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October 06, 2009 - Image 4

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4

4 - Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
E-MAIL ELAINE AT EMORT@UMICH.EDU

Edited and managed by students at
the University of Michigan since 1890.
420 Maynard St.
r, '' , r Ann Arbor, MI 48109
tothedaily@umich.edu
GARY GRACA ROBERT SOAVE COURTNEY RATKOWIAK
EDITOR IN CHIEF EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR MANAGING EDITOR
Unsigned editorials reflect the official position oftthe Daily's editorial board. All other signed articles
and illustrations represent solely the views ofttheir authors.
Laggieng on LEED
Coleman must back up call for sustainability with action
greener University may be on the way, according to Presi-
dent Mary Sue Coleman's speech yesterday. In her annual
State of the University address, she focused on plans to
double research spending and increase environmental sustainabil-
ity at the University. And while she's right to make these two issues
priorities of the University, it's important that her words translate
to action, especially concerning sustainability. The University has
lagged behind others in creating a more environmentally friendly
campus and Coleman should erase past failings by truly revamp-
ing University buildings and energy practices.

ELAINE MORTON I

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Nothing is free

4

There's no easier punching bag
for people on all parts of the
political spectrum than a
person who even
subtly implies that
freedom of speech
is not absolute. And
yet, here I go.
During last
week's debate over
reggae artist Buju
Banton's appear-
ance in Ann Arbor,
some people were IMRAN
outraged by the SYED
message this appar-
ently homophobic
musician furthers
with every performance. Some sim-
ply decried the Blind Pig for allowing
him to perform, while others thought
it their right to prevent him from per-
forming.
The latter group drew criticism
of its own. While it's okay to protest
hateful speech, the critics argued,
it's never okay to try to silence fringe
viewpoints. This isn't a new argument
- the battle for free speech is about
protecting fringe viewpoints, because
those are the ones that can't protect
themselves.
While I understand that argument,
I wonder why that's the rule.
Liberals like to argue that the Con-
stitution is an abstract concept, not
simply a laundry list of rights. They
reject absolute, concrete readings of
most parts of the document because
they believe such nearsightedness
detracts from the Constitution's larg-
er purpose - to create a free, progres-
sive, prosperous society.
There is no more prominent exam-
ple of this than the Second Amend-
ment. Liberals laugh at the right's
literal reading of the right to bear
arms. They contend that the Second
Amendment was a proxy to counter
the tyranny America was emerging
from. It wasn't meant to imply that

every citizen may own a gun, but sim-
ply affirmed that the nation's military
would serve the will of the people and
not the whims of a solitary despot.
I happen to buy that argument. I
think it makes sense that the framers
intended the Second Amendment to
counter the evils they suffered under
their former British overlords.
But what if the First Amendment
is also a proxy - not meant to be
read literally, but rather meant as a
check against the tyrannical ways
that speech had been suppressed in
the colonies? Could it be that the free
speech part of the First Amendment
never stood for "anyone can say any-
thing at any time," but rather, simply
meant the government cannot sup-
press individual ideas for the further-
ance of its official stance? I buy that
argument, too.
One of the most famous articula-
tionsregardingthe boundaries offree-
dom of speech was made by Justice
Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. in the 1919
Supreme Court case Schenck v. United
States. Holmes wrote that imminently
dangerous speech that serves no pur-
pose, like falsely yelling "fire" in a
crowded theater, isn't protected under
the First Amendment.
Most ofus can agree with the result,
but I contend that the line Holmes
drewwas rather arbitrary. Some liber-
tarians have contested that even yell-
ing "fire" in a crowded theater could
be a protected right. If it causes prob-
lems, the theater owner has a claim
against the shouter, but that doesn't
take away the shouter's initial right to
shout "fire" whenever and wherever
he pleases.
Like my libertarian friends, I
believe that to draw a boundary line
anywhere in the realm of free speech
is to question all speech. But unlike
them, I don't see this as a problem.
Yes, speech can be limited. Rather
than hiding behind the First Amend-
ment, individual speakers must pro-

