Feb 032010
 
Authors: Rachel Childs

Ben Margolit’s profile photo on Facebook shows him wearing American Indian garb with his arm around a young woman with similar attire. It was taken about a year ago at a cowboys and Indians party.

In most crowds, it’s probably acceptable attire for such an event.

But last weekend, the sophomore civil engineering major encouraged the entire CSU community to dress the same and show up to a basketball game.
And much of that community is ticked.

In what might be the biggest social networking faux pas in recent CSU history, Margolit created a Facebook event to rally students to attend one of CSU’s biggest sports rivalries in full headdress, sparking an intense racial ignorance debate that lasted about two hours on the Lory Student Center Plaza and all day on Internet comment boards.

Margolit claims he had purely innocent intentions to strengthen Ram pride, but the event, which he posted over the weekend, immediately garnered pushback as Facebook users inundated the comment board with statements decrying the theme of his page.

When he realized that many students and faculty were offended, he immediately changed it to ask students to show up in all orange, a traditional color of old-time Aggie fans.

“I didn’t intend to hurt anyone’s feelings,” Margolit said in a phone interview Wednesday.

Members of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society and the Native American Cultural Center, who view the incident as an indicator of strong undertones of racial ignorance at CSU, organized an open forum on the Plaza Wednesday to discuss the issue with passersby.

Impromptu speakers stood on top the stump in the middle of the square and told the crowd that filtered in and out of classes from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. that racism is still a problem at CSU.

“You don’t play dress-up with people’s ethnicities,” said Tiffani Kelly, president of AISES.

But the community didn’t just react negatively to the Facebook group. Some students commented on Margolit’s Facebook event blatantly disparaging the American Indian race.

“I don’t think native american people understand how hurtful it is for me to see them wearing hollister or abercrombie,” wrote a CSU student identified as Brock Hornung. “Obviously when people get ‘enlightened’ in college it makes them bitter and unable to detect sarcasm.”

Hornung in a phone conversation with the Collegian late Wednesday that his statement was simply meant to satirize the controversy.

“I don’t want my quote to be taken in the context that I’m a racist,” he said. “I really don’t think that at all.”

Another student identified on the event’s wall as Chris Barnes wrote:

“To all ‘offended’ morons, go cry to the American sports teams still named after Native Americans like the Redskins, Reds, Indians, etc. As for the Native Americans vs. Cowboys theme and considering this race to have been hurt, was the expanding and far more advanced European people supposed to leave the entire continent alone because some primitive race wanted to worship the hallucinations they had while smoking peyote? Of course not.
Only the hippies today would sacrifice the well being of the rest of their countrymen for the sake of a culture who prided itself in their ability to conquer each other just like we did to them yet still respect nature so much that they were unable to become socially, economically and technologically advanced like our peoples. So don’t even try to draw sympathy from such pathetic events in history back when hippies like you were put in their place. If it weren’t for our annihilation of that piss poor culture you wouldn’t even have this basketball game.”

When the Collegian called him for further comment Wednesday night, Barnes declined.

Kelly read Barnes’ statement during the Plaza discussion.

“I’m really shocked by” the comments, said Elizabeth Cornish, a junior American studies major during the Plaza discussion.

“People are still writing really racist comments,” Kelly said.

Deborah Lombard, a CSU staff member who lived in South Africa during the squalid age of apartheid, the country’s legalization of racial segregation, said she saw parallels between the comment board and her previous experiences with racism.

“I’ve seen the far extent those words can go,” Lombard said.

While the campus has yet to see what will happen at the game, some forum organizers said the number of people who showed up on the Plaza to hear the speakers was encouraging.

“There’s really power in numbers,” said Asuka Nosaka, the treasurer for Shades of CSU, a group committed to university diversity, which helped organize the discussion.

Kelly and others sent several e-mails to faculty and staff to promote the open mic session to gain attention.

Jason Downing, a professor who teaches an ethnic studies course, allowed his students to leave the classroom for the discussion.

Kelly said that, although the turnout for the talk was heartening, more must be done to improve race relations at CSU.

“It’s definitely not over,” Kelly said. “Racism will never die, unfortunately.”

Regarding the new garb for the basketball game, 617 people are planning to attend in orange clothing, which Margolit is calling the “Orange Out.”
_
Staff writer Rachel Childs and Projects Editor Aaron Hedge can be reached at news@collegian.com._

Film: “In Whose Honor”
Where: Lory Student Center, Rm 228
When: today, 3:30 to 5:30 p.m.
Subject: Documentary that focuses on American Indian mascots in sports
After the film: A discussion for viewers to give perspectives about issues presented

Film: “Canary Effect”
Where: LSC Theatre
When: Feb. 9, 6 to 8 p.m.
Subject: takes an in-depth look at the devastating effect that United States policies have had on the indigenous people of America

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