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February 08, 1999 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 1999-02-08

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4A - The Michigan Daily - Monday, February 8, 1999
~~fte £kigun Qag

F Q {ing the right ords: a s vaI pfo r Wshington employees

420 Maynard Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
daily.letters@umich.edu
Edited and managed by
students at the
University of Michigan

HEATHER KAMINS
Editor in Chief
JEFFREY KOSSEFF
DAVID WALLACE
Editorial Page Editors

Unless otherwise noted, unsigned editorials reflect the opinion of the majority of the
Daily's editorial board. All other articles, letters and cartoons do not necessarily reflect
the opinion of The Michigan Daily.

A weekoPdde
LGBT Visibility Week promotes acceptance

Uto lnguage is cryentmricate and comn-
plex ^Aording to Roget and Webster
and other people who keep track of these
things, there are approximately 1.2 jillion
words the English language. And with the
possible exceptions of Alex Trebek and Ben
Stei no one knows all
of them., This all
became painfully evi-
dent a few weeks ago
w hen a white
Washingon D.C. city
clerk was forced to
resign for using the
word "niggardly' in a
conversation with a
black coleague.
David Howard, the '
director of the Office of SCOtt
the Public Advocate in Hunter
D.C., used the 50-cent
word which inciden- Roll m- .
tally hasn't received tx
much airplay since S
Shakespeare died --
during a routine meeting with two aides. All
hell broke loose when Howard innocently tried
to underscore the need for cautious spending
in the office: "I will have to be niggardly with
this fund because it's not going to be a lot of
money."
Party foul!
After this verbal smack in the face, a
black aide stormed out of the room in a
huff. Apparently, the guy must have left
before Howard could explain that "niggard-
ly" means "miserly" or "stingily," and that it
does not ofen appear on a 2Pac album.
But, nevertheless, between a formal com-
plaint about Howard's alleged slur and a
whirlwind of ridiculous rumors that he was
also closet Klansman/Skinhead/Nazi, the
poor guy was pressured to fork over his res-

i gnatin A . iiv the capK
tolps new bla may uu epted it.
But mounting mpne media
and from the pubi ed ilams to
reverse his decision ad a Howard to
resume his poston (i he stil w ants ii).
So. lef's see w hat h ome o this whole
fiasco.
M The country s now lghtl more liter-
ate
* I have somethng to wite about this
week,
* And now it's pretty -,ch plain-as-day
that America has a itle more work to do on
improving the level of racl talks
I'l be the first to admi that when I first
heard about this incident, I had to laugh. After
all, the whole thi seems kd of silly' An
innocent man loses his lob for having too big
a vocabulary and a werd ainty fr arcane
words. In a perfct worl, the guy would have
just laughed the whole thing off
No, no, no Nggrd! I said nggard!"
"Niggard?"
"Yes, you know: The old arcane
Scandinavian word tha means miser and has
no racial connotations whatsoever!"
"Oh, 'niggard'! a Ha! Ha! Good one,
Dave!"
But this isn't a perect world. And people
aren't really that easygoing when it comes to
talking about racial matters. In fact, talking
about race is kind of like trying to discuss the
Starr report during the Victoran era.
In our world, people are really tense and
uptight about these kinds of things. In fact,
we are so uptight that the use of the word was
grounds for a national blitz of media cover-
age and publc attention sad ain't it?
But given the tense clmate we've got, no
one can realy blame the irate aide for being
caught off-guard. After al. anything that
sounds even remotely like a racial epithet -

