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No more Twinkies-- Gray in black South Africa

By Bill Jackson

There's good news in the UA referendum results showing that the voting undergraduates approve of MIT divestment by a margin of almost 10 percent. Even though fascist-seeming UA voting booth workers dominated the first day ("You vant a Course Evaluation guide? Vell, it vould seem ve have vays of making you vote. . . ."), the UA apologized and had all of the confusion cleared up by Tuesday's voting, making the vote a clear divestment victory.

Yet Paul Gray sticks with his hard-line argument that MIT divestment will do nothing to help South Africa, or at least not enough to balance out the hardships it would cause the Institute. President Gray has stated that divestment would be nothing but a "transfer of ownership" of the stock in question. He also has pointed out the many other connections, including some in the Industrial Liaison Program, that MIT would need to sever in order to remain morally consistent with divestment.

How can you argue with Paul Gray's logic? Since we can't be moral and good in one area, why bother being moral and good in any areas? And as these roundabout arguments continue, I begin to wonder if any of them make sense in the face of the horrible policy the South African government refers to as apartheid. If someone as smart as Paul Gray is willing to support apartheid even in an indirect and merely symbolic way, it must not be as bad as we think. In fact, maybe Paul Gray would prefer to be a young South African black.

Thoughts like this (accompanied by lots of Lipton Iced Tea) will lead you to think up something like the following list. Here are eight reasons "Why Paul Gray would be better off as a young black man in South Africa."

1) He would no longer be overweight. Black South Africans generally live below what Americans would consider the "poverty level." The government eliminates jobs held by non-whites before any other jobs, and many of these people simply cannot find jobs they need. Living without any income would tend to cut down on one's Twinkie supply.

2) He would be relieved of all the awful responsibilities which bog his life down. One would be the responsibility of dealing with those nasty protesters sitting and talking, singing and dirtying the grass. In fact, he wouldn't even have to worry about the responsibility of voting for his own country's government. The fact is, he wouldn't be allowed to vote for the government, saving him a difficult and inconvenient trip to the polls each year.

3) He would no longer have to huff and puff around that much-too-large house. Yes, no more slipping into a terrycloth bathrobe at 3 am and making that long trip all the way downstairs to steal a chicken leg from the refrigerator. His South African home would probably be smaller than his present bedroom. What a convenience! And he'd better learn to fight those nasty urges to have that shanty torn down, because that's the only roof he's going to have over his head.

4) No more having to travel with the backbreaking schedule he currently holds. In fact, thanks to the pass laws, his travel would be very restricted and he might not even be allowed to travel across town, let alone across the state or country. Think of all the free time he'll have when he doesn't have to worry about adding up all those bonus miles.

5) He would no longer have to worry about how to spend all the money he makes. Blacks in South Africa generally have no worries about becoming as well off as President Gray. No more worries about making arrangements with alumni or picking out the office carpet for this lucky guy.

6) As a South African black, the government would even give him a hand in selecting who his sexual partners will be! Yes, under the "Immorality Act" he won't even have to think twice when a lovely young South African white woman walks up to him. To his relief, the government has thoughtfully made sexual activity between whites and non-whites illegal. Young Paul will know for sure to "just say no" to interracial sex. Of course, interracial marriage would be completely out of the question.

7) Never again will he have to deal with such issues as the diversity of rush. All the recent controversy about housing international students together in one dorm or Project Interphase students in the same hall couldn't possibly happen in South Africa. I mean, nobody would complain because that's the sort of thing they love under Apartheid!

8) Finally, he wouldn't have to make any decisions regarding MIT divestment in South Africa. This one really is too bad, because maybe if all of the above were true, Paul Gray would have a different opinion about whether or not large American universities should divest from companies doing business in South Africa. Maybe.

You see, MIT is considered a leading name in more than just technology. MIT is considered to be a place where intelligent people study and work. Is our attitude toward South Africa (and companies helping the South African economy) an intelligent one? Apparently the voting body of the UA doesn't think so.

MIT can't make a difference? Large chunks of stock up for sale on the market, accompanied by the might of the MIT News Office promoting the divestment, will make a difference. A beaming President Gray telling NBC Nightly News that "MIT had to make the moral decision" and encouraging other universities to do the same will make a difference. Winded speeches on the complications involved in divesting -- that's what won't make a difference.


Tech columnist Bill Jackson '93 is a bit worried that he'll no longer be allowed to call Dr. Gray "Uncle Paulie" in the halls.