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December 14, 2004 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 2004-12-14

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4 - The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, December 14, 2004

OPINION

0

420 MAYNARD STREET
ANN ARBOR, MI 48109
Utothedaily@michigandaily.com

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

JORDAN SCHRADER
Editor in Chief
JASON Z. PESICK
Editorial Page Editor

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

NOTABLE
QUOTABLE
44'Go back there
and please spare
his life.
- Scott Peterson's defense attorneys in their
final plea to jurors who would later decide to
sentence Peterson to be executed, as reported
yesterday by The Associated Press.

COLIN DALY

40 Lt y .

Gay activists misinterpret civil rights history
JASON Z. PESICK ONE SAMA.M VOICE

ay rights became
aprominentissue
in the November
. < election because liberals
sensed an opportunity to
expand gay rights and
some conservatives sali-
vated over the potential
to use the issue for polit-
ical advantage. Many
advocates of expanding gay rights, includ-
ing this editorial page, compared the strug-
gle to achieve equality for gays to the civil
rights movement of the 1960s. But these
same advocates have failed to realize that
there are a number of differences between
the two movements.
The problem with equating them is not that
equality for black Americans should be put
on a higher plane than equality for gay Amer-
icans, but ironically, that the lack of startling
images of discrimination and a dark history
of slavery has made garnering support among
the American people for gay rights much
more difficult.
During the '60s, Americans decided the
time had come for the country to break with
the past on issues of race relations, but it
wasn't because moderate Americans sud-
denly experienced an ideological transfor-
mation. David Garrow, a law professor at
Emory University, has written, "Violence
by segregationists, combined with what was
generally portrayed and perceived as the
movement's generally nonviolent nature and
its highly legitimate goals, had the effect both
of making the movement appear 'extremely
virtuous' in comparison to its opponents and
of depicting racial segregation as far more
brutal than the majority of white Americans
realized. Needless to say, a very major role
in creating those all-important perceptions
and reactions among both the society at
large and political actors in Washington was

played by the media ... "
It was the stark images of "white only"
signs in front of bathrooms and drink-
ing fountains, the scene of Alabama Gov.
George Wallace standing in front of a
schoolhouse door to keep blacks from enter-
ing, the bombing of Birmingham's 16th
Street Baptist Church in which 21 children
were injured and four girls were killed,
the incarcerations of civil rights leaders,
the assassinations, the firefighters aim-
ing their hoses at demonstrators, the dogs
attacking the demonstrators and the police
beating them that finally made Americans
cry "Enough" - not altruism or an intense
wave of racial understanding.
On March 7, 1965, "Bloody Sunday," a
civil rights march in Selma, Ala, turned to
chaos as police used tear gas and clubs on
demonstrators. The Associated Press quoted
U.S. Rep. James G. O'Hara as saying, "This
savage action in stormtrooper style ... must
have shocked and shamed Americans." And
it did. But wild events such as this are more
rare in the gay rights movement than they
were in the '60s.
There is no history of enslaving gays,
sending them to separate schools or allow-
ing them to live in economic squalor. Thank-
fully, gay Americans are not relegated to the
slums of society.
And leaders in the gay rights movement
understand this difference. The New York
Times's John Broder wrote that Steven
Fisher, the communications director for the
largest U.S. gay and lesbian advocacy group,
the Human Rights Campaign, "said the
group's emphasis in coming months would
be on communicating the struggles of gays
in their families, workplaces, churches and
synagogues." This strategy could be more
effective, but discrimination against gay
Americans, while abhorrent, rarely carries
the shock value that the frightening vio-

lence against black Americans did. So the
American people's response will be less
decisive now than it was 40 years ago. Cru-
elly beating people demonstrating for their
most basic civil rights violates core Ameri-
can principles. As Jimmy Carter might say,
our nation's soul was at stake.
Unfortunately, however, many leaders
of the civil rights movement now operate
under the assumption that because of the
asymmetries between what was at stake for
blacks and what is now at stake for gays,
gay rights is not as noble a cause as racial
equality was. On the same day that gay cou-
ples in Massachusetts could begin to have
their marriages legally recognized, a num-
ber of well-known black clergymen went to
Washington to show their opposition to gay
unions.
The San Francisco Chronicle quoted
California Bishop Frank Stewart as say-
ing, "Gays have never gone through slavery
nor been put down and abused like blacks."
Seven black pastors, known as the San
Francisco Tabernacle Clergy said in a joint
statement that comparisons between the
movement for gay marriage and for civil
rights "are offensive and belittle the cause
of freedom and racial justice."
Maybe partly because the black commu-
nity tends to be socially conservative and
therefore opposed to gay rights, these cler-
gy mistakenly advocate the position that
because gays have not endured the same
hardships blacks have, they are not entitled
to equal rights. It's a dangerous rhetorical
path to tread - a sick competition of whose
grievances are more compelling.
In this country, a community's history
does not disqualify those people who com-
pose it from receiving equal rights.

