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June 10, 1988 - Image 6

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 1988-06-10

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OPINION

Friday, June 10, 1988

The Michigan Daily

U.S. Indians still suffer

Unsigned editorials represent the majority views of the Daily's
Editorial Board. Cartoons and signed editorials do not
necessarily reflect the Daily's opinion.
'U' loses Morris

THE IMMINENT DEPARTURE of a
Black Associate Professor o f
Sociology, Aldon Morris, to
Northwestern University and the
surrounding circumstances is a case
study in the institutional racism
that pervades the University.
Morris has made extensive and
meaningful contributions to to the
University community and society
as a whole. He has received several
awards for his book, The Origins of
the Civil Rights Movement, and
served as a consultant for Eyes On
the Prize, The Television History
of the Civil Rights Years 1954-
1965. At the University, he has
served on several committees, in-
cluding the Executive Committee,
the Minority Affairs Committee,
and the Admissions Committee.
The Sociology Department has
not hired any other Black faculty
since Morris arrived in 1980.
Despite the administration's
repeated promises to increase and
retain minority faculty, th e
increases have been negligible, and
the number of minority
terminations has almost doubled in
the last year. Black faculty
represent only 2.9 percent of the
total senior ranks and 3.9 percent of
junior ranks. The number of Black
assistant professors has decreased
from 30 in 1981-82 to 24 in 1987-
88.
The administration is not
fulfilling its promises. By failing
to recruit and retain Black faculty,
the administration is preventing the
University from becoming the
diverse intellectual, social and
cultural community it should be.
If the administration is serious
about fighting the racism inherent
in the current structure of this
institution, it should have done
everything in its power to convince
Morris to stay at the University.
Morris originally wanted to take a
leave of absence, a request which is
almost always granted. Morris' re-
quest was refused. Only after
intensive lobbying by the Office for
Minority Affairs and the
Department of Sociology did
LS&A make Morris an offer
comparable to the one Northwestern
had made him. In addition, he was
told that if he went to Northwestern

and wanted to return, the terms of
the offer would no longer apply.
Confronted with this lukewarm
response, it is no wonder Morris
decided to leave.
If the administration expects
people to believe its repeated claims
that it wants to retain a significant
number of minority faculty, it
should rectify its mistakes, and
avoid repeating them in the future.
To induce minority faculty to
come and stay at the University, the
administration must do more than
just refrain from making
inexcusable mistakes like those it
did with Morris. Part of the reason
universities like Michigan and
Northwestern compete over people
like Morris is that there aren't
enough Blacks in the university
system to begin with. The
University must start an intensive
recruitment program at the
undergraduate level to ensure a
larger pool of Ph.D. candidates,
which will in turn ensure a larger
pool of Black faculty to recruit
from.
Further, the administration must
make the University a place in
which minorities will feel
comfortable. It must hire more
Black administrators, respond
effectively to racist incidents on
campus, and diversify the
curriculum.
The environment of Ann Arbor
must also be improved if minorities
are expected to stay. The University
can use its influence in the
community to help develop a
school system to which minorities
will want to send their children, and
sponsor cultural and social events
that address the needs and desires of
minority community.
Unfortunately, this is not among
the University's priorities.
The administration has a lot of
work to do in its effort to dismantle
the institutionalized racism so
deeply ingrained in the University.
Its first step should be to retain
Morris, whose contributions have
been invaluable. It is a sad
reflection on the administration that
Morris, who has spoken out against
institutionalized racism time and
again, is now himself a casualty of
it.

