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March 28, 2001 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 2001-03-28

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4 - The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, March 28, 2001

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420 MAYNARD STREET
ANN ARBOR, MI 48109
daily.letters@umich.edu

Fashionable racism

AMER G.

ZAHR THE PROGRESSIVE PEN

EDITED AND MANAGED BY
STUDENTS AT THE
UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN
SINCE 1890

GEOFFREY GAGNON
Editor in Chief
MICHAEL GRASS
NICHOLAS WOOMER
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 imost every
minority group in
this country goes
through a period in
which it is fashionably
discriminated against
before there emerges any
type of popular backlash.
In the recent box-office
flop, "Rules of Engage-
ment," Yemenis are, as The Los Angeles
Times wrote, "serving as convenient and
cliched villains." No attempt was made to
humanize the Yemeni citizenry, as they
were run of the mill villains, ready to be
herded up. "The Siege," a Denzel Washing-
ton feature (it is disappointing that someone
who has stood up for so much in the Black
community would be so insensitive as to
star in such a movie), opens with a Muslim
cleric praying out loud in Arabic while "ter-
rorists" are carrying out a bombing attack.
The implications are clear. Muslim = Arab =
savage = terrorist = hate. We need to have a
discourse about this type of racism among
all members of the American community.
Many times in our American history, we
have found that racism against certain
groups has stemmed from American foreign
policy. The post-WWII situation of the
Japanese-Americans is probably the one
instance that most parallels the current situ-
ation of Arab-Americans. Surely, Japanese-
Americans would not have been hauled off
into concentration camps had not we been at
war with Japan. And perhaps we would not
be witnessing such discrimination against
Arab-Americans if our country did not have
such a dubious relationship with the Arab
people. There is no doubt a relationship
between our government's foreign policy
and the characterization of certain groups in
our mass media. Undoubtedly there is a

clear correlation between our sanction poli-
cies concerning Iraq (which, incidentally,
kill 5,000 children under the age of 5 a
month, according to the U.N.) and the
demonization of the Iraqi citizenry.
In many ways, our mass media indirectly
justifies our foreign policy. Racial attitudes
propagated by our politicians and confirmed by
our media made it possible for our government
to order over 120,000 Japanese-Americans into
internment camps in 1942. It is important to
note that German and Italian-Americans were
not put in camps, mainly because they had
assimilated for the most part, and ordering their
internment would most probably have been
politically impossible.
Similarly, "anti-terrorism" laws passed in
1995 by then-President Clinton, measures that
allow for defendants to be detained with secret
evidence if they are under suspicion of being
involved with a "terrorist" group (a term only
defined by the State Department and not review-
able by a judge or anyone else), have resulted in
23 of the 25 defendants held under the law
being Arab and/or Muslim. Only an environ-
ment of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim sentiment
propagated in the mass media could justify such
actions. The parallel with Japanese internment
camps is clear.
More stories need to be told. There was the
recent news story of Hillary Clinton returning a
$50,000 campaign donation given to her by the
American Muslim Alliance because her political
opponents, Rick Lazio included, called it "blood
money." Imagine the uproar that would ensue
had she returned money to a Russian-American
group amid criticism of her being sympathetic
to Communism. Clearly, there would have been
some sort of discourse, and news agencies
would have probably had a field day. In the case
of the AMA, however, news agencies treated it
as almost a non-story. Hillary's returning the
money was simply widely accepted, and no dis-

cussion ever ensued. This should be no surprise,
but it should nauseate you quite thoroughly.
This all stems from representation in our
mass media. Remember Jafar, the big bad
wicked vizier in "Aladdin"? Compare him with
Aladdin, our hero. Aladdin speaks with no
accent in the film, while Jafar speaks in an Arab
accent. Aladdin's skin color is fair, alm
"American." On the other hand, our villai
skin color is much darker, much more "mysteri-
ous." Well, we don't have any historical evi-
dence that in medieval Arabia anyone spoke
English in an American suburban accent. Clear-
ly, Disney made a conscious decision to make
their hero look and sound like "us" and their vil-
lain to sound and look like "them."
Similarly, Chinese-Americans (another
group not so favored by American foreign
policy) are most times depicted as owners of
dry cleaning establishments who rant
rave and yell and shout. Incidental ,
according to our 1990 Census, both Chi-
nese-Americans and Arab-Americans had
higher rates of high school graduation than
the population at large. Still, however, we
see no Arab-American or Chinese-American
protagonists in our television media and
there don't appear to be any on the horizon.
There is no Chinese "Friends." That's too
bad. I'd watch it.
So we come back to the main problem:'T@
type of prejudice is universally accepted. It's
fashionable. But it is still racism. Many don't
think twice before engaging in it. And unfortu-
nately the stories are rarely told. Has it ever hap-
pened to me? Yes. Very recently, in fact. But
I've run out of space to tell my story.
Amer G. Zahr's column runs every
other Wednesday. Give him feedback
at www.michigandaily.com/rum or via
e-mail at zahrag@umich.e@

