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COLUMN

Racism Is Not a Fashionable ‘-ism’

Saundra Quinlan

With regards to the opinion article published on Oct. 10 [“Stereotypes and Censorship”], it is true that there are words which could be interpreted differently than how they were meant to be interpreted. Nonetheless, that does not give one an excuse to use that language when one is fully conscious of how these words can be interpreted. Words do have power, regardless of how people interpret them. Such words indicate a lack of knowledge and display ignorance. Ignorance has power. It can be translated to injustice in the classroom, the workplace, and in many other aspects of daily life.

Blacks make up 12% of the nations population, but a mere 6% here at MIT. I believe this discrepancy is a direct result of racism and racism’s institutions. Racism is not a fad, nor is it currently fashionable because of recent debates about affirmative action. Racism has been “fashionable” for hundreds of years, and as far as I can see, it’s never going out of style.

Although the e-mail about the Ghetto Party did not outwardly target blacks (minus the mention of “yo niggas,” which also is debatable), one can conclude that these stereotypes did have a racist connotation to them.

Let’s say the ignorant are given the benefit of the doubt. Let’s say they do not know many black people personally and base all their perceptions of blacks on the images of rappers, which in itself is a poor excuse; there are many other images in mass media that one can formulate their opinions on. Using the popular culture of gangsta rap and hip hop to formulate jokes is a conscious decision.

Let’s say we give the ignorant the benefit of the doubt again and say that gangsta rap is the only image of blacks; I can not think of a mainstream rapper that raps about trash can fires and promotes litter. Rarely does one hear mainstream rap about 40’s; if anything, you hear the mention of Hpnotiq and Cristal more often. Nonetheless, does an alcoholic beverage represent a people or a culture? If these stereotypes were poking fun at gangsta rap the e-mail would have actually mentioned things that are prevalent in rap. Since it didn’t contain many of these things, their words can easily be associated as a racial and socioeconomic attack.

I am upset, not only that the situation with the Ghetto Party occurred, but that I am repeatedly learning how much ignorance prevails on our campus. Hearing people say “racism does not exist” hurts me deeply. What can we do to educate people, and make them aware of issues that affect individuals daily? I do not know. I have been trying to educate ignorant people since kindergarten and quite frankly, I am getting sick of it. Educating the ignorant takes not only a teacher, but students willing to learn.

Although you can find points that I make with which others agree, by no means do my words represent the entire black community. I am only one person representing herself. I just want to bring to the forefront that there are people upset and offended by this whole incident, both blacks and non-blacks.

Saundra Quinlan is a member of the class of 2005.