LTTE: Mr. Hemenway, oh my!

Feb 202007
Authors: Ben Blascoe

In response to Mr. Hemenway’s column titled “Dorms and students and kids, oh my!” I must object on a few levels. The things Mr. Hemenway articulated seem to represent hegemonic though quite agreeably. However, from that particular perspective, one fails to recognize the politics that shape the way a given community is being objectified and represented in day-to-day affairs.

Objects such as the “beloved mascot of 81 years, Chief Illiniwek” that the University of Illinois so proudly flaunted, depicted a racist image of Native people created by non-Natives for the halftime entertainment and profit of non-Native people.

The symbol of Chief Illiniwek and concurrent “dance” mocked Native culture and contributed directly to undermining Native’s right to self-determination.

The symbol openly ridiculed both Native people and the sacred traditions of Native culture. Every Native American Organization within the confines of the United States of America has openly called for an elimination of the Chief – every one of them! Yet it boggles minds why there is objection? Even the NAACP has joined sides in the fight.

Also, calling someone an “articulate and bright and clean and a nice looking guy,” is in fact a compliment. However, when someone gives such a compliment solely because Senator Obama is an African American, then there is a problem.

On Monday, Blane Harding gave a lecture centered on the use of objective language in the African American community. It was titled “Sticks and Stones Will Break My Bones and Words Will Always Hurt Me.”

In his lecture, he made it a point to explain how many people come up to him after such a lecture and say “Man, you sure are smart and articulate.” Which Mr. Harding loosely translated as “You sure are smart and articulate – for a black man.”

Would anyone approach a professor with numerous degrees of the dominant class and tell them they are “smart and articulate?” No, because it is assumed. Why are things different for the African American community?

It is not about political correctness and not trying to offend anyone, it is about respect. When people are valued and appreciated they are not talked about in an objectifying manner and stereotypically cast into a certain life way. If we are to ever progress as a society, we need to stop trying to define each other with labels and stereotypes and coexist as human beings. I’m really not that mad Mr. Hemenway didn’t make it through RA class.

Ben Blascoe


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