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November 26, 2014 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 2014-11-26

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Page 4A - Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

b1idhiian &i1yj
Edited and managed by students at
the University of Michigan since 1890.
420 Ma ynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
Unsigned editorials reflect the official position of the Daily's editorial board.'
All other signed articles and illustrations represent solely the views of their authors.
Major improvement
New minor increases diversity education on campus
B eginning in Winter 2015, University students will have the
opportunity to minor in Intergroup Relations. The new
minor takes a variety of courses already offered to students
and formalizes them into a defined program. Courses emphasize
students exploring a variety of social injustices stemming from
race, sexuality, gender, socioeconomic status and (dis)ability. The
University should be commended for expanding academics to
include studies of different identities and it should find more ways
to encourage students to take these classes.

The story about the elephant

Drew Simon told me this one
at the pachyderm exhibit
in the Denver Zoo, and I
told it to Spencer
Dodge at the edge
of a ramshackle
cemetery in
Santiago, Chile.
That's a better
place to tell it,
and where I'd tell
it to you if you
and I were there
together. Walking AVERY
through the DIUBALDO
graveyard slums
where the poor
are marked with wooden crosses,
I'd ask you if you knew the story
about the elephant, and when you'd
say "no," I'd begin like this:
So, a young American zoologist
is doing field research in Africa,
and at dusk he sees, at the bottom
of a huge yellow valley, an elephant.
This is unusual. Firstly, because,
while elephants are herd animals,
this elephant is alone; and secondly,
because this elephant is standing on
only three legs. The elephant holds
its fourth leg in the air, bending it
at the knee.
The zoologist carefully
approaches the elephant,
examining the underside of its foot,
and sees that a shard of rusty scrap
metal has been jammed into the
fleshy part of the hoof behind the
toes. He grips the metal with his
bare hands and yanks it out.
He steps back a couple of feet
and the elephant looks at him.
Not through the side of its head,
like you'd think it would, not as a
cow might look, but dead-on, like
a dog, or a person. The zoologist
looks back. They share something:
a moment.
And thenthe elephant walks away.
Years pass.
One day, while he and his family
are vacationing on the West Coast,
the zoologist goes off to a local zoo
and peeks into the elephant exhibit.
There's a little waist-high fence
and a steep concrete slope, at the
bottom of which there is, of course, an
elephant. And the zoologist thinks, I

recognize that elephant, but he doesn't
know how, or from where, and as he
walks further along the fence to get
a better look, the elephant sees him,
they lock eyes, and the elephant
raises its hoof Just like the one in
Africa.As ifitremembers him.
He figures it's just a coincidence,
so he leaves. But he returns again
the next day, and the day after that,
and the day after that. Every day, the
elephaht gives him the same signal.
one day, when the zoo is mostly
empty and nobody is watching, he.
flips his leg over the fence, slides
down the concrete slope, and walks
to the elephant.
. Theelephantraisesits foot,justlike
he thought it would, and the zoologist
puts his hand on the underside of the
hoof. The elephant looks at him, just
as before, and they have it again: this
moment, anunderstanding.
And then the elephant reaches
out with his trunk and tears off the
zoologist's head.d
And that's the end of the story.
This ending can be explained in
two ways:
The first explanation is that
the elephant in the zoo and the
elephant in the savanna are two
different elephants.
The zoologist, in a momentary
lapse of professional judgment,
has forgotten just how easy it is to
confuse one elephant for another,
and has transposed the image of
an elephant from the past onto the
image of an elephant in the present.
Perhaps a recent, unresolved
tragedy has addled his mind, sent
him reeling, and now he looks for
meaning where none exists.
And if the two elephants are the
same elephant, he reasons, then it
cannot be so by mere coincidence.
It must be, somehow, fated. In the
whirling, kaleidoscopic torment of
the universe, he and the elephant
are fixed points, two particles tied
together by some unknowable,
supernatural bond. Theirs is not a
meaningless reunion. The two of
them have met again not by chance,
but by fate - it is meant to be.
But it is not meant to be. The
elephant is the wrong elephant, the

