Monday, November 14, 2005

Public Hearing on Racism and Hostile Climate at UC Berkeley.

I was fascinated to learn there was a Public Hearing on Racism and Hostile Climate at UC Berkeley on November 10th that was brought about by an apparent drop in enrollment of under-represented minority groups.

A drop in enrollment of under-represented minority groups at UC Berkeley?! Something is very wrong there. Man, and I thought it was bad here in Wisconsin, land-o-the-whities.

Reading on, the mind continued to be blown:

"Other students will testify about the racist double standard that is practiced at Berkeley in grading. A senior Latino student changed his major after a history instructor gave him a failing grade on a midterm question and justified the grade by telling him he could not write about racism when answering a question about a law granting suffrage to 'free white people.'"

I can safely say that in my Shakespeare class this semester, I haven't talked about anything BUT racism in every one of my papers and midterm exams. I've gone to office hours to talk about it, and I even got my teacher to cancel class one day so that students could attend the Plan 2008 forum on campus climate. I have a running average of 96% in that class, and let me tell you, it's not because I wrote well on those papers. It was some of the most disorganized writing I've ever spit upon the page in my life.

I'm not going to presume I know why I got a 96% average on those papers and tests, but I have a guess.

1) I'm white. If I was a student of color trying to pull some of the stuff I was writing...well, I'd imagine I'd probably get the same response as that Latino student at UC Berkeley. It's just "bitching and whining" when it comes from students of color (I am speaking from the perspective of the average hypothetical white professor grading papers) but when you've got a white student telling a white professor that the class is white supremacist, and here's why, and here's how we can work to change it...damn, in my experience professors just think that's the smartest shit in the world.

It's not, really. Like I said, the writing was bad. But for the professors who have never given this stuff much of a thought, it's like the arch-angel of diversity descended from on-high and finally spoke in a dialect they could understand. Oh my God, I'm a white person and racism is my issue too? Oh please, tell me more. Because otherwise I'm going to look like a racist, and we all know that being called racist means you're evil to the core. But I'm not going to say that. I'm not going to say anything.


I'm not sure if it was a comfort or a terror to hear about the situation at Berkeley. Maybe it was a little of both. But it does make clear[er] the fact that it is time to end the silence. Racism is uncomfortable, people. It is a privilege to NOT have to look at it, or even SEE it. So this here entry is an hommage to the folks who require me to take Shakespeare in order to graduate with an English major at this university.

People. Before you require me to take a class on a guy who epitomizes many of the positive and negative aspects of white culture (please read the Henriad for a really great example of white folks hating on each other, getting all individualistic, and putting the process before the person in the fight for personal success and power) could you please NAME that it is white culture, and not assume that it is the eternal embodiment of "universal" genius? And while you're going about forcing me to take classes on geniuses and picking their words apart using archaic analytical devices, how about you actually CREATE a course strictly on the works of W.E.B. DuBois, or Paulo Freire, or Toni Morrison at this university, and then let me discuss their works as they are relevant to contemporary social and cultural crises?

Can we start being a little critical of all this canonical white supremacy? Please? It is messing with people's heads.


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