LETTER: Racism discussion misguided
A discussion has followed hot on the heels of my recent column in the Thresher, "Rice practices closet racism" (Jan. 24), on the racist implications of the discourse of the stranger that pervades Rice. My attention is drawn to a particularly ad hominem attack directed at me last week in "Racism complaints overstated."
I have no particular desire to respond in kind to invective masking itself as argument, or to infantalizing pop-psychology masquerading as authoritative biographical disclosure. As well, I have no desire to respond to the litany of charges against me.
However provocative and inflammatory the claims made under the guise of truth were, they have no bearing on the specific arguments I attempted to advance in my column.
But I will encourage, in the name of simple decency, all those who purport to take my column as their context, to respond, however critically, to the contentions I make in that essay, and not to straw arguments they wish I had made.
Let me state by way of example that the word "white" is not featured anywhere in my article, whether in reference to any students or university officials or even to "us" (whoever that is). Nor does my argument hinge on whether or not I was offered apologies (whatever the functional and formulaic utterances that stand in for apology may be).
Nor does my argument turn on the lack or presence of police sensitivity trainings (whatever these routine gestures actually amount to). Indeed, the police department (and the Graduate House for that matter) was not the subject of my article as such. I was addressing larger issues pertaining to the pervasive race-inflected siege mentality on this campus. To engage an argument on a reductive reading of a couple of decontextualized sentences is to miss the point entirely, whether deliberately or accidentally.
To read a culture of racism as a problem confined to the police department is to miss my point ... almost entirely.
Department of English
This item appeared in the Opinion section of the February 14, 1997 issue.
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