tect their ideas with veracity, logic
and persuasion.
Freedom of speech was designed as
a proxy for creating a society in which
constructive ideas freely flourish and
can be used as a base for progress and
solutions. It wasn't meant to sustain
idiocy and hatred, and yet too often,
we Americans proudly say that it was.
By elongating the First Amendment to
protect obscene hate speech, we harm
our freedom and prosperity. That
undermines the actual larger purpose
of the Constitution.
Even the First
Amendment has
its limits.
Some will say that what I argue is
dangerous because once speech is lim-
ited, even legitimate minority argu-
ments will be suppressed. That would 4
be true, but only if we take the lazy,
passive approach to rights that we've
gotten used to taking under the status
quo.
Technology has brought us to
the point at which free knowledge
exchange can't be seriously threat-
ened - at least not so long as the
abstract reading of the First Amend-
ment as a check against totalitarian-
ism remains in force. When speech is
no longer protected simply because it
is speech, we won't all magically be
deemed mute. Instead, we will begin
to actively assess the merits of what
we're saying and what is being said in
the million conversations that make
up our nation.
But even that may be a frightening
noionyto some.
- Imran Syed can be reached
at galad@umich.edu.

President Coleman's speech recounted
a number of developments at the Univer-
sity, including its success in reaching total
research funding of more than $1 billion
for the first time in the University's his-
tory. Coleman expects this figure to double
by 2017, which would surpass the nation's
current leader, John Hopkins University,
at $1.55 billion annually. She also spent
significant time announcing the creation
of several new positions and committees
designed to make the University more sus-
tainable. These included the Sustainability
Executive Council, which will monitor sus-
tainability at the University, and the Office
of Campus Sustainability, which will coor-
dinate sustainability programs on campus.
Focusing on sustainability is certainly
appropriate, given the critical importance
of environmental preservation issues.
Wide-scale environmental challenges
like global warming, biodiversity loss and
increasing scarcity in resources like fresh
water are now well-documented and pose
very real threats to animals and humans
alike. Experts andthe-public are-increas--
ingly forced to acknowledge that the
planet's growing population of consumers
can only be sustained through two routes:
more environmentally friendly practices
or serious and permanent damage to the
environment, at home and abroad.
With such high stakes, it's disappoint-
ing, if not surprising, that administrators
have allowed the University to fall behind
the curve on sustainability. Coleman deliv-
ered her speech at the newly constructed
Ross School of Business, which features
environmentally friendly construction

and achieved silver LEED (Leadership in
Environmental and Energy Design) certi-
fication. But this building came in behind
Massachusetts Institute of Technol-
ogy's new business school and Stanford's
planned business school, which are both
expected to receive higher LEED certifica-
tions. And the University's new B-School
was only the second building on campus
to receive LEED certification. The other
building, the School of Natural Resource's
Dana Building, only features a suitably
green design because students approached
administrators and urged them to modify
their plans and pursue LEED certification.
Making matters worse, Coleman told the
Daily in an interview after her speech that
she isn't going to sign the American Col-
lege and University Presidents' Climate
Commitment. The commitment, which
aims to combat greenhouse gas emissions
and curb global warming, has already been
signed by 654 university presidents. Cole-
man claims that the environmental stan-
dards called for by the commitment are
-mrealistic, -butsettingdifficultgoa-lsisone
of the best ways to ensure that progress on
environmental issues is made. Coleman's
inaction here calls into question how seri-
ous her commitment to a sustainable Uni-
versity really is.
Administrators must make sure that
Coleman's comments on sustainability
amount to more than just lip service. Form-
ing committees is just a start - adminis-
trators must actively look for ways to make
buildings more environmentally friendly.
And they should listen to students ideas on
the subject, too.

