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March 06, 2006 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 2006-03-06

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4A -The Michigan Daily - Monday, March 6, 2006

OPINION

U be Lirb~i gun tIl

DoNN M. FRESARD
Editor in Chief

EMILY BEAM
CHRISTOPHER ZBROZEK
Editorial Page Editors

ASHLEY DINGES
Managing Editor

EDITED AND MANAGED BY STUDENTS AT
THE UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN SINCE 1890
420 MAYNARD STREET
ANN ARBOR, MI 48109
tothedaily@michigandaily.com

NOTABLE
QUOTABLE
I'm proud to
be out of
touch."
- Actor George Clooney, accepting his
award for Best Supporting Actor, addressing
Hollywood's historical willingness to tackle
controversial themes such as civil rights and
AIDS before the public is ready to accept them,
during last night's Academy Awards ceremony.

KATIE GARLINGHOUSE -ousE ARREsT

6

Unsigned editorials reflect the official position of the Daily's editorial board. All
other signed articles and illustrations represent solely the views of their author.

e

When will the Daily learn?
MARA GAY CoNfN1O SENSE

a0

hen will the
Daily learn?
Almost four
years after a plethora of
student groups boycot-
ted it for its racial insen-
sitivity and the lack of
diversity among its staff,
The Michigan Daily
continues to publish a
newspaper much of the
campus's black community sees as racist.
The Daily has made attempts to improve its
reputation and better serve the entire University,
but even the most promising among them have
failed. The Daily's Multicultural Commission,
for example - a temporary committee created
to help the Daily become more accountable to
minority communities and increase diversity
within its ranks, which I was a member of - is
one of these attempts. Even after the Commission
made official recommendations to the Daily's
editors, cartoons some in the black community
denounced as racist continued to be published,
coverage of positive events within the black com-
munity was hard to come by, and the threat of a
boycott loomed near once again.
Although the Daily is in no way absolved from
its responsibility to work honestly toward such a
feat, it is incredibly difficult to foster a sense of
understanding about racism and the insidious
ways in which it presents itself in the face of a
staff so devoid of diversity.
At a University where just getting through the
day without confronting racial prejudice and the
ignorance of classmates can be an exhausting
feat, the anger, resentment and sometimes just
plain indifference with which much of the black

community regards the Daily is not an overre-
action. But the overwhelming consensus among
the community to do little more than verbalize its
disgust for the Daily is a grave mistake.
Sorry to disappoint, but the Daily features no
smoke-filled rooms where The Man puffs a cigar
behind ornate mahogany doors and plots to destroy
the black community. The Daily's editorial board
- the group that decides the newspaper's official
opinions - holds open meetings twice a week
on Mondays and Thursdays at 6 pim. Anyone is
welcome.
It is not a conspiracy to further disenfranchise
minorities that prevents the Daily from serv-
ing the entire University community fairly. The
greatest obstacle is a staff that is as predominant-
ly white and affluent as it is largely ignorant of
the experiences of minority students at the Uni-
versity. How can the Daily be expected to fairly
cover minority communities if so few of its staff
are students of color?
There are many students working hard within
the black community to create positive change.
From holding a Black State of the Union as a way
of assessing where progress needs to be made to
supporting the extensive volunteer organizations
on campus, there is no doubt that there are stu-
dents committed to seeing the campus's black
community - and by extension, the University
- move forward.
But vilifying the campus newspaper is coun-
terproductive and reactionary. No campus com-
munity can ever hope to hold equal membership
in the University by shunning its greatest oppor-
tunity to speak out and be heard. The Michigan
Daily is one of the greatest tools for creating
progress in the black community, but it is also
the most underused. Those who are interested

in journalism, business, photography, politics or
simply speaking their minds should be encour-
aged to join the Daily, especially if they hail from
communities that are chronically underrepre-
sented and misrepresented in the news.
At Michigan, where issues surrounding race
and racism seem to be never-ending, the task
of educating our white peers about minority
issues seems daunting. It would be far easier, of
course, to mouth off about how racist the Daily
is, how steeped in privilege its members are and
how hopeless the situation appears. Few are the
moments when you are able to truly be an indi-
vidual in the classroom; rare are the days that
do not include defending your right to attend the
University, justifying the right of every black and
minority student on this campus to belong.
The situation is unfair and it is exhausting, but it
is the reality people of color have come to know all
too well in America. With the constant battles over
affirmative action, the seemingly endless stream
of racist incidents and the silence from a student
newspaper that is supposed to represent our voice
as well, the prospect of joining the Daily can be
overwhelming. But according to the 2001 edition
of Black Issues in Higher Education, only 8.7 per-
cent of blacks in America hold a bachelor's degree
or higher. We have a responsibility to make things
better for our communities, even though doing so
means hard work and painful interactions at the
boundaries of our comfort zones.
The contemptuous regard for The Michigan
Daily is reasonable, but it is not productive. It
is self-censorship of an already silenced com-
munity. And it has got to stop now.
Gay can be reached at
maracl@umich.edu

