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"The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding." --Louis D. Brandeis
Marriah Star's editorial ("A Lack of Common Ground," Oct. 25) is so replete with contradictions and half-truths that we are almost reluctant to dignify it with a response. As if equating the Harvard Black Students Association with the Ku Klux Klan were not enough to completely discredit his argument, Star goes on to fill his lengthy article with multiple inane, illogical assertions. He begins by stating that we, as Americans, are "stuck in the tradition...of judging other people by their color." He later contends in his conclusion that "racism merely pervades the outer fringes of American society, not its core." Clearly, these are irreconcilable positions. How can racism be a part of the American tradition, deeply rooted in all of us, yet also be confined only to the "outer fringes" of our society?
Star asks the question, "Beyond racism, are black people...still oppressed?" He answers his own query, writing. "If you take the indirect and circumstantial route, yes.... If you take the direct route, no." He continues his string of contradictions by naming police brutality as a tool of institutional oppression. Star then states that police brutality "actively hurt[s] the black community and keep[s] it from achieving everything that it can." Once again, these two ideas are incompatible. How can police brutality actively hurt the black community, yet not be considered a "direct" form of oppression? We contend that few forms of oppression could be more "direct" than being beaten into submission with a policeman's club.
Star states that "overt institutional racism [is] the conservative right's natural reaction to the Civil Rights movement." There is nothing "natural" about racism. It is a learned response to insecurities, fear and ignorance. The use of the word "natural" also implies that a governmental response of racism is merited by the actions of the Civil Rights movement. We suggest that racism was not a "natural response" to the Civil Rights movement, but that the movement was a "natural response" to the racism already in existence.
Perhaps the most disturbing idea proposed in Star's editorial is that the black people's discontent with America today stems solely from their resentment of prior incidents of racism. Star himself admits that racial biases have long prevented equality of opportunity. "Exactly what is the black community mad about?" he asks. "There has never been a time in American history when all members of the black race have had opportunities before them." Star has accepted racism as an intrinsic part of the status quo and views its apparent permanence as a reason for black people to concede defeat, passively accepting the inferior status which has been assigned to them. Hmmm...interesting concept. We don't think so! To cease resistance simply because a problem appears intractable is absurd.
So, "what is the black community mad about?" Well, among other things, confused and ignorant apologies for racism by people such as Marriah Star. --Joshua D. Powe '98 Treasurer, Black Students Association Patrick J. Klemawesch '98
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