especially the best-known racial epithet - is
enough to spontaneously ignite anger and
hurt. It's pretty hard to just slip those sorts of
words into a conversation. I mean, who
wouldn't do a double-take if they were sitting
in that meeting room?
The worst part of the whole situation was
not that the aides were taken aback. It was not
that a complaint was filed to the mayor. It was
that Howard was forced to resign over the
issue even after enough time had passed for
tempers to subside and for everyone to look at
the issue rationally.
Even worse is the fact that that it actual-
ly took dozens of on-air complaints, state-
ments from the NAACP and angry opinion
pieces in newspapers and on TV to get
Howard his job back. Face it: We have such
a hard time discussing race issues that we
have to have Peter Jennings, Tom Brokaw
and Katie Couric intervene before we can
resolve these things for ourselves,
The main lesson America should glean
from this humorous but grave incident is
this: we can't stop people from being sensi-
tive. Such hypersensitivity has been build-
ing through centuries and isn't likely to dis-
sipate anytime soon.
But it's completely within our power to take
halfa second and discuss these issues without
fleeing from them and retaliating without dis-
course.
What's the alternative? Outlawing certain
words from our language? Jailing someone
for calling Oprah Winfrey a "tycoon?"
If the use of a simple innocent word caus-
es a national uproar, then we'll be pretty
much screwed when we try to tackle the big
issues. So, we can either learn from this
whole situation or we can continue making
up things to be offended about. Your choice.
- Scott Hunter can be reached over
e-mail at sehunter@umich.edu.

0

A nn Arbor may be one of the most pro-
gressive cities in the Midwest, but many
lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people
still live in constant fear of harassment from
certain segments of the population. This week,
LGBT students will be cele-.
brating Visibility Week to
give the Ann Arbor commu- Evet:
nity a sense of just how y
numerous - and ordinary marcb i
- LGBT people are. mor do
Everyone in the t
University community
should use Visibility Week
to show support for the :::: ;:::::>:
:hd.
LGBT community and
reflect on the role of LGBT
people in their own lives. .
All students should take this '.
week's opportuntomk
conscious strides in their
acceptance of LGBT people.
More than just a few individuals need to
examine how they look at the LGBT popula-
tion. For all too many, acceptance of the
LGBT community is quite limited. Most will
acknowledge the rights of LGBT people to
express their sexuality in private, but some
become shocked when they see an LGBT per-
son showing any sort of affection towards
their partner in public. Equality will only
come when LGBT people can live their
lifestyles out in the open, just as heterosexual
people do every day.
In addition to doing some introspection
into how they treat members of the LGBT
community, heterosexuals should make an
effort to show their support openly.
Wednesday's Red Shirt Day will give students
the opportunity to shop their support with

r '

their choice in clothing. Some might shirk
from candidly expressing their acceptance of
LGBT people because they fear others may
perceive them unfavorably. No one should
ever let ignorance prevent him or her from
proudly supporting human
rights. Visibility Week
~ h ;....'encourages people of all
sexual orientations to partic-
ipate in its activities and cel-
en t'm* ebrate diversity.
>< a Hopefully, the need for
a Visibility Week will fade.
away soon. Once coming
::...i. out of the closet becomes
easy, LGBT couples, like
heterosexual couples, can
hold hands or kiss in public
without fear of repercus-
~J sions. Until then however,
it remains an important
way for LGBT people to demand acceptance
from the heterosexual population.
The fears of LGBT people are not
unfounded. Even in the wake of recent high-
profile media events, attempts to pass a mea-
sure that would add homosexuals to those
groups protected under Michigan's anti-hate
crimes laws were met with fierce resistance
from certain state legislators who character-
ized the measure as a "thought crimes law"
No one can afford to-ignore the fact that
a large segment of the population must
choose whether expressing love towards
their significant other in public is worth the
risk of potential harassment from a few
ignorant individuals. Such an important
human rights issue cannot be overlooked,
and the LGBT community deserves the
support of everyone.

