alienation, and which worsened already
profound social problems such as drug/al-
cohol abuse, crime, and truancy. Further-

racism
was below that of other minorities, and sub-
stantially below that of non-hispanic white
families. Studies have shown that these
socioeconomic factors are important pre-
dictors of thequality of life for Americans in
general.
Although it may be argued that condi-
tions for Puerto Ricans residing on the main-
land have perhaps improved to some extent,
recent studies suggest that while Puerto Ri-
cans have experienced slight increases in
socioeconomic status compared to 1980,
Puerto Ricans still attain lower levels of
education, have lower rates of labor force
participation, high unemployment, and the
lowest median income for all minorities.
The popular myth that immigrants coming
to the U.S. become inegrated into society,
socially and economically within a genera-
tion ortwo, has not
been the Puerto
Rican experience.
Puerto Ricans
have, as a group,
largely been ex-
°$ cluded from mak-
ing any real gains
in American soci-
ety, though they
are technically
U.S. citizens.
Puerto Ricans
in the U.S. have
not escaped the
blatant racism and
ethnocentrism that
permeates Amen-
can society, and
which affects all
minority groups.
tionals This is reflectedby
the existence of
discriminatory
practices in terms of job hiring and pro-
motion, lack of programs to improve job
skills in Puerto Rican communities, the
exclusion of Puerto Ricans from higher
education, and the substantial reduction of
bilingual programs in schools. In addition,
Puerto Ricans suffer a lack of political rep-
resentation. For instance, in New York and
Chicago, the number of Puerto Rican con-
gresspeople and representatives does not
correlate with the percentage of Puerto
Ricans in the population.
President Bush favors statehood for
Puerto Rico but the majority of Puerto Ri-
cans do not. Puerto Rico is the last overt
manifestation of U.S. imperialism. Such
injustice belies the democracy, freedom,
and equality which this country claims to
uphold.

orers harvesting sugar cane for U.S. multinat

Face the halfway house

IN A SPECIAL session of the Ann Ar-
bor city council last month, Mayor
Gerald Jernigan sponsored a resolu-
tion opposing a state plan to convert the
Varsity House Motel into a halfway
house. Halfway houses shelter prison-
ers who are nearing the end of their
sentences, and are designed to help
ease their reintegration into society.
Residents of halfway houses are either
employed ornlooking for work.
City council's decision to oppose the
plan reflects an "out of sight, out of
mind" attitude regarding people who
have been convicted of crimes, ignor-
ing the need for such facilities.
Prisoners cannot be expected to
make an immediate transition from the
society established in a jail to social
expectations dictated by the outer
world. They face culture shock, and
also have problems finding jobs when
they are released, due to societal norms
and legal discrimination against them.
Halfway houses can help to solve this
problem. They are specifically designed
to educate prisoners soon to be
released, and to offer them time to
overcome prejudices and find a job.
Although the city council's resolution
is addressed to the State Legislature
and the Department of Corrections
(DOC), the city holds no legal authority
over either of them. Ultimately, it is not
the city's decision whether or not to
allow the halfway house to open.
However, the DOC has agreed to delay

the institution of the planned halfway
house until further notice. Jernigan
scheduled this special meeting and used
the resolution as political ploys to allow
city politicians to publicize their oppo-
sition to the house.
Among other demands, the resolu-
tion calls for the DOC to put halfway
houses at least 1,000 feet away from
schools, day-care centers, and residen-
tial neighborhoods. This reflects the
general phobia about prisoners and ex-
prisoners alike. If ex-convicts are ever
expected to reenter "normal" society,
they need to experience interaction with
a community, not isolation from it.
City council has also demanded an
assurance that all of the prisoners that
reside in the proposed halfway house
be residents of Washtenaw county.
This should be recognized for what it
is: a selective Washtenaw County im-
migration law restricting the entry of
people with prison records.
Fears about halfway houses greatly
exceed any actual risks to their com-
munities. But more importantly, Ann
Arbor residents need to accept a share
of society's responsibility, without
selfish attempts to pass the buck. If the
state's prison system is to achieve any
degree of effectiveness, the rights and
needs of its prisoners must be re-
spected by all communities, and there
is no reason for Ann Arbor to be
exempt.