zoologist will be killed, and the world
spins on.
The second explanation is that the
elephant in the zoo and the elephant
inthesavannaare the sameelephant.
At first, this seems impossible.
What are the odds that the
zoologist and the injured elephant
would meet again, years later, on
the other side of the earth? Or that
the elephant would even recognize
him? All elephants look the same,
we think. Why should an elephant
feel any different about us?
But what cannot be ignored is
the fact of the elephant's signal,
the raising of its foot. The odds that
any other elephant should learn
this gesture - and that this gesture
should only be made in the pres-
ence of a specific person - are so
astronomically low that one might
be led to conclude that the two ele-
phants are one and the same.
To accept this conclusion, as the
zoologist does in his final moments,
is to choose to believe that reality
is, at some fundamental level,
an ordered thing, with purpose,
meaning and a design.
of the two explanations offered
above, both are valid, but it's the sec-
ond that makes for the better story.
Storytelling (and the same can be
said for the study of history, although
I'm sure there are plenty of histori-
ans who would disagree) is the con-
version of unstructured experience
into structured narrative. In short,
meaning is discovered - or invented
- where it could not be seen before.
And so when we think of the
zoologist standing at the edge of
the enclosure, gripping the iron
fence and tensing his legs, we prefer
to imagine that he's been right all
along, that the past and future are
conjoinedby more than the sequence
of events between them, and that all
this is happening for a reason.
He stares at the elephant. The
elephant stares back. And behind
its flat black eyes is not the dumb
curiosity of a beast, but the silent
recognition of Death.
Avery DiUbaldo can be reached
at diubaldo@umich.edu.

Students in the minor must finish between
19 and 22 credits and the program requires
two intergroup dialogue courses that empha-
size open discussions about a variety of topics.
Students fill out their identifications for race,
sexuality, (dis)ability, socioeconomic status and
gender prior to receiving an override for cours-
es. Then, applicants are sorted into groups on a
specific topic to allow for diverse backgrounds
in each space. Providing these courses helps
students tackle tough conversations about
diversity issues that are pertinent to the Uni-
versity. Students can become more aware of
oppression, gain communication skills among
those of different backgrounds and learn the
fundamentals for exploring these conversa-
tions outside of the classroom.
After enrolling in the intergroup dialogues,
students choose one of two tracks: facilitating
or research. Facilitating teaches students
to lead similar conversations in a group
setting, and research seeks to explore and
provide information on different prejudices.
Either pathway leads students to recognize
and challenge issues of oppression through
a medium relevant to their future career.
Without the minor, it may not be feasible for
students to thke'so many classes to develop
these skills. However, formalizing these
classes into a program allows students to
engage with relevant topics while receiving a

certification that demonstrates their strength
in dealing with these issues.
With the positive experiences that can come
from enrolling in these classes, the University
should work to expand these courses. First,
the University could allow relevant majors to
accept these dialogues as cognates, so more
students would be able to fit these courses into
their schedule. Second, with the creation of this
minor, the University should create an initiative
to raise awareness for these courses. Many stu-
dents may not know about these classes simply
because theyaren't heavily promoted, and their
successes could grow with increased atten-
tion. Third, work should be done to separate
students by level of knowledge on a subject.
While those of a minority or underrepresented
group will naturally be more familiar with cer-
tain concepts, work should be done to ensure
the room isn't an even divide of informed and
uninformed participants. Rather, people's.
knowledge of a topic should be on a spectrum
to maximize the best possible education.
Providing students a formalized education
in these social injustice issues shows strides
by the University to spread awareness about
prejudice. However, this is only the first step.
While students are expandingtheirknowledge
of diversity, the University must work to find
additional ways to expand diversity on this

Edvinas Berzanskis, Devin Eggert, David Harris, Rachel John, Jordyn Kay,
Aarica Marsh, Megan McDonald, Victoria Noble, Michael Paul, Allison Raeck,
Melissa Scholke, Michael Schramm, Matthew Seligman, Mary Kate Winn,
Jenny Wang, Daniel Wang, Derek Wolfe
Rules to live by

