December 1, 2008

Uh-oh, ETSU is trying to tackle race again

*passes out flashlights*

I was going to do a post on tutoring today but I guess not! I just got this email from the school and I figured we could stare at it in confusion together:

Student Dialogue: Blackface and Its Effect on Student Relations

On Wednesday, December 3, ETSU students are invited to participate in an open dialogue on the topic of Blackface and its affect on student relations. The dialogue, which will begin at 5 p.m. in the Culp Ballroom Left, is an opportunity for students, including student leadership from key student organizations, to come together, share reactions and thoughts related to recent incidents in which a number of fraternity members at off-campus social functions appeared in "blackface." President Stanton has charged a task force to develop a process for dialogue related to these occurrences as well as other concerns affecting the campus climate. This dialogue is an important step in ensuring that ETSU continues its commitment to an inclusive environment in which all are treated with respect.

Now THAT is interesting.

I haven't heard of these fraternity members engaging in black face, but the fact that I've already had to explain to someone why minstrel shows are considered offensive makes this somehow less surprising. I'm sure the excuse will be "oh we wuz just funnin'!"

I'm actually happy that ETSU is choosing to start this dialogue with students and I'd like to attend if I can get off from work soon enough. Lately there have been a few race relations talks around campus and I'm hoping that the people going to these talks are taking them seriously, not going to just bawwww their case without doing much to change.

I have to tell you, even just being here the few months I've been, east Tennessee isn't exactly a haven of equality and openness. I mean, you could say the state as a whole is and you all should know by now I really hate my state, but it's really only a few certain pockets that still retain that good ol' southern tradition. Nashville, for example, being a major city (and apparently it's mostly black now, never noticed that), is pretty open when it comes to race, sexuality, art, just about anything that's not country music *cough* and when I say open I mean, yeah we have a few people that are still "dem damn gays/negroes/what have you" but they're largely drowned out these days by the up & coming youth population. This is why I rather thank the hipsters in my city.

Then you just have the pockets. I mean TN isn't really that large and I haven't exactly been everywhere (I haven't been West near Memphis for some reason) in the state. But of course we still have these pockets of inequality going around and perpetuating themselves but they largely seem to be dying out as more and more people are moving towards the major cities, which just makes sense doesn't it?

But back to the Blackface discussion, if I could attend and have my say, I'd just want ALL the students at ETSU to know that no, black face is not funny and is rather offensive, if not to "some of your friends" then at least to me. It's disrespectful to stereotype and paint your face up like a buffoon and basically act like a dick--it's disrespectful to blacks, it should be disrespectful to whites to set yourself back that far in history, and if nothing else it's offensive to your damn mother because I know she brought you up better than that.

I think these people should definitely be punished, maybe not severely but it should be something to give them a good lesson. More than just kicking them out of their fraternity, maybe force them to do some community service, something that will make them better people as a whole. Get them outside the limited perspective that allows them to see black face as hilarious. I have plenty more ideas but most of them are illegal and/or morally questionable so I'll let the school decide.

These acts damage student relationships because frankly it lets me all know how narrow minded and prejudiced you people (that being the frat bros in black face, not the entire campus exactly) can be and really makes me want to move to a safer, more open campus where I won't feel disrespected and made to be seen as a mere stereotype or caricature, in other words me and my damn scholarship money will be going elsewhere if no one sees to the end of such... silly acts.

Aaand that's what I'd say. Just like that. Anymore thoughts on blackface? Who the hell brought that stupid shit back, anyway, there seems to be a mini uprising in it.

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