I am currently enrolled in a Residential College interdivisional course taught by Carl Cohen – a longtime professor in the college – on the cases surrounding racial preferences in admissions vis-a-vis Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger, along with the greater history of the topic. I am registered in this class alongside driven advocates on both sides of the debate.
From the outset, Cohen made it no secret that he intends to teach the course from a biased point of view – from that of the plaintiffs in those cases – that finds the practice of racial preferences, as he puts it, “bad and wrong.” Naturally, the atmosphere is heated. I like that. I like a good debate.
However, in the course of the class, the tension over the merits of racial preferences became manifest. Members of parties supporting the practice of racial preferences (For that is what they are – I dare not use the not-only-euphemistic but also historically inaccurate term “affirmative action,” lest I appear unfit to argue my case) were huffing audibly, and members of groups in favor of dismantling of racial preferences also responded audibly.
When Cohen, who intended in due time to address the arguments behind racial preferences, preferring instead to first cover their history, decided to cut a question-and-answer session short, one of the members of the Defend Affirmative Action Party – and I dare this newspaper to print his exact words – called him audibly a “racist-ass motherfucker.”
There is no argument for racial preferences in the phrase “racist-ass motherfucker.” I do not need to pour over the debate in the 1964 Senate to look for, in Title VI, assurances made against the possibility of opponents of racial preferences being called “racist-ass motherfuckers.” And I look forward to pamphlets in the future from DAAP, pamphlets that give me two choices: be a supporter of DAAP or be a racist-ass motherfucker.
Again, on Thursday of that following week, in the middle of a discussion about the merits of the Civil Rights Act, the question was posed whether, from a legal standpoint, the opening section of the law, which reads that “no person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance,” forbids the practice of racial preferences. There was a verbal argument. Someone called racial preferences “bullshit” and then quickly and apologetically retracted his words (Obviously he meant to say “horseshit.”), while the DAAP member from before began to rant that the professor was a racist, choosing to disrupt what was an informational session with an accusation that we on the other side are all racists for believing what we believe.
I do not like that. I did not like it then, and, with my blood pressure raised, with my heart pounding, the actual merits of the debate had flown out the window. I could not concentrate on what Cohen said in the concluding minutes. Significantly, silently, without waiting for class to conclude,, the accuser had left the room.
What I do not like most about this is that I feel toyed with. I feel as if silently and coyly, people of both sides of this or any debate are making their ways into rooms of similar shapes and sizes; accusing the opposing side of being despots, sickos, madmen, poor human beings – raising the blood pressures and heart rates of everyone present with accusations – and then leaving. It is the leaving that shows it most; the debate does not interest them. The substitution of passion for debate and anger for an open mind, name-calling for slightly more sophisticated name-calling – these are our tools, the tools we have given ourselves.
But to hell with that, I have an election to win. I am writing this viewpoint to announce the creation of a new political party on campus, a party that wants a level playing field in the eyes of the law, the only pair of eyes that are still open. My party needs your vote. My party is called RAM,: Racist-Ass Motherfuckers.
Kelly is an LSA sophomore.