Pesick can be reached at
jzpesick@umich.edu

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Sexuality requirement an
unnecessary burden
TO THE DAILY:
As I read the article about a proposed gen-
der and sexuality requirement (Required sexu-
ality course proposed, 12/09/2004), I found
myself wondering why a single group of stu-
dents would want to require all students to
take a gender/sexuality class? These classes
already exist - why can't these people take
the classes themselves and leave everyone
else alone?
Added requirements only increase diffi-
culties for students. Ask almost any under-
classman who recently went through the
registration process, and he will tell you
how difficult it is. When certain classes are
required, you end up with entire classes of
students rushing to take them. Slots in these
classes become so limited that students have
to work their whole schedules around them,
eliminating other classes that they would
rather take or that are more relevant to their
interests. Language, writing, race/ethnicity
requirements and others all add to this mad-
ness. Adding yet another requirement will
only make the situation much worse.
Forcing students to take a class they do
not necessarily want to take is not only a
waste of time and money, but it hurts stu-
dents who are actually interested in the
topic. You cannot force people to use their
minds. I just finished my race and ethnicity
requirement, and it was obvious that many
students wanted to do as little as possible
to get the credit and be done with it. Filling
classes with resentful students drags down
the educational value of the class and hurts
students with a real interest in it. A gender
and sexuality requirement will likely have
the same results.
I have not yet resolved why a certain group
of students wants to force the rest of us in the
College of Literature, Science, and the Arts to
take a gender and sexuality requirement. The
1,000 signatures they gathered seems like an
insufficient sample at such a large university.
Group members were noted as saying that
because of the outcome of the 2av marriage

want to increase public awareness on the issue
that's fine, but leave me out of it.
I desperately hope the University does not
adopt this plan. It will be an unnecessary bur-
den on staff and students, it will degrade the
educational experience for interested students
and it is an attempt to use the student body as
a political tool. I hope that I am not the only
one who feels this way.
Clark Ruper
LSA freshman
The letter writer is a member of Young
Americans for Freedom
Letter writer's attack
on Israel unfair
TO THE DAILY:
The letter to the editor (Taking sides in
Middle East conflict is a bad move for student
government, 12/13/2004), in yesterday's
paper is disgusting, and I can't believe that
it was published for the whole student body
to read.
The author says, "Please refrain from
providing unwavering support for a racist
state whose illegal occupation and defi-
ance of more than 60 U.N. resolutions does
not bode well for America's position in the
world. In order for the United States to
gain the international respect and coopera-
tion it needs to prosper, we must bravely
reject the fascist Zionist agenda."
How can you let someone call Israel a
racist state that has a fascist Zionist agen-
da? Also, he says, "The aspirations of
the Palestinian people to sovereignty and
human dignity, in the face of atrocious
Israeli oppression and humiliation, are not
to be ignored. They are to be embraced."
Palestinians send suicide bombers into
Israel all the time to kill non-combatants.
Why isn't that included in the letter?
They don't want peace. This is ridiculous.
I want a letter printed with the opposing
point of view.
Gary Weintraub
LSA freshmen

While the Dearborn student's heart may
be in the right place, I am afraid that
Baydoun may give the campus commu-
nity an errant view of divestment and the
divestment movement. No one within the
Palestinian movement on this campus
is calling for divestment from Israel on
the basis of questionable claims regard-
ing the nature of Israel. Some may have
read Baydoun's statements as some kind
of shadowed attack on Judaism or even as
blatant anti-Semitism, and it is important
to clarify that the divestment movement is
not based upon these principals and even
has Jewish members within its ranks.
Furthermore, scare tactics should not be
employed by members of this community
in order to push for divestment. Wheth-
er or not Israel is a cause of the United
States's problems in the Middle East is
not of importance. Using scare tactics is
not the most honorable manner in which
to promote divestment. Regardless of
Israel's impact on U.S. policy, divestment
should be pushed based upon its moral
and legitimate principals. Israel's flagrant
violations of international law and ongo-
ing occupation of the Palestinian people
should be reason enough for our univer-
sity to cut ties with companies that give
Israel military assistance.
Mohammed Elghoul
LSA senior
The letter writer is Vice Chair of Students
Allied for Freedom and Equality.

LETTERS POLICY
The Michigan Daily welcomes letters
from all of its readers. Letters from Uni-
versity students, faculty, staff and admin-
istrators will be given priority over others.
Letters should include the writer's name,
college and school year or other University
affiliation. The Daily will not print any let-
ter containing statements that cannot be
verified.
Letters should be kept to approximately
300 words. The Michigan Daily reserves the
riaht to edit for length, clarirv and accu-

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