Achenbaum
'imprisoned' by
feminist thought
TO THE DAILY:
Emily Achenbaum in the Daily's March 26
issue, "Tit for tat: the Playboy/NOW smack-
down" inaccurately characterized Playboy's
model selection, along with lobbing scurrilous
charges against the magazine. She argues that
Playboy has a monolithic conception of physical
beauty, offering its readers little in variety in
terms of models. Nothing could be further from
the truth; a cursory perusal of the magazine's
models and centerfolds over the years would
attest to a variety of body types, races, etc.
Achenbaum took one issue of Playboy maga-
zine and extrapolated an inaccurate overarching
theme. I guess if this is her concept of
"research" and "investigation," it should no sur-
prise that she would come to an erroneous
impression concerning Playboy's selection and
presentation of models.
Achenbaum also charges Playboy with
exploiting women and perpetuating unattainable
body styles. First, it is hard to imagine how
Playboy, as a media influence, has much impact
on women. The vast majority of Playboy's read-
ers are men and since few women read the pub-
lication, I cannot see a direct impact Playboy
would have on women's conception of physical
beauty. Second, Playboy features women that
their overwhelmingly male readership likes to
see and if men appreciate that range of body
styles and images, so be it. Women, like it or
not, cannot tell men what should be beautiful.
This is a crowning example of the feminist
movement's detestable arrogance. If anything,
pornography (especially in Playboy's case) is an
example of the exaltation of women's beauty.
If women feel that the body image purported
by Playboy and the media at large is not truly
attractive and exploitive, they can simply reject
it and look any way they choose. But women
have no legitimacy in telling men what should
and should not be aesthetically pleasing.
Women need to take responsibility for their own
self-doubt and insecurities, rather than bitching
about what men appreciate in a women's physi-
cal appearance.
Achenbaum is not a truly liberated woman,
since she is unable to look outside the
"Women's Studies" box of thinking which
imprisons her.
FRANK GIANCOLA
LSA senior
Hideki: Thanks for
the MSA memories
TO THE DAILY:
As my term as Michigan Student
Assembly President ends, I would like to
the thank 3,491 students who voted for me
and Jim Secreto last year. It is absolutely
the greatest honor in my whole life to serve
as MSA president. I have accomplished the
majority of the campaign promises I made
when I ran for office last year: Putting text-
book info on LSA course guide and

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Friedman's Anti-affirmative
action decision must not stand

6

VIEWPOINT
The decision issued by Federal District
Court Judge Bernard Friedman yesterday in
the University of Michigan Law School
affirmative action case acknowledges, rati-
fies and, if upheld, will intensify racism,
segregation and inequality in American
education.
Judge Friedman's ruling is driven by
ideology. After the overwhelming case that
the student intervenors presented, Friedman
had to acknowledge "the long and tragic
history of race discrimination in this coun-
try" and how current inequalities in educa-
tional opportunities hamper "the
educational and professional advancement
of minorities." At the same time, he relied
on every dishonest legal trick and lie to bar
affirmative action programs, the only
proven and effective method for integrating
elite universities. He acknowledges the dev-
astating effects of racism, segregation and
inequality and then ratifies and reinforces
that same racism, inequality and segrega-
tion by rendering illegal and unconstitution-
al those measures that could actually
redress these fundamental problems.
Friedman's ruling begins with an attack
on the Bakke decision - a move that would
resegregate higher education and the legal
profession.
Friedman departs from existing law to
find that "diversity" - or put more plainly,
an even partially integrated student body -
at elite universities cannot be legally justi-
fied as a "compelling state interest." Social
progress, democracy, equality, justice and a
vibrant and unified American society can-
not be achieved except through integration.
Prejudice and mistrust can only be broken
down through integration.
We have never and will never achieve
integration and equality without conscious,
determined, positive action. The student
intervenor defendants' witnesses made this
abundantly clear to Friedman. John Hope
Franklin and Eric Foner, two of the student

made clear that we have only progressed as
a nation when we have consciously fought
against racism. Gary Orfield, director of the
Harvard Civil Rights Project, and Eugene
Garcia, dean of the Berkeley Education
School, made clear that every scheme tried
in California and Texas to achieve integra-
tion after affirmative action programs were
eliminated has failed miserably. Frank W
this nation's leading expert on affirmativ
action and Asian Americans, testified that
the end of affirmative action programs in
the University of California system has led
to a rise in anti-Asian racism and attacks.
Friedman acknowledges the undisputed
truth of this testimony, but refuses to act on
its logic. Friedman acknowledges and
blithely accepts the segregationist conse-
quences of his decision. The hypocrisy o
the decision mirrors Plessy v. Ferguson, th
Supreme Court case which established Jim
Crow segregation - the "separate but
equal" lie.
The BAMN-led student intervenor-
defendants had to fight to become parties in
the University of Michigan Law School
affirmative action case. Friedman initially
excluded us from the case. The 6th Circuit
Court of Appeals overruled Friedman and
allowed us into the case. Friedman tried to
deny us the time we needed to prepare our
defense.
Again, we fought and won. At trial,
Friedman tried to limit our witnesses' testi-
mony-in particular, the riveting and inspir-
ing testimony of our student witnesses.
Again, we fought and we won.
We have fought and defeated Fried-
man's biased, unfair anl. racist rulings in
the past, and we will do so now. We cannot
return to segregation and inequality sanc-
tioned by law. This decision must not stan
AGNES ALEOBUA
JESSICA CURTIN
ERIKA DOWDELL
The writers are members of the
Law School case student intervening
coalition. Dowdell, an LSA junior and
Curtin, a Rackham student, are
representatives on the Michigan Student

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