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January 25, 1990 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 1990-01-25

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OPINION
Thursday, January 25, 1990 TeMcia al

Page 4

The Michigan Daily

ยข-
.,

Edited and managed by students at The University of Michigan

420 Maynard St.
ArnnArbor, MI 48109

Vol. C, No. 79

Unsigned editorials represent a majority of tne Daily's Editorial Board. All other
cartoons, signed articles, and letters do not necessarily represent the opinion
of the Daily.
Mpasses the buck

T OUGH NINE LSA representatives
to the Michigan Student Assembly have
taken their seats, the problems created
by MSA's election committee have not
been solved.
The point of holding any election is
to ensure that constituents select their
representatives to government; in the
case of December's MSA elections, the
voice of the students was disregarded
because LSA students were not given
the opportunity to select their own
representatives.
The bungling of the elections by
MSA officials has been well docu-
mented --- names were omitted from
ballots, some students were not permit-
ted to vote, counting was mishandled,
and the ballots were thrown out before
a recount could, be held. Because of
these and other mishaps, ISA's high-
est court, the Central Student Judiciary,
declared the elections invalid. Then, in
keeping with MSA's constitution, the
LSA Student Government was charged
with appointing nine people to fill the
vacant seats.
LSA-SG has been attacked for its
decision to appoint new representatives
to the as .embly. This criticism - fu-
eled by the perception that the election,
however discredited, should still be
taken into account -- misses the mark.
The blame lies with MSA for creating
the problem and then dumping it off on
someone else.

There is no way to go back and clean
up MSA's mistakes. But the assembly
should hold another election as soon as
possible to ensure that people represen-
tative of the student body are the ones
serving on MSA. Thus, the nine ap-
pointees should only serve until the
March MSA election.
MSA has worked hard to force its
way into a corner. While assembly of-
ficials continue to make excuses, the
University's Board of Regents and
President James Duderstadt have initi-
ated an informal investigation into
MSA's handling of the election. Ad-
ministrative control over MSA is a
frightening thought, but what makes it
worse are reports that MSA President
Aaron Williams and Conservative
Coalition chair Jeff Johnson solicited
help from the administration after the
elections were invalidated.
Students on this campus need strong
leaders in order to combat tuition in-
creases and protect the rights of stu-
dents. When MSA bungles elections
and invites the administration to over-
turn unpopular student decisions, stu-
dents' power is diminished.
MSA.is the student government;
selling out to the administration won't
help students. MSA needs to clean it-
self up and start acting responsibly. If
the assembly can't even hold elections
without a plethora of errors, there is
little chance that MSA will be able to
fight effectively for student causes.

Housing
by the Homeless Action
Committee
Incredible injustices are perpetrated
against homeless people and the poor
every single day in Ann Arbor.
For the homeless these injustices
include being forced to live in Ann Arbor's
streets, being treated with callousness by
the city's overworked social service
employees, and being harassed and arrested
by police officers for the "crime"of
seeking a warm place to rest.
For the poor who are lucky enough to
find a place to live, these injustices mean
a lifetime of shuttling from unit to unit
trying to stay one step ahead of the
inevitable evictions forced by their
inability to pay Ann Arbor's skyrocketing
rents.
To be poor in Ann Arbor is to be nearly
homeless. Being poor in Ann Arbor
means living doubled and tripled-up in
over-priced apartments, with the threat of
eviction always hanging over your head.
These injustices are examples of
economic violence that rob people of their
humanity. It is violence that poor and
homeless people suffer everyday in Ann
Arbor, violence that will not go away.
This violence has not only been
ignored, but perpetuated and condoned by
the Ann Arbor City Council. Every time
we have demanded that the Council act to
serve the needs of the people, they have
told us that they are concerned about low
income housing and about homelessness,
but that the city does not have the
resources to do anything. Meanwhile the
city has budgeted over $30 million for the
construction of parking structures. City
Council does not lack the resources to act
on the housing crisis; it lacks the will.
Last Friday, the Homeless Action
Committee (HAC) met with City Council
to demand that they take action. We
presented them with a single demand: the

City Council must make the housing
crisis its first priority and commit to
building 1500 units of low-income
housing.
To prove that the city is making low-
income housing the first priority, we
demanded that the council take the
following steps: (1) Immediately rescind
approval of the construction of the $9
million Kline's parking structure. The
funds of the Downtown Development
Authority, which until now have been
spent almost exclusively on parking
structures, must be used to build the 1500
units of low-income housing that the city
desperately needs. (2) Take care of the
emergency needs of people on the streets
by immediately opening up additional
emergency shelter.
People are homeless because of the
city's policy of putting the desires of the
business community before the needs of
the people. There is an immediate need for
more emergency shelter; people are
currently being turned away from the
shelter because it is full. A shelter for
women and additional transitional housing
are also desperately needed.
The City Council had no response to
HAC's demands or to the testimony of any
of the people present. Of the 150 people
'After testimony from Bob
person, Terry Martin (R-2nd
this town is not very hosp
Why do you stay here?'

