The Race Card

17 02 2008

FeaturesI first saw Richard Thompson on The Colbert Report of all places. He was interviewed recently for his latest book, The Race Card, which deals with accusations of racism where there either is none or is not reasonable amount of evidence to suggest that racism is involved. For more information on the book, visit the New York Times book review.

The ideas offered by Richard Thompson reminded me of an incident several months ago that provoked a similar response from me. At Miami University in Ohio, an art student placed seven nooses in a tree above a tire swing in such a way that the nooses could only be clearly seen from the swing. It was meant to juxtapose life and death. It had been previously accepted by the art department and was to be on display for less than twenty four hours very near the art department’s building. However, by the end of the day, police had turned the area into a crime scene, the officials at the university were considering what penalties should be handed to the students involved, and the news across the U.S. was depicting the completely innocent students as racially insensitive.


Interviews with students yielded commentaries on the events:

“I feel really disappointed because I’m a minority here, also, and this action shouldn’t be on campus,” said Weiying Wang, who is from China.

“Especially on a campus that’s dominated by white people and it’s only a few black people,” said Nick Winbush. “It’s probably only three-percent black people. I don’t think it’s acceptable.”

“Anytime you see something like that, you think of all the lynchings that were done,” said Towns, who saw the display before it was removed. “For anyone who is black, it depicts a time that you don’t want to relive.”

I argue that all these people are being completely unfair, if not absurd. First of all, this was done only days after Halloween; the atmosphere of Halloween should have been enough to take the ropes seriously.

Second, we know that the project was not racially motivated. If it was racially insensitive, and I insist that it wasn’t, it still was not a hate crime. The students should not be punished for society’s faults, for seeing too much good in people. I can’t imagine how I would feel to have to stop and consider the racial consequences of my every action. That isn’t to say I don’t try to act in a most respectful manner toward all people. I just don’t make an extra effort for some people based on the color of their skin or the nation of their heritage.

Third, nooses do not symbolize lynchings of black people. They symbolize death (as was their purpose in the art project). They have been used for thousands of years on people of every race in most every country. They have been used on people of every race and nationality within the U.S. itself. Furthermore, they have not been used in the recent past in the U.S. for much other than suicides. Minorities who suggest that nooses are racially insensitive are being racially insensitive. They are thrusting aside the deaths of millions of people and telling the world to focus solely on their struggles, and if not theirs, then their parents’ or grandparents’ struggles.

Many minorities cry that racism hasn’t gone away. Perhaps at some point they should look at themselves and ask why they aren’t letting it go away.

I’m not suggesting that there aren’t many real racism problems in the U.S. On the contrary, there is still a lot of work to be done. I’m simply suggesting that as long as minorities insist on others’ racist motives when there simply is no evidence to suggest them, racism can’t and won’t go away.

If I saw a noose hanging from a tree on campus, I would be probably be a bit concerned. I might wonder what is going on and what its reason for being there could possibly be. However, I would not immediately consider the possibility that it was created as an insult to minorities. There simply isn’t enough evidence to suggest that. If death by the noose is racially insensitive, then why the heck am I just as scared by the thought of be hanged as anyone else? Death is not simply black or white.

For further reading on this issue, please visit the following sites:
Everything isn’t about race
Academics’ artistic freedom only protects left wing provocateurs

No human trait deserves less tolerance in everyday life than intolerance

13 02 2008

FeaturesTwo Tunisians and a Dane have been arrested in a plot to kill Kurt Westergaard, one of several creators of the widely controversial cartoons featuring depictions of the Prophet Muhammad. This is the second time Danish investigators have foiled a “terrorist” plot since the initial release of the cartoons in 2005. Kurt Westergaard is 73 years old.

There are clearly differing opinions on the depiction of Muhammad. The controversy is based on several writings in Muslim texts, which warn against idolatry. This obviously isn’t a case of religious depiction for worship, however. No devout Muslim would worship a cartoon depicting Muhammad with a bomb strapped to his head. The majority of Muslims tolerate depictions of Muhammad as long as they are meant specifically to honor Muhammad and do not claim to recreate his actual appearance.

This is the cause of the controversy – the cartoonists doing the exact opposite of honoring: dishonoring. (Because I’m just on a roll with the opposites)

Certain Christian sects have similar traditions of not depicting religious figures to avoid idolatry. However, we have not heard outcries from them due to either the widespread disrespect of the image of Christ or the worship of his image rather than his self. Either they have simply given up hope that religious idolatry could be stopped worldwide, or they have learned of something called cultural and religious tolerance. It is fair for Muslims to call the rest of the world out on an issue of disrespect. However, there is a point at which it becomes extreme. The fervor surrounding the release of the cartoons would have suggested a prophet had been assassinated, not simply drawn.

Muslims around the world dislike the fact that the words “terrorism” and “Muslim extremists” are used interchangeably and rightfully so. Only a fraction of terrorists are Muslim, just as a fraction of terrorists are Christians, cultists, atheists, and so on. However, in order for the rest of the world to lose the connotation, many Muslims need to make an effort at tolerance. Islam has not taken control of the entire world yet. One cannot control the path that a man’s pencil takes on paper halfway around the world. The man was 73 years old. If the Muslim texts are literally correct, he will rot in Hell. But why take the time to try and put him there yourself, when all you’ll be doing is adding another blemish to Islam’s image as a religion of extremists?


Protests in Britain after the initial release of the controversial pictures

Heath Ledger: The shattering of reality

23 01 2008
Heath Ledger

NewsEvery person lives inside of a thin glass bubble we could call our sense of reality. Inside, we hold the things that make up who we are: the people we love most and the memories we have of them. Things happen outside the bubble all the time – people kill, earthquakes occur, rainforests are destroyed – but none of it really shocks us, because it doesn’t affect us and our sense of reality. We are content in knowing that this sense of reality is foolproof, and the bubble is safe from the outside world.

Sometimes we subconsciously let other people into our bubbles: people who write books we love, people who create music that inspires us, people who act in memorable movies. We accept that the books, the music, the movies will always continue coming because, without them, we are not the same. Without the things in our bubbles, we have to alter our expectations, our anticipation, our sense of hope.

I don’t know when or why it happened, but Heath Ledger had entered my impenetrable bubble.

He was not supposed to die.

But now it’s too late; the glass has been shattered. I’ll pick up the pieces just like the last time, because that is what is required of us. We must live with the hope that everything we need and everyone we know will always be there for us, even when we know they won’t, because otherwise we could never be happy and free. Any person who lives with complete recognition of the pain, suffering, and injustice in the world must truly live in Hell.

News Links:
BBC News

Horrific Links: (part 2)