Apr 232012
Authors: Jackson Shoaff-Bembry

To begin, I would like to clarify that this column in response to the “Screw Racism,” article is in no way meant to belittle, vilify, condone or support any part of the column or the author. This simply is an alternative look at the article and a critique in hopefully what is meant to be a constructive and informative way.

I do not in any way speak for all people of color, people offended by the article or for men in general, I simply am a concerned CSU student who loves his school and wants to see it and its students live up to their highest potential. I’d like to borrow the words of our president Dr. Tony Frank if I may. President Frank stated in a letter to students earlier this month that, “The First Amendment gives us certain rights to choose our own words,” but “Education gives us the obligation to choose them thoughtfully.”

Specifically in response to the column, there are a few things I would like to touch on. Initially after reading it, I had one overwhelming reaction. That reaction was one of sadness.

For me, life on this predominantly white campus is very difficult. Going to class every day and not seeing a single person who looks like me becomes very tiresome. Having to laugh off racist jokes for fear of being labeled as the “angry black man,” constantly wears me down. Above all, there is the fact that I have always wondered if most women I have dated are with me for me or because I am a black man and just a commodity to be had.

The sadness I felt stemmed from the realization that this article was pushing the commoditization of people of color. It came across from a white lens framed in a way that made me feel as though I was in a cage along with other people of color and just waiting to be picked out like an animal to be owned. It said to me that people of color are not worth being in relationships with. We are not worth becoming friends with. We are only good as commodities and for the pleasure of others who yearn to be immersed in the exotic and to quell fears of being racist by getting with a person of color. Too often it is women of color who are hyper-sexualized and now all people of color are being framed in this same mindset.

We as educated students and active members of our community have the right and the responsibility to speak freely and openly but in a way that promotes change, rather than put others down.

I understand completely what the author of the column, “Screw Racism,” was attempting to do. In our society, and especially in predominantly white societies like Fort Collins, it is difficult, embarrassing and sometimes impossible to discuss the topic of race. It seemed as though the author was attempting to do so in a satirical way, but unfortunately it missed the mark.

Her attempt at creating a valid discussion about race cannot be overlooked, and more should follow suit. But caution should be taken. We as a society have not been equipped with the tools to discuss race because it has been portrayed as a taboo subject. Too often the only outlet available comes from comedic portrayals that promote caricatures and stereotypes. So is it the author’s fault for her perhaps unwise choice of words? Maybe not. Maybe the real crime here is that we do not know how to articulate discussions about race.

My fear is that when people attempt to discuss topics of race, they will automatically be attacked or labeled as a racist. My other fear is that individuals who may know how to discuss race, don’t know how to help or teach others how to join in on an intellectual conversation.

I do not hope the discussion about race ends here. I hope that people will find a medium to express their words in an intelligent and thoughtful way. I hope that we can grow as a diverse society, and I hope that our school will continue to grow from opportunities such as this one.

We must not look at this as just another negative, but more as a learning opportunity and a chance for discussion and learning. I hope free speech on our campus will continue, and I hope that it will continue in a way that is progressive, intelligent, promotes change, and attempts to uplift rather than berate, demean and place others below ourselves.

Jackson Shoaff-Bembry is a senior journalism major.

 Posted by at 2:48 pm

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.