BAMN's betrayal of sexual assault survivors


ast week, affirmative action group
By Any Means Necessary shut down
what's usually a humdrum monthly
Board of Regents meeting
and pressured administra-
tors to flee behind campus
police escorts.
It was an unruly outburst
even by the group's spirited
standards. BAMN had want-
ed to pack this last meeting;
specifically, by mobilizing
activists passionate about YARDAIN
ending rampant sexual AMRON
assault on campus.
So two weeks prior to
the meeting, Kate Stenvig,
a BAMN lead organizer, attended the Sexual
Assault Prevention and Awareness Center 28th
Annual Speak Out along with 300 other peo-
ple. The space had been pre-declared safe and
confidential for survivors of sexual violence to
share their personal, traumatic stories.
Stenvig spoke briefly about her personal
experience dealingwithsexualabuse,and mostly
about BAMN. She appealed to the audience to
join her group in protest at the upcoming regents
meeting. At the end of the event, a second BAMN
member positioned at the door, flyered the
exitingattendeeswith BAMN materials.
The promotional move irked many, but
would have remained a small blip in what oth-
erwise was a powerful night for victims - if not
for what BAMN did next.
In an open letter SAPAC published Monday in
The Michigan Daily, the activist group claimed
BAMN members had been speaking in class-
rooms "retelling stories shared at Speak Out
without the consent or knowledge of survivors."
If true, this would be an egregious viola-
tion for multiple reasons. First off, for many
victims of sexual assault, their stories are the
one power they can still claim over their rap-
ists, who have already violated their bodies.
For another, you never know who's listening;
whether the rapist himself, or his friend who
knows the story is in the room.
If you still don't see why this is a big deal, it
might be as helpful to you as it was to me, to
read the first few graphs of the Rolling Stone
piece about rape at University of Virginia
(warning: extreme trigger warning).
I interviewed Stenvig and asked her if
SAPAC's allegations that BAMN had violated
anyone's privacy or confidentiality were true.
" ... Completely false," she said. "We have
never used anyone's name or specific story."
A part of me was skeptical, so I tracked
down students who were in those classrooms
and a different story quickly emerged. LSA

senior Sarah Goomar, a SAPAC member,
wrote to me that two male BAMN members
gave a presentation in her International
Studies 401 class and "one of the men retold
a story shared at SAPAC's Speak Out." In a
separate interview, LSA senior Lydia Lopez, a
classmate of Goomar's, corroborated the story.
Lopez is unaffiliated with SAPAC and did not
attend the Speak Out, but recalled that two
men, one of whom "was talking about how he
went to the Speak Out and one of the survivors
said X, Y and Z."
In a separate art history class, LSA senior
Bianca Wilson, a SAPAC member, wrote to me
that BAMN members used a couple of examples
from the speak out to both talk about the
outrageous way the University handles sexual
assault and incite students to help them "pack
the regents meeting." Wilson also sent me a
photo she snapped of the presenters, and I've
confirmed one of the faces as Stenvig.
At this pivotal moment, with sexual assault
and racial diversity finally in the spotlight, I
cannot reiterate enough just how unfortunate
this situation is. We need groups like SAPAC
and BAMN fighting for these issues, but we
need them doing it thoughtfully. BAMN's tac-
tics were uneducated, insensitive, and hurtful.
And it makes sense: the group only this year
added sexual assault prevention to their list
of demands. Historically, their focus has been
almost exclusively onminority enrollment.
Stenvig and BAMN may have had good inten-
tions. But in the end, intentions matter little next
to results. And at this moment, the result is that
survivorsfeelbetrayedbyBAMN. Insteadofsup-
port, BAMN knowingly or unknowingly tried to
incite passion using pain that they have no right
to and that they clearly don't understand. In an
attempt to push an agenda and fix an institutional
pandemic, BAMN forgot the most fundamental
piece of the reality: the human beings. You can't
fix a problem by disrespecting the very people
whose problem you say you're trying to fix.
Stenvig had multiple opportunities to admit
her and BAMN's error, and to apologize to the
survivors whose stories the group co-opted.
Unfortunately, the most she could muster
was "I have no problem apologizing if I've hurt
someone, butI don't think that's the case."
If you are a survivor of sexual assault that
spoke at the Speak Out and feel hurt by BAMN's
actions, Iask that you help me convince Stenvig
and BAMN of the damage they've done. Send
me your feelings, and Iwill pass them along. An
apology can't take back the betrayal, but it's a
better first step than pervasive hatred.
Yardain Amron can be reached
at amron@umich.edu.