CHIP CULLEN

GRINDING THE NIB

Penalized
Death penalty wrongfully targets poor

T he justice system in the United States
is supposed to be structured in such a
way that people's lives are protected to the
highest degree possible. As U.S. citizens,
we should be able to exist with the under-
standing that our government is working to
preserve our lives. Unfortunately, this is
not always the case. In fact, with capital
punishment in place, the judicial system is
succeeding in taking lives, not maintaining
them.
In principle, the death penalty is an obvi-
ous contradiction. The United States aims
to stifle any and all violent trends in the
country; at the same time, the government
sanctions and advertises killing in the form
of punishment for violent crimes.
The consequences of capital punish-
ment, however, extend far beyond its hypo-
critical foundation. Students in a journalism
reporting class at Northwestern University
recently came across the case of Anthony
Porter, a man convicted of murder 16 years
ago in Chicago. Porter serves as a precise
example of the deep flaws in the system.
He was sentenced to death for the murder of
two teenagers in a Chicago park - his
guilt, however, was recently called into
question. Porter has an IQ of 51, and there-
fore was ineffective in contributing to the
appeals process. The students became
aware of Porter's possible innocence and
decided to look more closely into the case.
They were successful in finding a witness
who pinpointed another man, her own ex-
husband, as the actual killer. Soon after, the
man confessed on videotape to the double
murder.
'r%.n o orrro ~sinn:- - - _ _ _ - - ' o i ti :

unrelated to a person's guilt or innocence
often aid in determining both the verdict
and the sentence. In many cases, this factor
is socio-economic status - people unable
to afford quality counsel are more likely to
be found guilty and sentenced to death. In
the case of Porter, his below-average intelli-
gence limited his ability to properly demon-.
strate his innocence. If it weren't for the
efforts of a group of driven, capable stu-
dents Porter would have been put to death
- having done no wrong.
While it is important to recognize theC
reporting students for their accomplish-
ment, the fact is that a man's life should not
rely on the off chance that a class chooses
his case to investigate. It is simply not the
place of the government to justify murder,
especially when it is clear that the system is
anything but infallible. In fact, there have
been nine previous cases in which death
row inmates in Illinois have been set free
after wrongful convictions. From this arises
the question of how many other wrongful
convictions are overlooked - even one is
too many.
People accused of crimes are often not
wealthy enough to survive the courts. Porter
did not have the smarts or the cash. In either
circumstance, people are subject to a high-
er probability of having their lives taken
because they are at an unavoidable disad-
vantage. This is not a favorable system. To
kill anyone for committing a crime is as
wrong as murder in any other context. But
to kill someone because he couldn't proper-
ly defend himself is, in any circumstance,
atrocious. Porter's case alone is proof
xan_ r hi _ t ug Aa a hraQ4 at n nra

AAASJ challenges
affirmative action
opponents
TO THE DAILY:
I am writing in response to David Taub's
Jan. 21 letter to the Daily ("Debate was
unfair to College Republicans"). First, I
would like to inform the University com-
munity that Academics for Affirmative
Action and Social Justice had only the best
intentions when challenging the College
Republicans to a debate. We were interested
in organizing an event in connection with
the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday and
decided that an open mike debate would be
a fresh and innovative way of engaging in
constructive dialogue on the issue of affir-
mative action. It was then suggested that we
try and get an opponent of affirmative
action, to balance the debate, and hold an
open mike session at the end so that the
audience and University community could
challenge the ideas that the debaters had put
forth. CR accepted without reservation.
Secondly, while our experiences and
education have prepared us for defending
affirmative action, I assure you thAt our for-
mal preparation for the debate began well
after we had received confirmation from the
CR; therefore, we had the same time to pre-
pare. urthermore, for the record, both
Nadia Kim and Niki Dickerson (the AAASJ
debaters have not done extensive research
on affirmative action. Taub writes: "For
AAASJ's side, there were two PhD candi-
dates who conducted extensive research on
the issue." Taub's statement is false.
Furthermore, each side was given the same
amount of time to respond five minutes
to state ther argument, in addition to the
fie aminutes allotted to each side to rebut
the statements of their opponents.
Finally, ahen the former president of the
CR brought Ward Connerly to the
University last year, it was a direct assault
on affirmative action. If affiliates of the CR
can organize such events, then they should
be able to defend their reasoning for it.
Repubcans are not strangers to affirmative
action. As we have been fighting for affir-
mative action, they have been fighting
against. If they can advocate for the elimi-
nation of race-based affirmative action,
whether it be in University admissions, hir-
ing practices or any other segment of soci-
ety, then why shouldn't they be held
accountable and challenged? Taub, College
Republicans, anti- affirmative action propo-
nents, we would like to challenge any of
you to a debate. f graduate students are
unacceptable, then our organization has
numerous qualified undergraduate persons
who are willing to debate in their place.
Would you like a month, a semester or a
year to prepare? Fake your time - we are
not going anywhere and neither is the issue
of affirmative action.
Regardless of how long you prepare-
we will still be able to challenge your posi-
tions, beliefs and ideas.
FARAH MONGEAU
LSA SENIOR

