racism

Just when you thought race-based excuses couldn’t get more ridiculous, here’s yet another tidbit about University of California, Santa Barbara Professor Mireille Miller-Young.

As The College Fix has reported, back in March Miller-Young and some pals approached a couple of anti-abortion protesters. Eventually, the prof snatched away one of their displays and then got into an altercation with the younger of the protesters, which left scratches on the latter’s arm.

Last month, the feminist studies professor pleaded no contest to “misdemeanor counts of battery, theft and vandalism.” But now, several of her colleagues have offered up a … “unique” defense of sorts: the “cultural legacy of slavery.”  The Daily Caller reports:

UCSB history professor Paul Spikard charged in his letter to Judge Hill that Miller-Young has been the victim of “an energetic smear campaign that seems to have little to do with her person or her actions, and a great deal to do with fomenting racial hatred and rallying right-wing political sentiment.”

“It would be tragic if Dr. Miller-Young were sentenced to jail time or mandatory anger management classes based on the press’ portrayal of her as an Angry Black Woman,” Spikard wrote.

“She was at the stage of a pregnancy when one is not fully one’s self fully, so the image of a severed fetus appeared threatening,” (fellow UCSB feminist studies professor Eileen) Boris wrote, according to Fox News.

“If she appears smiling on camera, she is ‘wearing the mask,’ that is, she is hiding her actual state through a strategy of self-presentation that is a cultural legacy of slavery.”

Read the full story here.

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Was it all just one big misunderstanding?

In an interview with The College Fix, University of Mississippi’s chief communications officer Tom Eppes strongly denied the campus will eliminate or diminish its widely used and beloved “Ole Miss” nickname due to its historic ties to slavery.

The recent idea that “Ole Miss” would be axed or used less frequently because some people are uncomfortable with it had been met with a huge backlash, prompting national headlines, a petition that called for Chancellor Dan Jones’ resignation signed by about 3,000 people, and a protest march against the changes.

But the notion – prompted by a recent report by Chancellor Jones that called on “developing a plan to provide guidance on best uses of the terms ‘The University of Mississippi’ and ‘Ole Miss’ ” – was misunderstood, Eppes said.

In the report, Jones said the plan should follow “traditional convention” that uses “Ole Miss” in athletics and school spirit references, and “University of Mississippi” in reference to academics. Eppes said that’s actually been standard operating procedure for years. But some interpreted that as a policy change.

“As has been the case all along, we will use ‘University of Mississippi,’ the formal name of the university, in first reference in news releases and when referencing academic research or communicating on behalf of academic schools or departments,” he said.

“Ole Miss” was originally used by slaves when referring to a plantation owner’s wife, and that “Ole Miss” officially became the nickname of the university following a yearbook contest in the late 1800s, The Associated Press reports.olemiss.ken-lund.flickr

Today, most people don’t think about slavery or racism when the moniker “Ole Miss” is used, Eppes said, adding the campus will not scrap the venerable nickname, nor change their “OleMiss.edu” email address and website URL, because of a few concerns.

“Neither the website URL nor the email address are changing, despite media reports to the contrary,” he said.

“National research clearly demonstrated that the name carries none of the antebellum meaning that concerned some faculty,” Eppes added. “In fact, it’s regarded very positively nationwide.”

The report by Chancellor Jones, published Aug. 1, states that campus evaluations found “the vast majority of current students of all races embraces the name and does not attach any meaning to it other than an affectionate name for the university.”

What’s more, researchers found that a significant margin likes and prefers the “Ole Miss” name over the full University of Mississippi title.

“The affectionate term ‘Ole Miss’ is and will continue to be an important part of our national identity,” Jones had stated.

Eppes said “confusion” was also prompted in part by concerns stemming from a University of Mississippi history professor, who told The New York Times earlier this year about his frustration with the name.