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR:
Readers are encouraged to submit letters to the editor. Letters should be less than 300 words and must
include the writer's full name and University affiliation. Leiters are edited for style, length,
clarity and accuracy. All submissions become property of the Daily.
We do not print anonymous letters.
Send letters to tothedaily@umich.edu.
SUNIA ARIF
Combating racism in schools

4

4

Right to free speech doesn't
justify homophobia and hate

ND LETTERS TO: TOTHEDAILY@UMICH.EDU
booked not only Buju in the past, but other acts
even more controversial for their homophobic
lyrics. I wonder exactly how this excuses their
endorsement this time of an artist known for his
homophobic lyrics. In any case, Berry seemed to

TO THE DAILY: be implicitly aski
I was involved in the protest of the Buju Ban- testing at those e
ton concert at the Blind Pig on Sept. 30, and answer to that qu
after following the media coverage of the event ting tired of deal
over the last few days, there are a few things I haps we are justb
would like to clarify.
First, this protest was not a part of a "gay Matthew Leslie
agenda." This protest was about equality on a School of Music,I
variety of levels. Banton has called for violent
action against an underrepresented and under- M ayor
privileged community. To me, it doesn't mat- Hl
ter what the unifying factor of this community i
happens to be, but rather that there is someone side again
seeking to harm members of that community.
Furthermore, there were not only matters TO THE DAILY:
of homophobia present here but also problems In responset
of ethnic prejudice. Jason Berry, the booking Mayor John Hie
manager for the Blind Pig, said in his statement to censor speech
to protesters that Banton's viewpoints were gusted the Daily
just a manifestation of Caribbean culture and protest, 10/01/20(
that our protest was merely an example of two Hieftje camec
cultures butting heads. As a queer person of defending the L
Caribbean descent, I take great offense to this. help broker a dea
It is a lie that Caribbean culture is homoge- that we could pu
neously homophobic. I submit that if the Blind along. He addres
Pig wanted to cater to the small but important if it was up to him
Caribbean community inAnn Arbor, they could been performing
have done so by booking a Caribbean artist who free speech. He
doesn't advocate hate and violence - of which of Ann Arbor sho
there are many. Furthermore, the protest and allowing Buju Ba:
the protesters have no problems with the Carib- The mayor ho
bean community in Ann Arbor, but rather the attention to the f
ignorance at the Blind Pig that allowed this mances are not*
concert to happen. I sent Mayor H
Second, I want to address the topic of "free because as a me
speech," which seems to be repeatedly coming nity, it meant a g
up both in the media and in my personal conver- ported us. If The]
sations about the event. In no way was the pro- KKK member an
test infringing upon Banton's free speech, nor it, would the Dai
did the protest even have anything to do with trying to censor
free speech. While the freedom of speech as it is everyone does no
interpreted in this country does allow people to As recently as
voice their opinions openly, it does not guaran- his music to advt
tee them to be booked for a concert at the Blind people. I'm glad
Pig, which is precisely what we were protesting. speak out again
Banton has every right to speak homophobia the venues that h
and hatred in his own life. We just ask that Ann those who advoc:
Arbor establishments not promote this kind of of anyone to be a
entertainment. test. Sure, they ca
I would like to conclude by focusing on anoth- our rights to prot
er comment made by Berry. In speaking with us,
he expressed surprise at the fact that we were Mitchell Meyle
protesting this concert, since the Blind Pig had Alum

ing why we had not been pro-
vents, as well. I don't know the
uestion, but maybe we are get-
ing with homophobia. Or per-
beginning to find our voice.
-Santana
Theatre & Dance senior
ieftje was right to
st offensive lyrics
to the editorial saying that
ftje shouldn't use his power
, I must say that I'm quite dis-
would say that (A pig and a
09).
out in support of our protest
GBTQ community, trying to
l with The Blind Pig in hopes
ut this behind us and just get
sed the crowd and told us that
, this performer wouldn't have
tonight, but he didn't censor
acted as any admirable citizen
uld when he spoke out against
nton to perform.
ped that he could help bring
act that these kinds of perfor-
what Ann Arbor is all about.
ieftje a personal thank you,
mber of the LGBTQ commu-
reat deal to know that he sup-
Blind Pig had booked a Nazi or
d the mayor spoke out against
ily really accuse the mayor of
free speech? It's just sad how
t see these parallels.
2006, Buju Banton has used
ocate violence against LGBTQ
I my mayor feels he needs to
nst performers like this and
host them. We simply can't let
ate for the murder and torture
llowed to speak without pro-
an speak, but we are all within
test them at every word.

