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January 16, 1989 - Image 4

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Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1989-01-16

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01

OPINION
Monday, January 16, 1989 TeMcia al

Page 4

The Michigan Daily

'Black
By Renee McKinney
Today's holiday is important both be-
cause it celebrates the accomplishments of
one great leader, Dr. Martin Luther King
Jr., and because it represents the hard-won
civil rights of all African Americans. As
an African American woman, I am aware
of this. However, as I look to the future
and examine my own past and present
realities, I doubt the validity of the Dream
for millions of African American women
who still suffer daily under the double
burdens of sexism and racism.

women

transform struggle

am also always reminded that a twist of
fate is all that has kept those very same
African American role models from be-
coming the janitors, factory workers and
restaurant help that most African Ameri-
cans are condemned to be.
I am an East Side Detroiter, and I often
shop in Grosse Pointe's exclusive Hill and
Village shopping areas. There are very few
African Americans to be found in these
stores.
However, when I drive home up
Kercheval in the evening I always see
dozens of silver-haired African American
cleaning ladies waiting for the bus to take
them back to their homes in "Black Bot-
tom."
Domestic servants do not have nine to
five jobs. In addition to their regular
working day, they are required to work any
weekend or holiday their employer might
need them for parties. They don't get time
and a half. Most don't even get minimum
wage.
These are women with minds as viable
as my own, but, born in an earlier age,
they have to spend their lives as servants.
They leave their own children everyday
from dawn to dusk to care for rich, white
children and clean the homes of their rich,
white parents.
I have been in these homes to visit my
white friends. I have seen the way those
kids order around African American
women old enough to be their grand-

mothers. It makes me sick. For these
women, the Dream is a sham. Their lives
are as subservient as their grandmothers'
lives were at the turn of the century.
As an African -American woman it
breaks my heart to see what the vast ma-
jority of my Sisters and Brothers have to
go through. Racism is alive and well and
living in my hometown. It shows when-
ever I see a young African American man
stopped by the police who, "just want to
what's going on" because he's driving a
nice car. Racism is at work when I am
asked for I.D. to make a purchase on a
credit card with my name on it, and I have
just watched the white person ahead of me
practically buy out the store without the
benefit of identification.
The Dream is dying. It is being slowly
killed by the combined forces of active
racism by whites and passive neglect by
the Black middle classes.
With the civil rights reforms of the '60s
and '70s came complacency among the
African American community. However,
as the '80s wore on, many of these re-
forms have been challenged or repealed.
Reagan's budget cuts have hurt African
Americans disproportionately. For exam-
ple, free school lunch programs - which
once provided manyAfrican American
children with their day's only nutritious

meal - have disappeared. And many state
governments have reduced Medicaid bene-
fits to people on welfare.
Once again, African Americans have to
organize and prove once and for all that
racism has no place in a democracy. See-
ing the Dream slip away through these
double forces of racism and neglect,
African Americans are trying to revive and
carry on our struggle to realize the Dream.
As I see it, there are two main differ-
ences between this struggle and the last

can women like Barbara Ransby who are
leading the local fight against racism and
sexism. And nationally, Black empower-
ment movements are being lead by
organizations like The National Political
Congress of Black Women.
Second, the tactics used by African
Americans are different now. For the most
part, the radicalism of the '70s is gone.
Many of the outward symbols of Black-
ness that whites found offensive like Afro
hairstyles and dashikis are no longer ac-

a.'
,0

'...when I drive home up Kercheval in the evening I always see
dozens of silver-haired African American cleaning ladies

waiting for the bus to take them
Bottom." '

back to their homes in "Black

African American women have histori-
cally been the most oppressed group of
people in America. The fact is that we are
devalued both as women and as African
Americans.
As a woman who comes from the
"Black middle class," I realize my life has
not been as hard as the lives of my eco-
nomically deprived Sisters. I have always
had African American politicians, business
people, and lawyers to look up to. But I
Renee McKinney is a sophomore in the
Residential College.

one. First, unlike the movement of the
'60s and '70s, African American women
are taking the lead and refusing to be
pushed to the side by either the sexism of
their African American brothers or the
racism of White America. The Civil
Rights struggle of the '60s sacrificed a
large part of its power by refusing to rec-
ognize the contributions of African Amer-
ican women.
Now, on campus, it is African Ameri-

ceptable to African Americans either. It is
important to realize, however, that in the
'50s even the idea of an African American
mayor was radical. I hope thirty years
from now things will be happening in the
field of race relations which would be im-
plausible now.
I feel MLK day stands for co-operation.
True equality between men and women as
well as between all races is beneficial to
all. To me, it is the essence and realization
of Dr. King's Dream.