demands unmet

Ward) said, "Sounds like this town is not
very hospitable to you Mr. Harris... Why
do you stay here? It's time you learned
what a caring city this really is." Mr.
Harris' response was that the problem is
nation-wide and that he had been told the
same thing in Detroit, Brighton, and
Howell before moving to Ann Arbor.
Other councilmembers asserted that
many homeless people were recent arrivals
to Ann Arbor and therefore didn't have any
rights. However most of the homeless
people attending the meeting had been in
town for longer then many members of
the council.
Council repeatedly showed both an
incredible ignorance of the problems
facing the poor and homeless in Ann
Arbor, and a complete lack of intent to do
anything to address these problems.
Council's message to the community was
clear Friday night: if you don't like our
unjust policies then you should leave
"our" city.
Homeless people, low-income people,
and the Homeless Action Committee will
not stand by and allow the city to continue'
its policies of violence against citizens of'
Ann Arbor. People who have lived here all'f
of their lives are not simply going to walk
away from their community, family, and
Harris, a former homeless

I Ward) said,
itable to you

"Sounds like,"
Mr. Harris... a

I I I

who were at the meeting not a single
person spoke against the need for low
income housing. Speaker after speaker
demanded that the Council take action to
address the housing crisis.
In response, Council members insulted,
harassed, and ignored those who offered
testimony about what it is like to be poor
or homeless in Ann Arbor. After
testimony from Bob Harris, a former
homeless person, Terry Martin (R-2nd

friends. The homeless people who do the
city's most menial labor are not going to
be invisible or tolerate being told to leave
the town that they work in.
HAC has called for a march thisA
afternoon at 3:00 to protest the",
Council's refusal to act on the housing*
crisis. The march will start at 337 S.*
Ashley (corner of W. William & S.
Ashley), go through the downtown
area, and commence at City Hall.

City Council ignores Ann Arbor's homeless:

Demand fa
OVER ONE year ago, the Homeless
Action Committee (HAC) demanded a
meeting with the Ann Arbor City
Council in an effort to get the Council
to address the city's affordable housing
crisis in a public forum. Last Friday
when this meeting finally took place,
thd Council members revealed their bi-
paitisan commitment to take no mean-
ingxful action in the face of the city's
desperate lack of low-income housing.
At the meeting, HAC condemned the
Cotncil's spending of millions of tax
dollars on parking structures when
1,500 Ann Arborites are homeless.
HAC members demanded that the
Council make homelessness and the
housing crisis its number one priority,
an4 rescind their approval of the $9
million Ashley-William parking struc-
ture scheduled for construction this
Spring. They also demanded that the
Council commit to building 1,500 units
of low-income housing, and take im-
mediate measures to open additional
emergency shelter.
Over one hundred people attended
themeting to support HAC's demands
even though Mayor Jernigan scheduled
the meeting at a time that made it very
difficult for homeless people be in at-
tendance. People who are homeless
had to choose between getting in a line
fortheir evening meal or attending the
meeting. Those who elected to forfeit
their dinner were met by Council with a
beyrocratic non-response.
Councilmembers Terry Martin (R-
2ni ward) and Jerry Schleicher (R-4th
watd) verbally harassed Bob Harris, a
fortnerly homeless person, who gave a
preentation at the meeting. Other Re-
publicans including Mayor Gerald
Jernigan defended the Council's policy
of ,financing parking structures. This
policy is rapidly using up the city's
bonding capacity and represents the
most regressive tax possible. City tax
dollars are used for what HAC mem-
bcL.s rightfully term "welfare for
dowvntown merchants."
Dcmocratic Council members were
more outwardly sympathetic, and
thanked participants for attending the
meeting. However, the Democrats are
as guilty in deed as their Republican

ii

r housing
counterparts. Every single City Council
member, with the exception of Larry
Hunter (D-2nd, ward) who abstained,
voted to spend $9 million in city funds
to build the Ashley-William parking
structure. And none of the Democrats
have agreed to put forth proposals to
rescind that funding, to open additional
emergency shelter, a women's shelter
or additional transitional housing, or to
address the housing crisis in any way
whatsoever.
Mayor Jernigan told the meeting's at-
tendants that if they didn't like the
Council's policies that they should get
involved in the electoral process. This
statement is an underhanded attempt to
quell dissent and reduce the public
pressure that HAC and other housing
activists have been exerting on Coun-
cil. Elections are only meaningful if
different candidates offer a choice. Nei-
ther the Democratic nor the Republican
party have shown any willingness to
take action to address the city's lack of
low-income housing.
City Council did not create home-
lessness, but its policies have exacer-
bated the housing crisis and Council
members are complicit in the economic
violence that oppresses the city's lower
income residents. The need for low-in-
come housing has been ignored for
years. Forming a new committee, as
Jernigan has suggested, would only
further delay facing the problem.
The last such committee spent two
years compiling a report which in 1985
informed Council that the city needed
an additional 1,500 units of low-in-
come housing. No action was taken.
Five years later, the Council has finally
responded by suggesting the formation
of yet another committee.
Ann Arbor's housing crisis demands
action from the city's officials. At Fri-
day's meeting, City Council members
revealed that they intend to continue to
ignore the issue. The Homeless Action
Committee deserves credit and contin-
ued support for its efforts to jar City
Council out of its intransigence. Partic-
ipate in HAC's march this afternoon to
protest Council's indifference and inac-
tion. The march begins at 337 South
Ashley at 3:00 p.m.

