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Race is an issue

Last Friday, an opinion column was printed in the Oracle that maintained race shouldn’t always be an issue. I feel the need to express a more enlightened view on the subject, which I felt was the opinion of an individual who – for some reason – can’t seem to understand why minorities exhibit unity among themselves in America.

The person who wrote the column had no place writing it because she was commenting on a world she can never fully understand. It’s like me writing a column claiming women’s interest groups are unfair. I can never fully understand how it feels to be a woman, so I can’t see things from a woman’s point of view. Instead, I respect the fact that women feel a kinship with one another because they go through things on a day-to-day basis that no man can ever understand.

First of all, in defense of the person who wrote the column, I’d like to say that yes, there are people within the minority community who cry racism just as soon as something doesn’t go their way. There are people within the minority community who use racism as an excuse for their own laziness and lack of ambition. I have been a victim of this kind of behavior perpetrated by my own kind, blacks, who accused me of being an “Uncle Tom” simply because I performed the duties assigned to me at my job.

I can testify that having someone accuse me of being racist was one of the worst feelings I have experienced in my life. However, as an enlightened college student, I understand that the person who made this accusation obviously lacks intelligence and a true understanding of the word. Thus, by my shift’s end, I got over it.

That being said, given the history of race relations in this country ­- and in the South in particular­ – it is completely unacceptable for a person to compare some idiot crying racism in an ice cream shop – simply because she couldn’t have her milkshake exchanged – to prison guards who were acquitted after beating a child to death at a Florida boot camp.

Given the history of racial injustice in this country, I can easily see how some people may feel that way. I don’t think I need to give a history lesson on that. The point that many folks are making is that had it been a white child who died at the boot camp there would be no protests because someone would be going to jail for it. There is no way of telling what Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson would have said had the boot camp victim been white because he wasn’t. So you can throw that claim out the window.

There was also a comment made about minority groups on college campuses. Those groups are not exclusive to the minorities who create them. They are open for anyone to join regardless of color. I have seen white people at these events and meetings, and furthermore, Phi Beta Sigma – a “black fraternity” – debuted a white guy at their last coming out show.

Also, who cares if a group decides to declare race in its title? The reason there is no such white student union or white-only sorority is because the word “white,” much to the chagrin of many minorities, is commonly associated with being normal in this country. I learned this when I was sitting in my Broadcast News class years ago. When I began to talk about producing a television program on fraternities and I mentioned the differences between the “black” fraternities and the “white” fraternities, my instructor corrected me by saying the “white” fraternities and sororities were known as “traditional” ones.

If you do your research as one of the “brightest of the generation” – as college students are often described – you would know that these “traditional” fraternities and sororities originally did not allow minority entries. Furthermore, these “traditional” fraternities were founded in a time when segregation was still an acceptable practice in this country, up until the late 20th century. Is anyone still wondering why minorities start up their own groups?

Overall, I thought that column was disrespectful and insensitive to the hardships that minorities have faced in this country for hundreds of years. The reason white folks don’t enjoy some of the privileges given to minorities is because white people are the majority.

I would love to live in a world where nobody received special treatment. No, it’s not fair that some white students who really need – and deserve – scholarships miss out simply because they are white. But it’s also not fair that Native Americans had their land stolen from them, and it’s not fair that Africans were abducted from their homes and families and forced into slavery in America.

So Ms. Easter may have faced a bad apple from the black community while she was at work scooping ice cream. That woman’s comments were absolutely unacceptable and they represent an attitude that isn’t needed in America. But Ms. Easter’s little experience is nothing compared to the experiences of many minorities over the last 230 years. Someone who claims to be the brightest of the generation should at least be able to understand why minorities feel the way they feel by simply doing some research.

To merely say minorities need to get over the past and embrace each other is a lot easier said than done for a lot of people, particularly because every now and then the past has a way a rearing its ugly head. Unless you are on the side of the fence where the ugly head keeps showing up, you are irresponsible for making such statements in a newspaper.

Ryan Watson is a graduate student in mass communications.