For years, racism has been presented to me as an
obsolete issue. As an elementary school student, I recall
learning about the Holocaust, the key players in the civil
rights movements and the Japanese-Americans during
the internment era. I read narratives of Anne Frank and
Frederick Douglass, but my attempt to actually recognize
the contemporary incidents related to these persecutions
frequently failed. These incidents were handled with a
hands-off, historical approach, separate from present-
day people and issues. Because of this, it's easy to believe
that racism is an ideology of the past. In order for youth to
gain a more modern understanding of racism, the concept
of racism needs to be presented in a more contemporary
fashion through candid dialogue.
Unfortunately, racism isn't only an ideology of the
past. It still remains a very relevant problem today - even
locally. As reported by the Daily, a 16-year-old Muslim
girl was attacked on a school bus in Ann Arbor less than a
month ago (Muslim teen reportedly attacked in Ann Arbor,
09/19/2009). The assailants, the girl's peers, reportedly
chanted, "Fuck Arabs, they are dirty," while pulling off
her Islamic headscarf. The girl required six stitches to
her face as a result of the injuries.
When I first heard about this incident, I was shocked
that it could have happened - especially in an area like
Ann Arbor, which is celebrated for a liberal and diverse
culture. How could anyone commit such a hateful crime?
But then again, are these young assailants really at fault?
These students, like me, have been introduced to the con-
cept of racism as if it has ceased to exist.
But racism does exist, and kids are aware of it. For
many families and teachers of children, a call for more
dialogue regarding racial issues can be challenging to
employ. Those who find the idea difficult argue that the
more we identify and discuss racial differences, the more
apparent race becomes to children. Contrary to this argu-
ment, according to a study published in Newsweek on
Sept. 5, children naturally categorize almost everything
according obvious visual factors like race. In the study,
University of Colorado professor Phyllis Katz asked a
group of 3-year-old children to choose friends out of a pile
of photographs. Of the Caucasian children, 86 percent
chose friends of their own race. Two years later, Katz met

with the same children and asked them to split a pile of
pictures using any method they preferred. This time, 68
percent of the children used race to categorize the piles.
Studies similar to Katz's reveal that race is a visible
characteristic to children, discernable at a young age.
Assuming that this theory is valid, discussion about cur-
rent racial issues in schools will not hinder a child's abil-
ity to see each other as equals because children already
inherently recognize differences in color. Children learn
most from experience and discussion, so an earnest con-
versation on race will only build a better foundation for
students to understand racism.
Experience and discussion is also what led me to a
deeper comprehension of racism. As a Muslim-American,
the time following Sept. 11 was a period in which my peers
questioned my faith and neglected to understand Muslims
beyond what the media reported. Initially, I was upset
by these remarks. But then participated in multicultural
and dialogue groups that raised awareness of Islam and
encouraged conversation around racial issues. Because of
my exposure to such programs, I was able to make better
sense of what racial problems face the world today and
help others avoid being racist.
When I looked into the story of the Muslim girl who
was attacked in Ann Arbor, I couldn't help but wonder if
this crime could have been avoided if the assailants had
been offered a type of racial dialogue similar to the one
I had after Sept. 1L The assailants were African Ameri-
can, and could have been victims of racism themselves.
But through their experience and education, they may not
have been given the opportunity for dialogue to deal with
racial issues and diffuse racial resentment. Had they been
given the chance to talk about race, they may have seen
racism as more than a fact of life.
Talking about prevalent matters of racism, rather than
simply learning about the past, is the most important step
for understanding racism and subsequently combating it.
Until we recognize the fact that these issues are still alive,
we will continue to fail students in their comprehension
of race and racism. Once schools draw the bridge between
past and prese.
Sunia Arif is an Business sophomore.

4

EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBERS:
Nina Amilineni, Emad Ansari, Emily Barton, Ben Caleca, Brian Flaherty, Emma Jeszke,
Raghu Kainkaryam, Sutha K Kanagasingam, Erika Mayer, Edward McPhee, Harsha Panduranga,
Asa Smith, Brittany Smith, Radhika Upadhyaya, Rachel Van Gilder, Laura Veith

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