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Attack racism

I would like to respond to the guest column by Kevin L. Dickens in last Friday's The Tech ["Social life hard for minorities," May 10]. I was more amused than annoyed by the factual errors and logical contradictions throughout the column. However, I was very offended by the column as a whole, because beneath its murky surface ran dangerous ideas amid a deep current of racism.

The most glaring factual error was the implicit statement that the United States is "the second most racist nation on earth (behind South Africa)." Mr. Dickens should look at the rest of the world before putting the United States so high on his list. In Europe, it has been the custom throughout the ages for the dominant ethnic group in a given country to persecute the other ethnic groups; this varies over time as national borders shift.

Currently, this persecution is happening in Bulgaria, where a million ethnic Turks are being forced at gunpoint to change their Moslem names to Bulgar names that won't offend the central government. Away from Europe there are many current cases, such as the Kurds in Iran, the Miskito Indians in Nicaragua, and the Jews in Ethiopia and the Soviet Union. Ethnic Chinese are persecuted in most non-Chinese Asian countries, such as Vietnam. In England, immigrants from Pakistan are beaten so frequently that the phenomenon has been given a name: Paki-bashing. Don't any of these countries deserve a higher ranking than America on Mr. Dickens's list?

His distorted assessment of the United States is not the worst part of his column, though. In his second paragraph, Mr. Dickens bemoans his observation that "the best-looking black women at MIT seem to prefer white men." For one thing, he contradicts this when he says that there are interracial relationships in Europe, but that "one would not be able to discern this by using MIT as a model." Do black women date white men at MIT or don't they?

More importantly, though, why does Mr. Dickens complain about it? Does he feel that black women should go out with him simply because he is black? Furthermore, why does he feel he is romantically limited to black women? If they are open-minded enough to date people from another race, why can't he do the same? Either he doesn't want white women, or they don't want him.

If the former is true, and he rejects all white women as potential dates simply because they are white, then he is simply a racist, and any criticism of others for being racist is hypocrisy. (And therefore, attacking Pro-Femina for hypocrisy is itself hypocritical.) If the latter is true, and white women aren't interested in him, I suggest the chip on his shoulder he so prominently displayed in his column may have something to do with it.

However, I suspect the former reason is true, i.e., he rejects white women because they are white. This can be inferred by looking at the racist ideas permeating his column. These ideas are the most objectionable thing I find about the column. Particularly offensive is his division of blacks into two classes: the truly black and those who "are black in skin color only."

The main idea implied by this division is the idea that one's race is a primary factor in determining the content of one's mind and character, and should therefore direct one's actions. To be a true black, according to Mr. Dickens, a black-skinned person must know about other blacks and join self-segregated activities with predominantly black memberships. Black-skinned people who come from Montana or who choose their friends and associates non-racially are "black in skin color only."

This kind of rhetoric transforms one's race from a mere physical property to a state of mind and an ideology. (If you think "ideology" is too strong a term, observe that "Oreo," a slur for someone "black in skin color" but white on the inside, is often shouted at black free-market economists Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams, as well as other black-skinned people who stray from the Party Line.)

The way in which people think is supposed to be determined by their race, and anyone who dares to think differently is disowned by his race. In the words of socialist philosopher J. G. Fichte, "the individual life has no real existence ... while, on the contrary, the Race alone exists, since it alone ought to be looked upon as living."

I find it ironic that Tech staffers were putting last Friday's issue together, and giving Dicken's racist column a prominent position on the editorial page, during the very days when people were celebrating the 40th anniversary of the defeat of the country which most faithfully implemented Mr. Dickens' ideas. For the Nazis held the same belief that he holds, that race transcends individuals.

According to Nazi ideology, there are no absolutes, and truth for an individual depends on his race; what's right for any Aryan may not be right for anyone else. They borrowed these ideas from Fichte and others (including Marx, who substituted "class" for "race"). They then phrased the ideas more bluntly: "We think with our blood!" (In this context, blood is synonymous with racial origin).

No, I am not calling Mr. Dickens a Nazi. They, sadly, followed their ideas to their logical conclusion, and genocide followed. Mr. Dickens is far less malign, I hope. He merely wants blacks to separate themselves from whites, and to listen to him as an official spokesman of black thought at MIT ("If you have any question about your identity, come ask me and I will tell you.")

However, he accepts some of the same premises as the Nazis, and this is dangerous. For if his ideas are not challenged for what they are, then how can we be sure that these ideas will be challenged when they are uttered by someone with truly evil intentions? Racism must be challenged and defeated by identifying and attacking the ideas at its roots, not by offering competing forms of racism as alternatives.

Kevin B. Theobald G->