0

U

Edited and managed by students at The University of Michigan
420 Maynard St.
Vol. IC, No.75 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.
'U' of assimilati n

exj
atel

By Rajal P

In refusing to give the workers the day
off the University has failed in
commemorating the life and work of Dr.
King. Instead of honoring the real legacy
of MLK the University has chosen instead
to accept the sanitized version of Dr. King
presented by the media. With this it
falsely believed that its job was done by
the creation of "Diversity Day."
Diversity Day implies the celebration
of people's differences, it does not address
the inequalities that exist in the society,
inequalities for which Dr. King gave his
life. MLK spoke about economic justice
and equality, especially for the "40 million
poor" who were relegated to be a perma-
nent underclass in America. This perma-
nent underclass of unskilled and unem-
ployed workers and poor consist not only
of Blacks but other people of color and
poor whites as well. For these people the.
legislation passed in the 60s promising
equal opportunities, etc. has done little to
alleviate their suffering. During his last
Rajel Patel is a student in the Medical
School

pdoits
years King spent his time strut
the rights of the working class.
involved in the Poor People's (
and he was in Memphis, Tenn
porting the sanitation worke
when he was shot.
The University epitomizes th
sive environment which worker
dure. Although the workers rep
largest sector employed by the t
they are the most exploited and
portionate number of them are
color. Many workers are hired

workers
ggling for incident of last year. She found the words
- he was "Funky Black Bitch" written on the bath-
Campaign, room she was supposed to clean. Her su-
essee sup- pervisors did absolutely nothing, so she
n's strike turned to the press. For that her workload
was increased and she was transferred to an
he oppres- all white area.
s must en- Many of the workers cannot afford to
resent the live in Ann Arbor, they live in Ypsilanti
Jniversity, and commute to work everyday. They
[a dispro- also cannot afford to send their children to
people of the University or take classes here them-
on a trial selves. The University has also never lost

'Diversity Day implies the celebration of people's differences,
it does not address the inequalities that exist in the society, in-
equalities for which Dr. King gave his life.'

As ONE OF THE leaders of the Civil
Rights Movement, Martin Luther King
Jr. was committed to creating a diverse
movement which included people from
different races, different classes and
different cultures. King knew that the
struggle for equal rights meant forming
coalitions of people united against in-
justice and inequality. Though he
fought for equality, King did not be-
lieve that the realization of equality was
sameness, nor did he believe that as-
similation into mainstream white
American culture was the solution to
ending oppression. In commemorating
him, we recognize the importance of
diversity and equality.
The University-sponsored "Diversity
Day", however, fails in its attempts to
recognize diversity for what it is.
Though claiming to celebrate the
differences between people, "Diversity
Day" is brought to'you by a University
which is neither inclusive nor repre-
sentative of the pluralistic society of
which President Duderstadt speaks so
highly.
The concept of "Diversity Day" is,
however, similar to the melting pot
style assimilation of which American
society is so proud.
In America people allegedly become
part of the sterile grey goo which boils
in a huge melting pot. This melting pot
ideal assumes, unfortunately, that all
people should become like mainstream
American culture - that is, the culture
that developed from British colonialism
in North America. Blacks, Native
Americans, Hispanics, and Asians -
the indigenous peoples of North
America, people who were brought
here as slaves, and people who were
forced to flee the situations in their
countries - are not necessarily willing
to surrender their culture, for many an
integral part of their identities, and be

devoured by mainstream America.
Mainstream American culture at-
tempts to lump all cultures into this
deified "melting pot". When they are all
thrown together in a melting pot, mi-
nority cultures are less dangerous. Em-
powerment through cultural identity
thus becomes impossible, preventing
minority cultures from coming together
to challenge the mainstream culture.
In previous years, minority groups
on this campus rallied around MLK
Day in protest of the University's re-
fusal to recognize its importance.
"Diversity Day" is the University's at-
tempt to quell these groups - to effec-
tively drown their voices in the melting
pot. "Diversity Day" pretends to cele-
brate the ideals put forth by King. But
in an institution where diversity is
squelched and institutional racism
thrives, its effect is to mock both
King's achievements and his aspira-
tions.
Martin Luther King, Jr. stood for
equality for all people, not in the world
of diversity of which President Duder-
stadt speaks, but in a world where
equality does not mean sameness; a
world with diversity of culture, not di-
versity of physical appearance. A day
filled with glossy fliers and a Unity
March led by Duderstadt does not
change the reality of this institution.
Though President Duderstadt speaks
highly of diversity, this institution is
like other American institutions: it is
motivated by male, Anglo-centric
thinking. This implies assimilation for
non-male, non-Anglo people.
Diversity - real diversity - is ac-
ceptance of differences between
people. To honor King is to honor
differences and equality. To honor
"Diversity Day" is to honor the melting
pot and institutionalized assimilation.

