APRIL 4, 2007
stories/columns

*
The Literary Divide: House & Senate passes bill to halt funding for war,
by Dr. Paul Barrows

*
Liberia's Cultural Ambassador Juli Endee,
by Jonathan Gramling

*
LaMarr Billups moves up to Georgetown (Part 1),
by Jonathan Gramling

*
Madison's 18th annual Juneteenth Celebration,
by Jonathan Gramling

The isolation of being different
(Part 1 of 3)
,
by Jonathan Gramling

*
Asian Wisconzine - Tibetans of Wisconsin cry "FREEDOM!"
by Heidi M. Pascual
(www.asianwisconzine.com)

*
Simple things:
The time in between
,
by Lang Kenneth Haynes

*
Voices: Where are you from?
by Dr. Jean Daniels

*
Tony Castaneda & YWCA's skills- training partnership,
by Laura Salinger

*
Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings: Talking about public education (Part 2),
by Jonathan Gramling

*
An interview with Edgewood College's Dr. Dan Carey,
by Jonathan Gramling

* Community-based action for environmental justice,
by Chelsea Chapman

* And the heat goes on for U.S. AG Alberto Gonzales,
by Dr. Paul Barrows

* Honoring traditions: 32nd Annual Wunk Sheek Spring Pow-wow,
by Heidi M. Pascual

* China Dispatch: Summer camp in Anqing,
by Andrew Gramling

* UW Medical Students for Minority Concerns,
by Jonathan Gramling

* Nehemiah Community Dev. Corp.: Resurrection,
by Jonathan Gramling

* Refresh your senses this spring in Wisconsin!
by Sheree Dallas Branch






Homepage
Archives
VOL. II No. 7                                         April 4, 2007
MUTUAL SUPPORT
Danny Glover marches against REAL ID and sweatshops
Editor's Note: In our last issue, I was so enraptured by Sheryl Lee Ralph and her one-woman show "Sometimes I Cry," that I failed to mention the context within which she performed in Madison. As a part of the Balm of Gilead Black Church Week of Prayer for the Prevention of HIV/AIDS, the African American Health Network of Dane County raised the money to bring Ralph's incredible show to Madison. I was remiss in not mentioning their role, but one can not blame me for being totally overwhelmed -- as everyone was that night -- by her most pertinent show. Thanks AAHN for making it all possible.
***
      "Our question should not be about what we can do to make you comfortable or how we can make your life pleasant again. We owe our law students respect, but part of that respect is the recognition that they are adults who are spending many thousands of dollars and hours of study trying to acquire the critical thinking and fortitude that will enable them to serve clients and to stand up to adversaries who are only too ready to shake their nerve ..."
      The above quote is from a UW law school professor who commented on the Professor Kaplan controversy at the UW Law School in the New York Times. Kaplan was alleged by seven law school students to have made stereotypical remarks about the Hmong in his law school class back in February. The incident did create quite a stir and raised issues about academic freedom and the campus climate for Hmong and other Asian American students. It also raised some verbal and written backlash for the Hmong students.
      Race is one of the most difficult things to deal with in our lives, more difficult than sex or politics or religion. Just try to bring up race at a cocktail party and see where it will get you. It gets you dead silence and a change in topic.
      I've been mulling this whole incident over in my mind for a while and I have to admit that it took me back to my days in the mid 1970s attending Alcorn State University, a Historically Black College in Lorman, Mississippi. I was one of only about five Euro-American and a handful of Asian students who went there. Everyone else was African American.
      There were times when I felt a lot of pressure while attending school there, no matter if people were good or bad to me and most everyone treated me well. It's just that I was different in a race conscious society. There were times when I felt totally scrutinized. There were times I felt totally stupid. And there were times when race had nothing to do with it at all.
      I remember hanging out on the yard one beautiful autumn afternoon with a group of friends. Being that we were in rural Mississippi, everyone from the northern cities used to hang together. We called ourselves Harambees. People used to call me the "N Word" as a way of showing me that I belonged.
      Well, while we're hanging on the yard having a good time, someone walking by yelled "Hey White boy." And then, it was like the whole world stopped and someone threw a wrench into a perfectly fine day and I had to stop and think  "Who else is looking at me as a White boy and what does that mean?" Well, it shut me up for the rest of the day because  it took me off my game. After a while, it wouldn't bother me any more. I guess I got used to it.
      I sure am glad it wasn't a professor saying  "Hey White boy" because that would have been a whole different dynamic because then I would have been in a power relationship where I would be the powerless instead of just hanging out on the street and being able to tell someone "X#@& You." I certainly would have had to pay attention because it would be the professor who would have been in the driver's seat. And then, I'd have to be sneaking glances at my fellow classmates to see who is buying into the professor's remarks. Now I may have been dozing a little in class, but the words "White boy," especially if he was looking at me     too would have piqued my interest. And I would have been wondering if any of my classmates were buying in to what the professor said. I wouldn't know because the remark would be said and then the class would move on as if nothing had been said. But it would still be ringing in my ears and I'd be reenacting it in slow motion  "Whhhiiiiite booooooyyyy" over and over again.
      So I can relate to and empathize with what the two law students who were in class that day must have been feeling. Kaplan's intentions were irrelevant. It is the act itself, probably done in a very unknowing way that did the damage.
      There are some who may feel that the Hmong students should tough it out and be prepared as if the Hmong students hadn't felt those things or experienced them before in the "real" world every day of their lives. It's just that they were in the classroom with their defenses down when all of a sudden this thing comes from out of left field with no context. All of us put our guard down in a friendly, educational setting. It's hard to really learn with that psychological protection up as high as it can go. So when the card or example got played, of course the self-defense mechanisms go popping up all over the place. I wonder what would happen if a Black professor in a racially diverse classroom started talking about how  "White people are violent and piggish and not very bright." How would the White students react? Would the University of Wisconsin allow that Black professor to continue to teach in such a manner in order to prepare these students for the "real" world? I don't think so. I think it is the U.S. Supreme Court that says shouting fire in a crowded theater is not protected free speech. When you are in the minority, race can be like shouting "fire."
     I'm sure these Hmong students will do just fine in the courtroom. I'm sure they have inner walls of steel and will be able to handle what is thrown at them. They will have their guard up because they will know that the courtroom is not a place to let your guard down unlike, I would hope, a UW classroom.
Reflections/Jonathan Gramling
The sociopsychological dynamics of race