November 14, 2003

Letters to the editor

Response to Brandeis issue

Barney Keller's analysis of recent events at Brandeis University ("Response to Racism Comment Discouraged Dialogue," 11/7/03), where the "n" word was used in reference to Dusty Baker, the black manager of the Chicago Cubs, in the student newspaper The Justice, was extremely disturbing.

Keller asserts in his letter of response to The Justice, "Since the black students saw the statement as a representation of institutional racism on campus, they should have simply discussed the presence of it on campus." Perhaps it is just my opinion, but it seems that Keller is in no position to decide how Brandeis's black students should react to incidents of racism.

Keller goes on to say, "I am at a loss at explaining what the ‘cause' of these types of organizations is anymore." First, in this case, the cause was exceedingly obvious—to have the people responsible for the comment appearing in The Justice removed and to have the campus as a whole take steps to address institutional racism. Second, Keller might want to keep in mind that blacks compose only 2.5 percent of Brandeis' undergraduate student population; it makes a great deal of sense that black students would want support, just like most college students want.

Finally, and most bizarrely, Keller seems to suggest that every American has an equal opportunity and that, to deal with institutional racism, blacks should "reject affirmative action and the constant struggle for ‘the cause,' and to seize the opportunity that is there for the taking." Affirmative action has absolutely nothing to do with the situation at hand. Moreover, one would have to be delusional to believe that every American does indeed have an equal shot. In college admissions systems, for example, "legacy" admissions, where children of alumni are favored, are unfair to students whose parents haven't gone to college. This instance is representative of institutional biases prevalent in numerous fields in the United States. So, Keller can oppose affirmative action if he wants, but it is unrealistic and offensive to claim that everyone has the "opportunity to seize equality."

Daniel Mauer


Brandeis University

Chapter of the Society

Organized Against Racism

I disagree with Barney Keller's arguments in his Viewpoints article in last week's Maroon ("Response to Racist Comment Discouraged Dialogue," 11/7/03). Stephan Heyman was absolutely in the wrong, while he claims he was "busy putting together a newspaper" he was doing a horrible job if he managed to overlook the "n" word. "Nigger" really jumps out at you in print, as it should, when you consider the history of oppression, abuse, and enslavement it calls to mind.

Perhaps the Brandeis University Black Student Union should have done a lot of other things, but protesting a publication is an absolutely valid exercise of their rights. Other options they could have pursued: spray painting "racist" all over the newspaper building, filing hate crime charges against the sportswriter, holding a race discussion. But let's be honest; does the "majority" pay enough attention to race, really take up the issues and care about them enough? If the Black Student Union chose to protest for the resignation of Stephan Heyman, that is their right, and it is not for anyone else to judge.

Finally, Keller, what world do you live in? I find your argument that the purpose of black student unions is to "assimilate blacks and other minorities into the university community as just students, and not as black students" very offensive. Perhaps it would be more apt to say that these organizations exist as a response to the opinion you seem to hold, which pervades universities, an opinion holding that black students need to assimilate to college, to institutions of learning, or to majority institutions. This opinion makes it seem as if black students need extra help or somehow aren't as capable as white students. You write, "the racism of a few lives on and expands because young black students refuse to pursue that assimilation," but it seems that this sentiment in itself is very racist. Racism doesn't refer only to the use of the "n" word but also to the belief that a black person should have to live, act, work and be like a white person, in order to be treated equally. And who said we all want to live in a colorless society, especially when the rainbow we have is so beautiful?

Michelle Jones

Second-year in the College