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December 7, 2007 | Page 4

Racism from Jena to Smith
UCSC protest attacked by police
Excellent reporting on Chávez

Racism from Jena to Smith

AT A "celebrity rehab" themed party at Smith College on November 16, a student and her male guest arrived in blackface, dressed to emulate Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown.

Within minutes, several Black students confronted the women and explained why this was offensive. The woman left the party, apparently very upset and embarrassed, claiming she had made a "mistake." Her guest, on the other hand, stayed behind in full blackface, seemingly indifferent to the altercation.

What followed this act of minstrelsy was an attack on the Black Student Alliance (BSA), an organization of Black students on campus. Black students were apparently told multiple times to: "Stop being so f-ing sensitive." Racist posts on blogs that demonized the BSA also occurred, in which offensive language was used, and the Black students were accused of "trying to tear the campus apart"--as though it's not racism that is a problem on campus, but students who are offended by racism.

The following Monday, November 19, a silent protest was held at the dean's office. Students carried signs that read: "I am here because..." with each student putting her individual concerns about what had happened. The Student Government Association sent out an e-mail to the student body about the necessity of "being aware of how our individual actions may affect someone else," and saying that this "is a capacity that all Smith students should strive to embody."

This incident and the remarks and actions that followed reveal the contradictions of the Northampton community: a self-proclaimed progressive bubble of tolerance on which students and community members alike pride themselves. It is my opinion that the real cause of this incident and the ensuing remarks has yet to be addressed on Smith campus.

This is not a problem of individual acts of insensitivity. The reason this occurred is because we live in a racist society. There is no community small or isolated enough to escape the racism, sexism and homophobia that are used to divide ordinary people.

From the Jena 6, to the nooses that have popped up in cities from New York to North Carolina, to a student not realizing that dressing up in blackface is racist, we have ample evidence that racism is alive and kicking in the North and the South.

Rather than silent protests expressing individual concerns, what is necessary to combat racism is a loud, broad movement that can take on this problem at its root. Being anti-racist means recognizing that an injury to one is truly an injury to all. Only a movement with this in mind can fight the injustice and discrimination that surfaces far too often in our schools, cities and workplaces.
Natalia Tylim, Northampton, Mass.

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UCSC protest attacked by police

RECENTLY, FIVE activists were arrested, and over a dozen were assaulted, by police at the University of California-Santa Cruz (UCSC) for protesting the Long Range Development Plan (LRDP).

The LRDP is the university's program of expansion to accommodate 4,500 new students, which will result in the development of 120 acres of forest. Early in the morning on November 7, radical environmentalists erected platforms on several redwood trees on the UCSC campus to prevent them from being demolished.

By noon, an organized rally at the center of campus was held to educate students about the LRDP. When news of the tree-sitters reached the rally, the crowd began march to their defense. Over a hundred students marched through campus, gathering food and water.

According to reports, supporters encircled the area, looking for the best way to get to the trees. People started pushing in closer, and the cops responded with pepper spray and batons. A few protesters were violently tackled and arrested for running through police lines in attempts to send up supplies. Many more were hurt as pepper spray filled their lungs and eyes.

These acts of police brutality are outrageous, and all these nonviolent protesters must be defended.

Unfortunately, such daring heroics won't be enough to stop the LRDP, let alone the overall destruction of quality education of the UC system because of privatization. If the overcrowded classrooms, disappearing faculty of color, crumbling of arts and humanities, and the rise of tuition and fees is to be stopped, it will take bigger forces.

By focusing on these issues, those who protest the LRDP can reach a wider audience. There are plenty of students who are discontent with the continued privatization of the UC system and could be rallied to fight it.

A few months ago, when the UCSC chancellor held a town hall meeting, he met a wave of criticism from students. Most notably, leaders from several student ethnic organizations were enraged at the continuing lack of an ethnic studies program, the university's shrinking pool of faculty of color, and increasing incidents of racial profiling on campus.

Activists must reach out to their peers, the ones who are being ripped off by the LRDP, in order to combat it effectively. Protests like the tree sits must be defended, but only a campaign that utilizes mass marches, rallies, demonstrations, and solidarity will succeed in stopping LRDP and further privatizations.
Alessandro Tinonga, London

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Excellent reporting on Chávez

THOUGH I have had disagreements with International Socialist Organization leaders and Lee Sustar, I have to say his piece is on-point and excellent ("What's really happening in Venezuela," November 30).

I was recently in Venezuela, and his reporting is the best and most accurate that I have read in the media. Yes, even better than the New York Times or Washington Post. Please continue this much-needed coverage.

There is so much potential with Chávez and his reforms. The U.S. media has been clueless and misleading. They are bagmen for Bush, period.

The Bush administration knows that Chávez is the real deal and is learning from Fidel's mistakes. It is night and day. Chávez can prove that socialism will work. Chávez will make all South Americans better off. That's what really scares the capitalists!
Ed Rothstein, from the Internet

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