“If you bill yourself as Ole Miss and you call yourself the Rebels and the first thing a visitor to the campus sees is a Confederate monument, whether intentionally or not, it conveys an image,” history professor Charles Eagles told the newspaper.

“If I could do one thing,” Eagles continued, “the place would never be called Ole Miss again.”

Those quotes were then connected more recently with Jones’ report, which detailed an “action plan” on how the campus will distance itself from its controversial Confederate past.

In fact, some changes are in the offing.

Campus officials will rename a street on campus from “Confederate Drive” to “Chapel Lane.” The University of Mississippi will also hire a “vice chancellor for diversity.”

“It is my hope that the steps outlined here … will prove valuable in making us a stronger and healthier university,” Jones said in his report, “bringing us closer to our goal of being a warm and welcoming place for every person every day, regardless of race, religious preference, country of origin, ability, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or gender expression.”

But the confusion over the fate of “Ole Miss” prompted fierce debate on both sides.

Student Emma Jennings penned an open letter to Chancellor Jones in which she addressed those who may want to change the university’s email domain, currently @olemiss.edu, saying the impact on racial diversity will be negligible.

“Does changing our email address URL from ‘olemiss.edu’ to ‘umiss.edu’ promote diversity?” she asked in her letter. “Or does it suggest that we are a school that is ashamed of itself and ashamed of its past?”

She also slammed the idea of hiring a vice chancellor for diversity and inclusion.

“By creating [this position] … you are suggesting to the rest of the world that Ole Miss is inherently a racist school, and her students are incapable of change on their own,” she wrote.

Jennings also fired back at Jones’s report, saying it “could use some more research, investigation, and a broader base of opinion quotes to be truly on the right track to a diverse university.”

The student government also recently came out in support of keeping Ole Miss around.

“The Associated Student Body is glad to read that the chancellor’s report underlines the importance of retaining the term Ole Miss as our university’s nickname,” it stated. “Representing our student body, we agree that the overwhelming majority of students of all races see the term affectionately and would be upset with its removal. We believe that the goodwill that the university gains through retaining the beloved nickname is irreplaceable and its removal would be a great detriment to our university.”

In contrast, senior Sierra Mannie penned an op-ed in Time in which she claimed the university “has spent too long marinating in such an idyll, willfully and disappointingly ignorant of the antebellum period and its shame.”

Mannie stated she even “teared up” after reading Jones’ report, praising his leadership on the issue. But she admits she still uses “Ole Miss” when not speaking about academics. “It’s much shorter,” she wrote.

The Ole Miss Alumni Association did not return a request for comment by The College Fix on this issue.

College Fix reporter Andrew Desiderio is a student at The George Washington University.

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INSIDE IMAGE: Ken Lund/Flickr

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Here’s one professor’s not surprising take on police brutality in the wake of the situation in Missouri - a wide-sweeping generalization that officers are threatened by black men and Americans are intrinsically racist.

ABC’s WRIC in Virginia reports:

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) -After the police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Missouri, many people wondered if this is yet another case of police brutality.

Dr. Faye Belgrave is a psychology professor at Virginia Commonwealth University. Dr. Belgrave says it’s not a coincidence that many black men and even adolescents become victims of police brutality.

“They are threatened by black men, and even young adolescents, and once people are threatened, they react to protect themselves,” says Dr. Belgrave.

According to Dr. Belgrave, study after study shows that many people perceive black men as being violent or aggressive.  She says this is a belief that’s rooted the country’s history of racism, and many people are unaware of the issue, which she calls implicit racial bias.

We grieve for Michael Brown and his family and have unanswered questions about the officer-involved shooting, and there is no excuse whatsoever for police brutality. But why is it that everything always boils down to racism with most professors?

Setting aside the Missouri incident for a moment, rarely is there a word from professors on how personal choice plays a role in anything, nor a good explanation for the black-on-black murder epidemic. What effect does rampant fatherlessness in many black communities have on its young men, or gansta rap?

It’s not always just about racism.

