''Racializing,'' and its downfalls

BY AMER G. ZAHR
The Progressive Pen
Published February 9, 2001

Random question: What does it mean when you ask a girl if she would like to have dinner on Valentine"s Day and she says "let me see"? It happened to "my friend." If it ever happens to you, just keep your pride and don"t ask again.

Paul Wong
Amer G. Zahr<br><br>The Progressive Pen

Now to business. When asked about faith-based programs, W. said, "well, I believe in the separation of church and state, but this is federal." Yes, yes. Jokes abound. I don"t think anyone is going to say we have some kind of intellectual ideologue in office. That guy lost. Instead, we got W. But I am a bit disturbed by recent goings-on after the election and now. Let me tell you about it.

No doubt. This election was educational. People were into it, talking about it everywhere. The Union, Amer"s, Rendezvous. Hell, I even heard people talking about it at Backroom. Backroom! Not exactly a bustling hub of political frenzy. Let"s be real though. Does anyone, Rev. Jesse Jackson included, think that this is the first time since the "60s that blacks were turned away from voting?I think it"s safe to say that if Gore had taken Florida decisively, the same people who were turned away on Nov. 7 still would have been turned away, yet the NAACP and Jackson would have kept their mouths shut as they shopped for tuxes for the inaugural ball.

That tells us astute observers something. The NAACP and Jackson have finally made it clear that they are now political entities, and no longer civil rights leaders. This is because you simply cannot be both. If they want to do that, fine. But they cannot even think about flirting with title of "civil rights leaders" anymore.

Out of all registered black voters, 90 percent are Democrats, mostly by the urging of people and groups like Jackson and the NAACP. This is by far the most lopsided proportion for any political party in any minority group.

The result unfortunately is a lose-lose situation. Jackson and the NAACP become moral bullies for the Democratic Party, and the black community as a whole is completely discounted by the GOP. Reports of police putting up roadblocks, polling places moving without notice and Haitian voters being left without translators abound in our most recent election. But does the Reverend really think that this is the first time all of this has happened since 1965? We all know it isn"t.

What happens is that many black leaders end up in the hip pocket of the Democrats, and they take their community along with them. Was Al Gore"s campaign, as the NAACP portrayed it, a struggle for black liberation? Does it help the cause of black-Americans, and all minorities for that matter, to brand a presidential candidate as a racist?

Many minority leaders like Jackson make the grave mistake of "racializing" every difference between them and the Republican Party. This condition also exists right here on our campus, in a very acute way. Certain groups who defend certain causes use emotional blackmail and "racializing" to achieve political gains. If you aren"t for affirmative action, then you are a racist.

Really? Is there any intelligent person who thinks that every person, white and non-white, who opposes affirmative action, is a bigot? If you do, then I know you don"t have a big following, or at least not a particularly intelligent one. So let me get what these "racializers" say.

Basically, if you don"t agree with me, then I will scare you and others into believing you are a racist, and nobody listens to a racist. Quite an intellectual practice indeed.

But what is most disturbing is that these methods of racialization are encouraged either by 1960s civil rights throwbacks, or by groups that do not have any campus ties and whose members (and many times leaders) are full-time paid activists of socialist-leaning organizations. There"s nothing wrong with being a socialist or a civil rights recollector. But to speak for students here is dishonest and destructive.

I personally believe that people who oppose affirmative action are misled, misunderstand American history, do not grasp race theory, and so on. It is quite possible to be a progressive race activist and not believe that all your ideological opponents are racists. Surely, race is a paramount issue in our society, and it will remain as such, and perhaps become more central than ever.

But are vouchers only about race? Are tax cuts only about race? Have Democratic administrations really made race relations more harmonious? Did race relations get better in the past eight years? Ask yourself these questions. Then ask yourself if they will get better.

Luckily the second question is something we can affect very sharply, and it is up to us to do so.

Perhaps the biggest issue in the coming months (aside from a war criminal being elected prime minister in Israel, our closest ally) will be how the new administration deals with these societal questions of race, for they surely still exist, especially in the aftermath of Florida. Instead, unfortunately, the biggest issue in our culture will be (and yes, this is true) that the Jackson 5, Michael included, is reuniting to cut an album.

That is, of course, if Germaine and Tito can clear their schedules.

Amer G. Zahr"s column runs every other Friday. He can be reached via email at zahrag@umich.edu