Reverse
--by Barbara Ranshy _
This article is partly in response to two
letters which appeared in the Daily
recently criticizing the United Coalition
Against Racism's "Twenty Years Past
Due" campaign to hold the University
accountable for past promises to increase
student of color enrollment. Both critics
ignore the specific history and mechanics
of racism in ur s( piety and imply that
any aggressive effort Lo reverse racism in
fact represents so-called "reverse racism"
against whites.
The first writer, Leo McNamara,
challenges UCAR's demand and the
University's promise of 12 percent Black
enrollment as an unfair "quota" that
discriminates against whites.
First of all, the 12 percent figure was
not arbitrarily pulled out of the air, but
rather reflects the proportion of African
Americans in the larger society. To
identify this as a minimum goal is
perfectly consistent with the University's
espoused commitment to create the kind of
institution which is genuinely reflective of
the increasingly multi-cultural American
society. Duderstadt has repeatedly reminded
us that as we enter the 21 st century this
society will be made up largely of people
of color.
Needless to say, colleges, universities
and other centers of middle class privilege
are in no way reflective of that
composition. UCAR's position is simply
that schools and universities, especially
public ones, should at a minimum be
representative of the larger society. This is
one small step toward reversing more than
two centuries of racist exclusion and
marginalization of people of color by
educational and other major institutions of
the society.
Yes, affirmative action is special
treatment, however, it is not African
Americans, Native American, Latinos and
Asian Americans who have requested
special treatment. We have historically
received unsolicited "special treatment"
from those who hold power in this
society.
Slavery was "special treatment" reserved
for Africans and African Americans; forced
migrations and the denial of property
rights was "special treatment" reserved for
Native Americans; concentration camps
during World War II were a form of
"special treatment" for Japanese
Americans; and unfair labor practices
which exploit and impoverish Chicano

racism is a myth

1

pursued in this country from thei
beginning. It will take conscious andt
aggressive policies to undo it.1
An analogy which makes this point isr
one of a car speeding down a hill. To
simply remove one's foot from the gasE
does not stop the car, aggressiveI
intervention is required - you must apply
the brake. Similarly, we can view peoplea
of color and whites as two groups of
competitors in a race. If one group begins
the race 10 yards behind the starting line
with one foot tied behind each runner,l
obviously to stop the race midway1
through, untie the disadvantaged runners
and say, "Now, lets play fair," does not1
rectify the situation. To deny the validity
of aggressive affirmative action programs
is to do just that. We cannot escape the
historical realities that shape the nature of
racism today.
'Yes, affirmative action iss
ever, it is not African Ame
Latinos and Asian America
special treatment. We have
solicited "special treatmen
power in this society.'
Racism is not some generic set of
"attitudes" that can come in all flavors and
colors. Racism is a historically specific
phenomenon, and while hypothetically
any group can exploit, disenfranchise, and
subjugate another on the basis of race, and
therefore be considered racist, that has not
been the case in modern times. Racist
notions of genetic inferiority were refined
in the 19th century to justify the
continuation of slavery and Western
imperialism, under the banners of "the
white man's burden" to civilize and uplift.
Racism in practice and ideology has
been synonymous with white supremacy,
and conversely with notions of Black,
Asian, Native American and Latino

inferiority. It has been very specific and
consistent in this regard. These notions.
have justified racist laws and practices that
rendered African Americans second-class,
citizens for 'an entire century after
emancipation. It was only with the,'w9
passage of Civil Rights legislation in thee,
mid 1960s that Blacks were finally
regarded as equals before the law in the.,
United States.,f
In education in particular, it was as
recent as 1954 that the Supreme Court,
prohibited the enforcement of segregated
public schools, and it took more than.,
10,000 members of the National Guard to j
protect nine Black school children who.
sought to desegregate the Arkansas school,!!
some three years later.
The reality, of course, continues to be{
one of disparity and inequality. Aggressive,
policies are needed to reverse this.,
- -'
special treatment, how-
ricans, Native American,.
ins who have requested
a historically received un
t" from those who hold
Centuries of injustice and inequality are
not wiped away in a few short decades. To
suggest this is to ignore history.
Therefore, when groups such as UCAR
demand that the University of Michigan ,
take special steps to combat institutional
racism, we do so with an understanding of:#
how deeply rooted racism is, and how far
we have to go to defeat it. For the9
University to simply say "we will try" is
not good enough. We have to look at the
ways, subtly and structurally, that people
of color have been excluded in the past in
order to really map out clear and effective
policies for change in the future.
Barbara Ransby is a member of the
United Coalition Against Racism.

DOT MY IN IRS SUN Too
L~o N~G , ON ' e - . o ' O T
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