At least one brave professor has said as much.

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FERGUSON, Mo. – About 100 protesters gathered Monday afternoon near the Normandy Police Department chanting “no justice, no peace” to denounce the recent shooting death of an unarmed black teenager by a police officer, a rowdy crowd that was advised by a speaker to “get on the jury” to help prosecute the alleged crime.

“Everybody is talking about, ‘What can we do? What can we do?’ ” the speaker told the audience. “All I want to say is, how many people … have been on jury duty? One thing we can all do is get on the jury, that will help immensely.”

The advice to the predominantly black crowd was met with applause and cheers. It was one idea among several vocalized at the protest, where speakers also called for a more racially diverse police force, and for “equal justice” for the officer who shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown on Saturday night, prompting riots and unrest in St. Louis.

“No peace, no justice, what that means is that until something happens to that cop, there will not be any peace,”  Randall Young, a Vatterott College student studying to become a HVAC technician at the same school Brown was set to attend, told The College Fix during the protest.

MichaelBrownProtest-CollegeFix from The College Fix on Vimeo.

Talk radio shows in St. Louis on Monday offered wall-to-wall coverage of the shooting, riots, and various protests that cropped up over the last two days, with many already likening the situation to the death of Trayvon Martin and discussions of alleged out-of-control police brutality.

The officer, who has yet to be identified, shot the unarmed Brown numerous times, causing many in Ferguson and St. Louis to equate Brown’s death with the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in 2012. Both black teens were unarmed. Michael Brown’s family on Monday reportedly hired the attorney who represented Trayvon Martin’s family.

The FBI is also probing the incident for civil rights violations. Police have said there was some sort of struggle between the officer and Brown before he was shot and killed. Witnesses have said Brown had his hands raised in surrender when he was fatally shot.

The shooting took place in a predominantly black neighborhood in a town that’s already racially charged, in a larger region sometimes likened to the “Detroit of The Great Plains.”

The daytime streets of St.Louis were largely subdued on Monday, and a sense of exhaustion tinged with anger permeated neighborhoods. Debris and trash from the riots peppered the streets.

The Monday afternoon protest was held in the parking lot of the Murchison Tabernacle Church in Normandy, right across the street from the Normandy Police Department. It attracted dozens of mothers who said their “sons are being killed.”

As a white man walked up to the crowd of protesters, one woman called out: “White boys don’t want to come down here and get hurt.”

Many voiced concern at the protest and on talk radio that although a large part of the St. Loius population is black, that there is “no voice for black people” in the region’s leadership. St. Louis was recently dubbed the sixth most racially segregated city in the country.

Young, the Vatterott College student, voiced sadness and anger over the death of his classmate during the protest.

“I was on the bus passing West Florissant, (the place where Brown was shot and killed). My thought was, what was the boy doing for the cop to shoot him like that? What was running through that cop’s mind?” he said.

Young added that he had a feeling the “candlelight vigil” for Brown would take a turn for the worse. But he added that he approved of the riots, that they will “wake people up.”

College Fix contributor Christopher White is a University of Missouri graduate student and an editorial assistant for The College Fix.

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IMAGES/VIDEO: Christopher White/The College Fix

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No, this isn’t from The Onion: Dr. Ben Pitcher, a lecturer at the University of Westminster, claims that the (British) radio show “Gardeners’ Question Time” is peddling … racial stereotypes.

The Telegraph (UK) reports:

“The context here is the rise of nationalism. The rise of racist and fascist parties across Europe. Nationalism is about shoring up a fantasy of national integrity. My question is, what feeds nationalism? What makes nationalism powerful?”

Dr. Pitcher said the “crisis in white identity in multicultural Britain” meant people felt unable to express their views for fear of being called racist, so expressed their racial identity in other ways, such as talking about gardening.

Lola Young, a former professor of cultural studies, backs Pitcher up:

“I remember back in the late 80s-early 90s when rhododendrons were seen as this huge problem, and people were talking about going out rhododendron-bashing.