more, problems with re-integration of emi-
grants became apparent on the island of
Puerto Rico. The return of thousands of
Puerto Ricans to the island has aggravated
difficult economic conditions by increasing
demand for jobs, housing, education, and
other scarce social services.
According to the 1980 U.S. census, more
than 2 million people of Puerto.Rican an-
cestry were living on the U.S. mainland. De-
mographically, Puerto.Ricans living in the
U.S. in 1980 were younger, and had com-
pleted less years of school than non-his-
panic, American whites. A greater percent-
age of Puerto Rican men held blue collar and
service-type jobs than non-hispanic, white
men. Relatively few white collar or man-
agement positions were held by Puerto Ri-
cans. Moreover, in 1979 the average median
income of families headed by Puerto Ricans

s

Student struggle, then and now:

Conference on anti-racism

0l //0

By the United Coalition
Against Racism
The civil rights movement was neither a
starting point nor a leading point for the
struggle for Black liberation. But it was a
period of great social transformation, in-
cluding desegregation legislation, and,
more importantly, large scale political
participation by the Black community.
One of the organizations that facilitated
this transformation and encouraged the
participation and empowerment of ordinary
people was the Student Non-Violent Co-
ordinating Committee (SNCC).
SNCC, a national student-coordinated
network, began with the sit-ins of the
early 1960s. Ella Baker, a long-time civil
rights activisL and a Southern Christian
Leadership Conference (SCLC) executive
director, helped Black college students
throughout the South connect and coordi-
nate their local struggles. SNCC posed a
challenge to the hierarchical, male-domi-
nated leadership of the SCLC and the Na-
tional Association for the Advancement of
Colored People (NAACP) by forming
their principles around maximizing partic-
ipation and supporting local struggle.
SNCC sought not to be spokespeople for
the mnet mnrcrnnyzeds ctors nf the Black

'From our legacy of racism, and resistance to that racism, we
can learn what has made us what we are today, and how to de-
termine what our future will be.'
ple across the country. And their unyield- historic Mississippi Freedom Democratic
ing commitment and spirit of militancy Party. Marilyn Lowen also played an es-
did not end with the struggles of the sential role in organizing students, and has
1960s. Many SNCC workers continued continued that struggle into the 1980s.
their struggle for Black liberation long af- Charles Sherrod, the eldest of six children
ter the civil rights era ended. of a poor family from St. Petersburg, Va.,
Today's anti-racist student activists draw was a Freedom Rider who traveled to Al-
heavily on the experiences of organiza- bany in 1961 to open the first SNCC of-
tions such as SNCC. From our legacy of fice. As the director of the Southwest
racism, and resistance to that racism, we Georgia project for voter registration and
can learn what has made us what we are also a member of the Mississippi Freedom
today, and how to determine what our fu- Democratic Party, Sherrod was arrested on
ture will be. numerous occasions, and remained both a
close associate and critic of Martin Luther
Tonight, as part of a national conference King. The panel will begin at 7 p.m. in
which will unite anti-racist activists of the Hale Animt.-n m All n .,r-aa...,

Blackwell - didn't have to read about
Black struggle: they lived it. The students.
came away with experiences that
enlightened and inspired them. The Black
community, in turn, felt a new sense of
energy and empowerment to challenge the
institutional barriers that had for so long
disenfranchised them.
Black and white students who became
involved in SNCC made an impact on the
lives and experiences of many Black peo-

The United Coalition Against Racism will
be hosting a panel open to the public on
connections between these highly related
struggles. The panel will consist of three
prominent SNCC workers, Marilyn'
Lowen, Charles Sherrod, and June John-
son, as well currently active anti-racist
students of color from various campuses.
June Johnson, a contemporary and ally
of Fannie Lou Hamer, was beaten and ar-
rested with Hamer for their work with the

0

lq

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