Don't ring, text.
I hovered my hand above the
doorbell, poised to ring it. As my
fingers stretched, approaching the
button, I remembered the pact we'd
made. I quickly adjusted my motion,
sliding my hand into my pocket
to pull out my Blackberry. A few
seconds later my phone vibrated in
response, affirmation that my friend
was coming to get me. She slowly
creaked open the front door of her
house and ushered me inside. We
crept upstairs, anxious to begin our
sleepover. When we finally entered
the privacy of her room, we breathed
a collective sigh of relief and grinned
at the heist we had just pulled.
Get out before her dad wakes up.
The next morning, sunlight
spilling through the windows
reminded me of our agreement. I
crept downstairs and out the front
door, dialing my mom's phone
number. Embarrassed about the
real reason for my early departure,
I would tell her half-truths about
why I had to be picked up at 8
a.m. on Saturday mornings. "I
just wake up so much earlier than
my friends and I don't want to sit
around and be bored." In reality,
this arrangement was the result of a
humiliating conversation. "My dad
is racist," she apologized. "He just
doesn't want me hanging out with
When faced with racist comments,
don't show your hurt or anger. People
won't take you seriously.
Though I would like to say that I
grew up with a strong sense of self
and pride in my people, I was taught
the difference between white and
wrong at a very young age. I learned
not to get in the water at pool
parties, so I could keep my stiff
hair hidden under the heat of my
flat iron. I learned to research and
memorize the lyrics of John Mayer
and The Red Hot Chili Peppers so I
could appear knowledgeable about
the "acceptable" music preferences.
I learned that "for a black girl" was a
necessaryqualifier for compliments

that passed my way. Pretty for a
black girl. Smart for a black girl.
Articulate for a black girl. Little by
little, I was socialized to believe in
a shameful "truth," that Black is an
inherently negative descriptor. An
ugliness I would need to overcome
to be respected, valued, worthy.
So Istarted to compensate. Ibegan
to distill the things that I wanted
to do into the things I was allowed
to do, given my Blackness and how
I thought others would perceive
me. As I had more experiences
with racism my filter became more
refined, and I added new constraints
to my growing list.
When faced with a difficult class in
college, never, ever drop it. Especially
when you are the only Black person
in the class. You don't want to give
credence to the belief that you were
accepted solely because of your race
and you can't handle the challenge.
When applying for a job, remove
any race-related organization from
your resume that a white person could
read as radical or self-serving. Black
Volunteer Network may stay, but the
Women of Color Collective must go.
When cat-called or harassed
on the street; just say nothing and
keep your head down. You don't
want to be seen as the scary, angry
Black woman.
When going out with your Black
friends don't walk together ina large
group. Make sure there are several
feet between every pair of people so
others don't feel threatened.
When an officer of the law asks to
see your license, "accidentally" hand
them your school ID first, so they
know you are getting an education
and will treat you better.
When shopping, always carry the
items you are considering purchasing
far away from your body, so salespeo-
ple won't think you might steal them
and have you arrested, or worse.
My whole life I have been indoc-
trinated into playing by the rules.
I truly believed that as long as we
all mastered living within the arbi-
trary boundaries of what a Black

person "could" be, we would be
protected because of it. But that
just isn't true. These white lies
just try to hide the fact that under
white lies one thing: fear for white
lives. But instead of challenging
this pervasive, irrational reaction,
we systematically assuage it at the
expense of my people. I saw this in
President Obama's speech after the
Fergusonverdict, whenhe said "the
law feels as if it's been applied in a
discriminatory fashion, but I don't
think that's the norm." I saw it in
the words of the St. Louis County
Executive, as he pleaded for people
to "think with their heads and not
their emotions." Both men trying
to restore a narrative in which the
predictable, state-supported mur-
der of Blacks isn't a big deal. I see it
right here, in this article, knowing
that the way in which I have cho-
sen to write will make me eligible
for compassion and understanding
from white readers that I wouldn't
have been privy to otherwise.
Whenever talking about how
you've been impacted by with racism,
only share the most overt, irrefutable
examples so you will be seen as
logical instead of over-sensitive.
Explain racial oppression through an
unemotional lens so white people will
take notice and care.
You may think I'm a hypocrite,
but within that tension is the
only place my Black experience is
allowed to exist. Wanting to show
that there many different ways to
be Black, but knowing society will
only reward and accept me for one
of them. Trying to live in America
like the rules don't apply, but also
trying to just live. Waiting outside
in the darkness for her message that
will finally tell me I am welcome to
come in.


Michigan in Color is the Daily's
opinion section designated as a space
for and by students of color at the
University of Michigan. To contribute
your voice orfind out more about MiC,
e-mail michiganincolor@umich.edu.

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