, e
\.I

5?F r*ii Rz ~~5f
'e$
, t

campus for many resons There is almost
always the fear of bemg harassed, verbally
and physicaly, i inply r wearing a pink
triangle or for holng your significant
other's hand in pub [hese are not grave
offenses of any sort to the general public,
and yet somehow, beause they show a pos-
itive side to the I ( community, many
people are offended
For many ti iek w ill be a chance to
begin coming ou o t oset. For some, it
will be a chance to reah out to those want-
ing to come Out of the coset. For even
more, it wil be a chance to become aware
of the vast number o i(;BT people there
really are, and how norma" being queer
really is.
I hope th al t s on this campus
"l t a oent ts wk and recognize
the validiy antance of LGBTpeo-
ple. Is not, o oeven a matter of any-
hing more tan ah, gay people
aren't too st ' And or others, it could
be a much as p my gay friends."
And still the i na be able to say,
"I okay t ha I' ga.
As a memb n i community, I
urge everyone, no peak up and
take a stnd n or o al hose who are
esbian, gay, bi a n ndered. Your
u tear one per-
son say ' spprtyo,1eas o uch.
ib Woppor-
tunit, Wehritstrug h low-in-
the-Dark mar Wednesdays Red Shirt
Day or ay Kisn, don't let this
week go by wi t seriouy taking a
moment to reect o ur experience with
the LGT cormmuni ad how it affects
you.
Show your support No your opportu-
nity!
UKE LIPP
LSA JUNIOR
Footbal hockey
ticketprice
increase ufi

Diversity not crucial
to education
TO THE DAILY:
I'm writing in response to the editorial
"Threatening Diversity" (213/99). One partic-
ular line of interest is the one that states
"While it may not be immediately apparent,
we learn as much simply by being in the pres-
ence of students with varying backgrounds
than we do in the classrooms." I was amazed
at this statement. Apparently, all of this time
I've been overemphasizing the importance of
my professors and GSIs. I thought that they
were the ones who would teach me and help
facilitate my education. How wrong I was!
I guess that 50 percent of the stuff I've
learned here at the University has come
from the mere presence of individuals who
do not look like myself. Back in the early
part of the century, the British called the
radio the "ether," because some people
believed (wrongly) that the radio waves
traveled through a mythical compound in
the air that nobody could see.
Could it be this "ether" that allows me to
soak in 50 percent of my education? What if
my only interaction with people in my class
is telling the dolt behind me not to kick the
back of my chair? Can I still learn as
much this way, or do I have to say more?
Do you have to look and speak directly at
somebody for this mysterious ether to be
absorbed? Not only that, but can bad ideas
inadvertently flow into me while I'm not
paying attention? Can I get AIDS or some
other communicable disease from it? Do I
need an idea condom in class to keep out
the bad ideas?
Now look what I've done - I've got-
ten myself all worked up over this and I'm
not even sure what it is. I got so excited
about it that the other night I sat in a room
with a bunch of chemical engineers, hoping
that their intelligence would flow into me,
reducing my study time by 50 percent.
Unfortunately, it didn't quite work out that
way.
Here's anidea: let's get offbthis ridiculous
fallacy that merely being in the presence of
different looking people makes one's learning
experience any different. Most people get up
in the morning, go to class and come home
without any thought as to the cultural back-
ground of their classmates. The ones that do

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