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Letters to the Editor

Heritage knowledge breaks stereotypes
Re: “It’s all about the fro” March 5

My first reaction to Andrew Pina’s column was that his hair might have more effect on people than his skin color. I’m a post-graduate student who’s returned to USF after 10 years. My first time around, I wore my blond hair in a long, thin ponytail.

The comparisons I received varied from Julian Sands to a younger George Carlin, neither of whom I thought I resembled. Either way, I took no offense. I held out until I turned 30 before I shaved it off. I liked having the hair, but the impressions it gave people were just too annoying.

Pina’s column led me to some deeper ideas about identity though. He referred to himself as “black” and to other people as “white”. In my experience, white people don’t usually think of themselves as simply “white”. They tend to subdivide races into ethnic backgrounds such as Irish, Spanish, German, or any other category that they have learned to recognize by facial features, skin tone, language, or custom.

I don’t think all black people look the same, but I’ve never learned how to associate their features to their variety of ethnicity. I once learned the hard way not to call a Chinese person Japanese, and can now probably identify a Korean person from a Filipino, but I wouldn’t know a Somalian person from a Zairian.

Now, I realize that many black Americans have gone through a very ugly chapter in history that has separated them from their past. It seems technology is making the future brighter, though. If I were of that heritage, I’d be very interested in DNA lineage research that is helping people discover their roots. I’d love to see them embrace their homeland and forgotten cultures, just as much as French or Italian Americans do. Once that happens, the open-minded people around them can learn from their example and give them the respect they seem to desire.

I honestly hope my children can sit in a public school classroom and guess whether the little black girl in the next desk is Moroccan or Kenyan.

John Ferguson is a post graduate student majoring in geology.

Quoting scripture doesn’t make it right

There has been much discussion recently over the role of religion in our society, especially in regard to the gay marriage issue. The great thing about America is that we are able to hold this debate. Organized religions do not tolerate debate — men in roles of power dictate “what God wants,” and followers are expected to believe these men and do what they are told. Otherwise, they are not “faithful” people. Fortunately, our founding fathers had seen enough of this ruse in medieval Europe to explicitly call for the separation of church and state in the U.S. Constitution.

So to start, let’s stop taking — on faith alone — the dictates of fallible, corruptible men, (these self-proclaimed conduits for divinity) and start examining their motivations for attempting to influence public opinion on a case-by-case basis.

Also, let’s start talking about the real problems facing our society, and not the red herrings that the most poorly run and most highly politicized administration in American history tries to use to distract us.

In the last 29 months we have lost all respect and sympathy from other nations and in the last three years we have gone from the best economy in history to the worst since WWII (and the worst deficits in history as laws are broken and/or rewritten to allow corporations to ship jobs overseas).

Incompetence, unwillingness to admit mistakes and a complete and utter detachment from the problems of the average citizen are a cancer that is eating at the fabric of American culture from the top down.

That is our society’s problem, not that people who love one another want to have their relationships officially recognized by the society they work their entire lives to support and be part of.

So, please, the next time someone uses religion to justify bigotry and fear, please tell them to shut up and read the Bible. I don’t recall any passages where Jesus taught anyone to judge or hate anyone.

Only men have ever taught that lesson.

Nate Stafford is a graduate student majoring in biology.