HUMAN RIGHTS WAS ostensibly
Ronald Reagan's top priority in his
Moscow summit meeting with So-
viet leader Mikhail Gorbachev last
week. In his hypocritical lecture to
the Soviets on human rights, Rea-
gan indicated his own warped
understanding of the situation of
Native Americans.
In his Moscow University ad-
dress, Reagan said 'maybe we made
a mistake" to have "humored"
American Indians "wanting to stay
in that primitive lifestyle." Instead,
Reagan suggested Native Americans
should all leave the reservations-
which the U.S. government forced
them onto in the first place- and
integrate themselves into main-
stream (i.e. white male) society.
In his offensive comments, Rea-
gan clearly demonstrated his cow-
boy movie view of Native Ameri-
cans as inferior beings, again ass-
erting the supposed superiority of
the "American way."
The media is also responsible for
this state of affairs in our country.
Just about anyone who reads the
newspapers must be aware of for-
mer and current Soviet political
prisoners such as Andrei Sakharov.
On the other hand, the American
Indian Movement (AIM) and
Leonard Peltier, a Native American
prisoner of conscience, are rela-
tively obscure to the American
public.
Reagan's chauvinistic treatment
of Native Americans is neither new
nor surprising. Our conveniently
forgotten history of genocide allows
U.S. citizens to act as though the
Native Americans never existed at
all, or only as stereotyped mytho-
logical figures of the past. For this
reason, our schoolchildren are
taught that Christopher Columbus
discovered America.

Furthermore, the Washington
"Redskins" pro football team is
named as such to indicate that its
players embody the ruthless vio-
lence with which bad westerns
stereotype Native American charac-
ters. The Redskins' mascot wears a
"war bonnet." This cavalier treat-
ment of a Native American sacred
symbol and ritual is highly offen-
sive- in the words of Phil St.
John, a Dakota Sioux: "For a
Christian, that would be like Fred
and I running down the football
field dragging a big cross."
St. John heads an Indian rights
group called Concerned American
Indian Parents(CAIP), which has
worked successfully in Minnesota
to change local schools' Indian
nicknames. There is also a group in
Washington, D.C., called Fans
Against Indian Racism(FAIR),
which is lobbying for the Redskins
to change their name.
It is sad that Native Americans
had to go to Moscow in order to get
the President of what was origi-
nally their country to listen to
them. It is even sadder that when
Reagan describes human rights
abuses in the Soviet Union, he
might just as well be describing the
violent genocide his government
continues to perpetuate against Na-
tive Americans.
AIM has also brought to light
the fact that mining for nuclear raw
materials, testing of nuclear
weapons and burial of nuclear
wastes occurs on Indian reservations
as frequently as on unoccupied
wasteland - but not at all in areas
of our country populated by whites.
According to the Cultural Survival
Quarterly, the United States "has
exploded 651 nuclear weapons and
'devices' on Newe Sogobia, the
Western Shoshone Nation."
Thus, a Native American nation

has the dubious honor of being the
most bombed nation in the world.
The Western Shoshone Nation is
trying to resist this devastation by
issuing permits to those who wish
to use its land, including peace ac-
tivists who stage sit-ins at ground
zero to halt nuclear testing.
The case of activist Leonard
Peltier is another good example of
AIM work that warrants more me-
dia and nuhlic attentinn Accnrdine

Indian Parents; distributed
by the National Conference
of Christians and Jews.
to AIM, Peltier has been framed by
the government for the murder of
FBI agents.
The facts in the Peltier case are
astonishing. In 1985, despite the
urgings of Amnesty International
and others, the Eighth U.S. Circuit
Court of Appeals denied Leonard
Peltier a new trial in spite of glar-
ing weaknesses in the prosecution's
case. It has also come to light that
the FBI fabricated evidence in order
to extradite Peltier from Canada to
face trial in the United States.
Although Gorbachev has met
with Sakharov and gained front
page media coverage in the West,
Reagan has yet to meet with Native
American groups- a fact the me-
dia has only now begun to notice,
as Reagan completes his second
term. It is time the media focused
more on AIM and Native American
issues as well as human rights in
the Soviet Union.
As Gorbachev must have won-
dered last week, why should the
Soviets listen to Reagan's self-
righteous lectures if the U.S. record
is just as bad as theirs? If his
outrageous remarks provoke a sub-
stantial examination of the oppres-
sion of Native Americans, Reagan
may actually have succeeded in
putting human rights on the
agenda.

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