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August 03, 2009 - Image 5

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Publication:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2009-08-03

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Monday, August 3, 2009
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

15

BRITTANY SMITH I EWP;[ NT1
Altering race dialogue
Never has the black American of "Black in America" was to re-
story - my story - been told in a introduce ourselves to each other
thorough, candid way. Only the and the entire world as black
surface has been scratched, and no Americans, telling our complete
real effort has been made to delve story and the challenges we face -
deeper into the struggles and tri- along with showing the faces that
umphs that characterize the dis- combat those challenges.
tinct black American experience. The question is: Did CNN
History lessons in elementary achieve this goal?
schools and high schools explore Undoubtedly, O'Brien showed
the history of black Americans - faces of black Americans who
much like other groups of color - are pioneers and experts in their
only minimally. It's often taught respective fields, including film,
that many black Americans in this education, psychology and medi-
country were enslaved through- cine. Though the impact of the
out the American South, but they black professionals featured in the
were suddenly set free by the 13th special and others who have made
Amendment's abolition of slav- a career out of restructuring the
ery in 1865. Schoolchildren are black community can't be quan-
then taught that the Civil Rights tified, it was Geoffrey Canada's
Movement of the 1960's helped Harlem Children Zone that was
blacks and whites finally live in most striking. His commitment to
harmony, aided mostly by Dr. furthering the development of the
Martin Luther King, Jr.'s March black youth in Harlem physically,
on Washington and his notori- intellectually and socially was
ous speech on racial harmony, "I indeed inspiring. This was just one
Have A Dream." The end. example of how O'Brien's docu-
All that information is accurate. mentary highlighted the struggles
But it doesn't tell the whole story. black Americans undergo and the
The black American experience efforts that they face.
hasn't been explored in a forum Though I am a fan of O'Brien's,
that addresses issues that mark I agree with those in the black
our unique experience. CNN jour- community who have said that
nalist Soledad O'Brien tried open- she only scratched the surface of
ing such a forum with her special, the black experience in this coun-
"Black in America," the first part try. It's true that O'Brien depicted
of which aired in July 2008. A sec- the challenges that haunt black
ond part aired this July. Though America - like the achievement
I don't think the specials were gap, economic distress, the threat
the best way to open up dialogue of immobility in corporate Amer-
about the black American experi- its and healthcare - in her four-
ence because it lacked an interac- hour, two-part segments in this
tive element, I do believe O'Brien year's "Black in America 2." But
accuratelyspotlighted black Amer- that doesn't equate to an in-depth
icans' efforts to rebuild our com- conversation of institutionalized
munity and redefine to the world and structuralized racism on a
who we truly are as a people. wider scale.
Within my circle of family and I am now left to wonder: Did
friends, there has been much O'Brien not feature an in-depth
debate and speculation as to the conversation about racism in her
intended audience of the special CNN Special because she knows
and the purpose it was supposed this country isn't ready to have an
to serve. Some of them said the honest conversation on race? If so,
purpose was to give white Ameri- when is the country ever going to
cans a lesson on who black Ameri- be ready to have that conversa-
cans are and what our experience tion? Or maybe the better question
has entailed. is this: Is our country ever going
Others, like me, didn't feel that to be ready? My hope is that this
"Black in America" was intended country will come to a time when
for one specific race. I suspected a discussion - no matter how
that the special's intended pur- uncomfortable it may he - will he
pose was to be an outlet for black had. Because only once we have an
Americans to tell their story, his- honest conversation on race and
tory and experiences to whoever its effects on whites and people of
would listen, regardless of racial color alike will this countrybe able
background. It gave black Ameri- to progressively mobilize from sys-
cans the opportunity to speak tematic insensitivity.
- and to do so without a voice-
from outside the black community Brittany Smith is an
speaking for them. The purpose LSA sophomore.
LIKE WHAT YOU SEE LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
HERE? WANT MORE? Tell us what you think.
Check out more from Daily Send letters to tothedaily@
opinion writers online on umich.edu or visit michi-
Wednesday and Friday. gandaily.com and click on
Go to michigandaily.com. 'Letter to the editor.'

