Sunday, November 20, 2005

Beyond FEATURES: Reading, Writing, and Racism

Prejudice is in the local news again here in Denver. A student government leader and member of the Black Student Alliance at the University of Colorado (CU) at Boulder received an anonymous, abusive e-mail last week that not only insulted her but threatened her life if she ever opted to run for student government again. Denver Post columnist Diane Carman refused to let the story fade with the week’s headlines. Her Friday column, “Standing Up Forces Racists to Back Down,” included a distressing list of recent racially-motivated incidents:

“We seem to be in the throes of a resurgence of racial, ethnic and sexual harassment in Colorado and across the country,” Carman lamented. “At CU, participants in the annual Big 12 Conference on Black Student Government in February were greeted with racist graffiti and racial epithets yelled from dormitory windows. Then in June, Andrew Sterling, an African-American student, had his jaw broken by a guy who allegedly jumped out of a passing van, called him names and beat him up.

“In March, a 13-year-old boy harassed a black student at Ken Caryl Middle School with racial slurs. Racial slurs were hurled at Battle Mountain High School football players during a game with Steamboat Springs last year. Insults were directed at black college students on a field trip to Cortez by people who waved a Confederate flag from their car and swerved maniacally as if trying to hit them. And on and on.”

Carman noted that “the problem of increasingly virulent hate speech was a common theme at the recent conference of the National Association of Universities and Colleges.”

“Blame it on a nation divided,” she said, “on the convenience and anonymity of the Internet, the unbridled hostility fostered on talk radio, and the shameless, covert smear campaigns that are revered as genius in modern politics. Take your pick. It’s all of those things and more.”

Yet some people insist racism is a thing of the past. At the rate we’re going, I doubt it ever will be.


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