basis for a couple of months. For these
months the University does not have to
pay for worker's compensation, and after
this period many are fired. There are also
many part-time workers hired, for whom
the University does not have to provide
benefits. In addition, many of the workers
are harassed by their supervisors, and if
they complain they are either given more
work or are fired for minor reasons.
An excellent example is the Mary Clark

an Affirmative Action suit brought against
it. If you talk to even a few workers it be-
comes obvious that it is not because the
University is non-racist. So if the Univer-
sity is truly committed to its theme for
Diversity Day - equity, empowerment,
and enlightenment - it should give its
most exploited sector the day off to
participate in the programs of a man who
stood more for them than most other parts
of this University.

.
..
4.


Make class mandatory

By Michael Wilson

In the spring of 1987, in the midst of an
upsurge in racist violence on our campus
and throughout the country, students of
color and anti-racist whites came together
to form the United Coalition Against
Racism. UCAR realized the need to not
only defend ourselves and our communi-
ties when attacked, but to create proactive
strategies to combat institutional racism
and racist ideology. One of the twelve
UCAR demands to the University admin-
istration was the creation of a mandatory

the acts themselves any less racist, a
mandatory class on racism would help to
explore and hopefully deter some of the
myths and stereotypes which encourage
and perpetuate racism.
The University requires students to take
courses it sees as essential for a well-
rounded education. Yet the majority of
students graduate from this university with
little or no understanding of the complex-
ity and centrality of the issues of racism in
our society. One goal of a university edu-
cation is supposed to be to prepare stu-
dents to think critically about the world in

'[T]he majority of students graduate from this university with
little or no understanding of the complexity and centrality of
the issues of racism in our society.'

a proposal for the course requirement on
racism currently being considered by the'
College of LSA.
The proposal is not for a course in po-
litical indoctrination, but a course in so-
cial analysis and historical understanding
focusing on the issue of racism. It is also
not multicultural awareness or diversity
training to teach us how not to offend
others, but instead a "serious intellectual
exercise dedicated to critical inquiry"
(Proposal for a College-Wide Course on
Racism, Fifth Draft, 1988). We see this
as one step towards fighting racism and
the ignorance upon which it feeds.
Another step towards creating alternative
anti-racist and anti-sexist education was
the creation of the student initiated Ella
Baker-Nelson Mandela Center for Anti-
Racist Education. As we celebrate the
Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, we must
be certain that this is not the only day of
the year on which we discuss the impor-
tant issues of racism. Join us in support-
ing the mandatory course proposal. Martin
Luther King and so many others died
struggling for a justice and racial equality.
The very least we can do is educate our-
selves.
Copies of the proposal currently being
considered will be ayailable in the Baker-
Mandela Center for Anti-Racist Education,
Room 3 East Engineering. If you have
further questions or want to help educate
others about the need for this course come
to a UCAR meeting, every other Thursday
in the Michigan Union or stop by the
Center. Our next meeting is January 26th. 1

course on racism to be completed by all
matriculated students. Student activists
reasoned that this class would be one step
towards making the University's curricu-
lum more inclusive and the climate more
hospitable to people of color.
Over the past two years, this campus
community has witnessed several blatant
and horrendous acts of racism. Repeatedly,
the perpetrators of these incidents cite ig-
norance as a rationale for their offenses.
While this lack of sensitivity and
familiarity with the issues does not make
Michael Wilson is a member of UCAR

which we live. Any discussion of U.S.
foreign policy, nuclear disarmament, in-
ternational peace, unemployment, health
care, philosophy, culture, etc. would be
incomplete without an understanding of
racism and the experiences of people of
color. And as the incidents of racist vio-
lence continue to increase around the
country, we become painfully aware of the
ignorance surrounding this issue.
For over a year, faculty from two
groups, Concerned Faculty and Faculty
Against Institutional Racism (FAIR)
worked with UCAR students to formulate

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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

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