ELAINE MORTON I

E-MAIL ELAINE AT EMORT@UMICH.EDU

W yAA?}4oc vi Wi-9of r6 cc IAe
Smoking or non?

After strolling into my new
workplace three weeks
ago and meeting my co-
workers for
the first time, I
quickly learned
that one was a
smoker. Luck-
ily, my work- '
place was very
accommodat-
ing to non- PATRICK
smokers like ZABAWA
me. The build-_
ing we were in
looked like it had been specifi-
cally designed to keep smokers
and non-smokers separate, with
permanent overhangs outside the
building where smokers lurked
all day - overhangs far from the
main entrances that the rest of us
frequented.
But other workplaces in Michi-
gan aren't so accommodating to
non-smokers. This is especially
true for bars and restaurants.
Employees there have no choice
but to inhale the dangerous sec-
ondhand smoke permeating the
establishment's air day after day.
To protect the health of these
employees, the Michigan legisla-
ture has repeatedly tried over the
past three years to pass a state-
wide ban on smoking in all indoor
public places. But its efforts have
always failed - and rightly so.
A statewide ban would infringe
upon the rights of bar and res-
taurant owners and would be an
unnecessary extension of govern-
ment into the lives of private citi-
zens. But in the past two months,
a number of restaurants in Ann
Arbor have decided to stop smok-
ers at the door on their own. Their
decision shows that bar and res-
taurant owners can make healthy
decisions about smoking in their
establishments - and that the
state legislature should stop try-
ing to take away their ability to

do what they want with their own
establishments.
Banning smoking in bars and
restaurants statewide would be a
draconian move, taking away the
liberty of smokers - like my co-
worker - even at the establish-
ments that choose to welcome
them. It would be an example of
the state using the law to pre-
vent bar and restaurant owners
from making their own decisions
regarding their own property.
But many people believe that
the state should take this liberty
away from those owners.
It all comes down to choice.
People choose to smoke, bar and
restaurant owners choose to let
them smoke on their premises
and their restaurant employees
choose to work there. All are free
to do the opposite - smokers can
quit, bar and restaurant owners
can prevent smoking on their
premises and their employees
can seek jobs elsewhere.
But supporters of a statewide
smoking ban point out that bar
and restaurant employees often
have no option but to face smok-
ing in the workplace. If employees
want to escape their smoky work
environment, finding a new job
in Michigan is nearly impossible.
And bar and restaurants owners
have typically been afraid to ban
smoking in their establishments
because they're afraid they'll
lose customers to the place next
door - the one that still welcomes
smokers. Many bar and restaurant
owners actually support a state-
wide smoking ban - that way they
wouldn't lose customers.
But a July 22 Ann Arbor News
article listed three Ann Arbor
restaurants that have decided
this summer to ban smoking in
their establishments - The Pull
Moon, The Earle and Arbor Brew-
ing Company (Tired of waiting
for legislature to act, Ann Arbor

restaurants ban smoking in their
establishments, 07/22/2009). The
Earle did it as a result of Ann
Arbor's Restaurant Week. Arbor
Brewing Company did it for the
health of its employees.
These three Ann Arbor restau-
rants have shown that - contrary
to popular belief - many restau-
rant owners' desire to prevent
smoking ontheir premises and are
willingto do it without a statewide
ban. In fact, according to the Ann
Arbor News article, Arbor Brew-
ing Company also banned smok-
ing there because of the state's
inaction with a smoking ban.
The restaurant was tired of wait-
ing for the state to ensure that its
competitors didn't get its smoking
patrons, so it risked its business
in order to make the restaurant a
healthy environment.
A statewide
smoking ban is
unnecessary.
A smoking ban in Michigan
would infringe upon owners'
rights to do what they please with
their property. And the simple
discussion of a statewide smok-
ing ban is distracting bar and
restaurant owners from stopping
smoking in their establishments
- keeping their employees in the
very environment supporters of a
statewide ban want to take them
out of. The state should stop this
fruitless discussion and let restau-
rant owners make their own deci-
sions - decisions that are turning
out to be in everyone's interest.
- Patrick Zabawa is the summer
associate editorial page editor. He can
be reached at pzabawa@umich.edu.

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