VIEWPOINT
Forget Tibet, free Burma

Besides geographical proximity, Bud-
dhism, isolation and vocal opposition
groups, what do Tibet and Burma (also
known as Myanmar) have in common? Not
much - except that one needs a few moments
of your time and the other won't be freed
before the end of one-party rule in China. Your
actions from abroad can help free the peoples
of Burma.
In 1990, after 28 years of military dicta-
torship, Aung San Suu Kyi and her party, the
National League for Democracy, won an over-
whelming majority in nationwide elections.
The Burmese military junta has blocked the
assembly of elected parliamentarians. After a
near assassination by junta-backed thugs three
years ago this May, Suu Kyi remains in "pro-
tective custody" - the only Nobel laureate
under house arrest.
Though powerless in Burmese military cir-
cles, Burmese political parties remain active
inside and outside the country. Networks of
opposition media expose the continued human
rights abuses, forced labor and environmental
destruction the junta perpetuates. They prove
that Burma is a lot worse than Tibet.
Burmese farmers are tortured for failing to
provide rice to the army. Villagers are con-
scripted for government projects like massive
shrimp farms, the clearing of natural gas pipe-
line corridors, strip mining and timber harvest.
For their work, the people get to live another
day. Army officials get the cash.
No matter how much the government earns,
Burma has never developed an infrastructure
- unless you consider domestic suppression
techniques. Burma spends 40 percent of its
gross domestic product on a military with no
foreign engagements. The United Nations's
2003 statistics indicate that Burma's education
and health spending is 0.5 percent and 0.4 per-
cent respectively, both of which rank among

the lowest in the world.
The West's reaction to Burmese military tyr-
anny has focused mainly on aiding the Burmese
opposition and isolating the regime through
sanctions. Burma's neighbors, contrarily,
employ a "strategy of engagement." Thailand,
India, China, South Korea, Bangladesh and
others - if they try to justify their trade poli-
cies at all - argue that market forces will lead
to greater Burmese democratization. Concern
for human rights, the environment and the rule
-of law still effectively fall on the shoulders of
countries with sanctions regimes.
These American and European Union sanc-
tions are not enough. There are many every-
day steps that you can take to help free Burma
from military rule.
Just as boycotts and university divestment cam-
paigns helped push South Africa under apartheid
to the brink, so can similar efforts further isolate
and choke Burma's illegitimate rulers.
Avoiding Burma's few but lucrative products
-is simple. Most of the world's emeralds, rubies,
jade and teak wood come from Burma. Teak
timber is especially difficult to track because it
is often sold illegally to Chinese timber com-.
panies. These products should be avoided.
Travel to Burma aids the regime, not the
people.
Many corporations do business in Burma.
Among the big offenders include Sony Erics-
son, DHL, the Coca-Cola Company and Dae-
woo International. These corporations should
be held accountable. You can find a complete
list at www.global-unions.org/burma.
You can support exile groups. Last year,
the U.S. Campaign for Burma (www.uscam-
paignforburma.org) released a compilation
of songs titled "For the Lady," dedicated to
Suu Kyi. The SHWE Gas Campaign (www.
shwe.org) aims to stop an international gas
pipeline that could inject more foreign capital

in the Burmese regime than any other single
source. SHWE and other groups encour-
age writing letters to complicit corporations
and governments, a cheap way to make your
voice heard.
And if you really want an experience that
goes beyond student government or campus
activism, you can volunteer with the one mil-
lion or so Burmese refugees on the Thai border.
Many programs, such as the Burma Volunteer
Project (www.geocities.com/maesotbvp) and
EarthRights International (www.earthrights.org),
allow three-month stints or summer internships
for people who want to work in health clinics,
teach English or network with refugee and exile
groups on the border. And unlike most volunteer
programs, many projects actually pay volunteers
a small stipend. Thank you, George Soros and the
Open Society Institute (www.soros.org).
Of course, Tibetan exiles on the borders of -
the Tibetan Autonomous Region need help
as well, and international efforts to preserve
Tibetan culture should be applauded. But
don't hold your breath about Tibetan refugees
returning to their region to assume the reins of
government any time soon.
Work on Tibet is a stop-gap measure, like
throwing a bum loose change, or driving a
smaller SUV. Just because it makes you feel ,
good to put a "Free Tibet" sticker on your
bumper doesn't mean you're helping a Tibetan.
The Burmese junta is vulnerable. Your efforts
could tip the balance of power in this small
Asian nation.
The author is a former Daily editor who
has spent the last two years working with Bur-
mese democracy groups. The author has been
granted anonymity to protect his or her ability
to continue work with the Burmese democracy
movement. You can read a longer version of
this piece online at www.michigandaily.com.

LETTER TO THE EDITOR

Send all letters to the editor to
tothedaily@michigandaily.com.

Editorial Board Members: Amy Anspach, Andrew Bielak, Kevin Bunkley, Gabrielle D'Angelo,
Whitney Dibo, Milly Dick, Sara Eber, Jesse Forester, Mara Gay, Jared Goldberg, Ashwin Jagan-
nathan, Mark Kuehn, Frank Manley, Kirsty McNamara, Rajiv Prabhakar, Katherine Seid, Ben
Tavlo-r lessicai Tene, Raichel Waexner.

Student Conservative Party
is misguided and radical'
Tn ur n & ur v-

think that the Coke Coalition has insistedr
that every single student not buy any Coca-
Cola products, ever. In fact, the coalition onlyl
intended to suspend the University's businesst
tins. wivth C i.n-Cnlan untl it noe stocenrtt

The Coca-Cola Corporation has not complied
with this basic doctrine and thus its contracts
has been suspended. The suspension of Coca-
Cola's contract sends the clear message that
the Unvemity will hono~r its onnnrinc'inlesg

I

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