Acting Off the Stage

Last Saturday, the Harvard community was treated to a cultural extravaganza. It began with a sold-out show in Sanders and included a large food festival. Those who could get in were exposed to a large array of cultural talent from undergraduates here on campus. But does holding Cultural Rhythms every year mean that this campus actually cares about cultural events?

During the second half of the show, Tri M. Phuong '02, taking the mike from Matt Damon, Class of 1992, made a plea for an ethnic studies department. Many of the performers in yesterday's show wore neon green armbands, displaying support for the cause. There was even a panel discussion held on the matter last week. But has any or administrator come out in support of creating this new concentration? Performers in Cultural Rhythms have been wearing armbands for years now, dating back at least five years, and there still is no ethnic studies department.

Recently, the Society of Arab Students passed out handbills about the bombings in Lebanon. Afterwards, the only coverage that they got was an angry op-ed in The Crimson authored by members of Students for Israel. Two weeks ago, a group called Committee to Eliminate Media Offensive to African Peoples launched a protest in the Barker Center about the documentary put on by Professor Gates. What noise was made about that?


Nobody said a word when, last December, over 400 Haitian refugees were turned away from the United States. Where was the outcry from the students then?

Earlier in the year, the Black Men's Forum (BMF) brought Rev. Al Sharpton to campus to speak on racial profiling. It was held in a half-filled Lowell Lecture Hall, and the audience was made up of mainly graduate students. Where were undergraduates then?

And where was the BMF when, in Providence, R.I., a black police officer was shot killed by his fellow police officers? When two white police officers arrived at the scene of an attempted robbery, they found the suspect being detained at gunpoint by the black officer. The white officers panicked at the sight of a black man with a gun and shot the black officer four times, including a fatal shot to the head.

This campus suffers from a problem of apathy. As we all sit here in the comfortable confines of Harvard University, we forget that not everyone is as fortunate as we are. We see bad things happening all around us, and yet we do nothing about it. On Friday, the four New York City police officers who shot and killed Amadou Diallo were cleared of any wrongdoing. They were found not guilty of murder, or even of using excessive force in shooting an unarmed man 41 times. At a meeting held last night in Sever, there weren't even enough people present to represent each bullet shot.

In the shadow of Cultural Rhythms, it is time that Harvard does more than just host cultural talent shows. Showcasing the good of the cultures in the form of a talent show is a good start. But along with celebrating the best of what different cultures have to offer, we must also stand up and fight the worst of what each culture deals with. We cannot embrace the good, while dismissing the bad at the same time.

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