Bookstore spirit display insensitive to racial past
To the Daily:
This morning, as I walked down South University Avenue, I was appalled and disgusted by the display in the window of Ulrich’s Bookstore. The display featured a life-size skeleton, clad in a ripped and burned Michigan State T-shirt, hanging from a lynching rope, its neck limp and twisted.
During my years as an undergrad at the University, I often felt slightly unnerved by the blatant displays of violence stimulated by Michigan football rivalries with other schools, such as the practice of beating and trashing junk cars with “MSU” spray-painted on the side. However, these demonstrations of “Michigan Pride” have never disturbed and sickened me nearly as much as the window display I saw this morning. Given our nation’s history of violence and discrimination against minority groups and the vivid, horrible imagery that can be powerfully and instantaneously conjured by the display of a lynched human skeleton, I feel a mixture of disbelief and anger that a reputable bookstore such as Ulrich’s would even consider such a deeply offensive window display. The legacy of racialized violence and hate crimes in our country is something we must all cope with if we are to halt the perpetuation of such terrible atrocities. Making light of lynching imagery demonstrates an ignorant disregard for the gravity of these issues and a gross insensitivity to the personal histories of countless individuals on this campus and in our society.
I call upon Ulrich’s to remove this window display at once and to publicly apologize for the sickening display.
Crime bulletin’s vague description harmful
To the Daily:
David Betts’s column I’m Tired of Being a Suspect (09/28/2005) referred to a recent DPS Crime Alert stemming from a crime that occurred on campus around midnight on Sept. 15, logged as Incident Report #05-003453. I, too, received the bulletin as an electronic message from a colleague in my department. As a recent arrival to Michigan from a mid-Atlantic university in a major metropolitan area, it was my first notice of trouble in Ann Arbor. I read the details with interest and concern, wondering about campus crime; I learned even more about the campus climate. In his piece, Betts objected to the ongoing process of racializing alleged criminals and the subsequent incrimination of men like himself. Both of these processes depend on the words we use, whether in crime bulletins or on the pages of this newspaper and beyond.
Like Betts, I was puzzled and concerned by the imprecise and deeply problematic description of the suspects’ clothing, complexion and accessories. Riana Anderson’s letter to the editor, Fraternity shooting coverage propagates stereotypes of Black community, (09/28/2005) raised this point as well. On other campuses, including my former university, authors of these bulletins include pertinent details to help readers identify potentially dangerous circumstances should they find themselves in similar situations. Perhaps the officers transcribed the comments verbatim from the man who was victimized? Might the officers not have pressed for more information about the materials or style of the “do-rag” or for more details about “baggy, hip-hop clothes?”
As University President Mary Sue Coleman and other campus leaders host conversations about the campus climate on issues related to race and ethnicity, and as the community begins to contemplate the many ways that we simultaneously create, maintain and ignore these (and other) categories, DPS might also consider how its policies on crime bulletins contribute to the climate as well. While not as outrageous as the alleged, hateful assaults against people of Asian descent that were recently reported, the form and content of crime bulletins send messages about race and gender as well.