“That was at a time when Paki-bashing was something that was all too prevalent on our streets.”

A presenter from the gardening show, Bob Flowerdew, is quite tactful in response: “People aren’t gardening because they have some narrow nationalist view of the world. They are gardening because they enjoy it and they like to be outside in nice surroundings.”

Gosh, who would have thought?

Read the full article here.

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IMAGE: Rob Chandalais/Flickr

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The year: 1968. A science fiction show called Star Trek makes history by featuring the first interracial kiss on American television.

The year: 1959. A writer named Robert Heinlein makes a Filipino young man his protagonist in what many consider to be his best work, Starship Troopers.

The year: 1973. Marvel Comics’ Captain America title features its hero tracking down a villain who ends up being none other than President Richard Nixon himself. The event causes Cap to become highly disillusioned, and he gives up wearing the American flag for a time.

The year: 1980. Writer Gregory Benford’s novel Timescape warns of global environmental apocalypse if humans aren’t more careful in how they alter their surroundings.

Science fiction has always been an avenue through which creators comment on political, cultural and social matters. Like racism. The nature of society and government. Abuse of power. Stewardship of our planet.

But only in the hallowed halls of academia will you discover such is not enough for this creative genre. No sir. If the creators are not of the “right” color or background, and if the “right” issues aren’t being addressed adequately, then there’s a problem.

At the University of California, Riverside, a grant was needed to explore “ethnic futurisms” — because, it seems, “there has long been an unacknowledged tradition of SF written by people of color.”

“Alternative Futurisms,” which will launch in September 2015, will bring together African American, Latino, Native American, and Asian American scholars, artists and writers to examine the colonial roots and legacies of science fiction and the power of speculative fiction as a tool for social change.

Science fiction fans and scholars are rethinking what counts as science fiction, explained Sherryl Vint, professor of English and co-director of the SFTS program with Latham. Vint is co-principal investigator of the Sawyer Seminar with Latham and Nalo Hopkinson, professor of creative writing and an award-winning author of science fiction and fantasy.

“The canon is not monolithically white,” she added. “Questions of social justice are emerging, particularly with regard to colonialism, borders, DNA, and profiling. Our seminar will elicit and sustain dialogue among the many peoples of color who are using speculative techniques to combat systemic racism and will seek to displace the hegemony of the post-racial imaginary with a range of ethnic futurisms.”

The “colonial roots and legacies” of sci-fi? Sounds like yet another university-based grievance fest. And who wants to translate that last sentence? Any takers? Here, I’ll give it a go:

“Our seminar, comprised almost exclusively of non-white folks, will discuss how science fiction can combat the persistently and incorrigibly racist Western societies, and will strive to abolish the popularity of racial unity themes in the genre and replace them with various racial and ethnic separatist group fictions.”

How was that?

Unfortunately for UCR, other than that last deconstructivist-based sentence, there’s little new “Alternative Futurisms” offers to science fiction. “Speculative fiction as a tool for social change” is, after all, what sci-fi is.

white-spacemen.x-ray.deltaone Sorry. We’re too white.
 

This story comes about, ironically, at a time when there has been considerable debate within the science fiction community about matters racial and sexual. The rise and popularity of social media, particularly Twitter and Facebook, have served as a catalyst for such. This online brouhaha, for example, between conservative author Larry Correia and lefty writer John Scalzi is a (continuing) microcosm of such. Unfortunately, the predictable accusations of racism, sexism and homophobia by those in the latter camp mar real conversations.

Over the last decade or so, the “Big Two” comicbook companies Marvel and DC have made headline-worthy attempts to “diversify” their ranks — characters and creators alike — sometimes by turning long-established characters into something they’re not. And, like the liberal (general) science fiction crowd, progressive comicbook fans and creators alike are quick to denounce any criticism of such, however innocuous.

Most recently, for example, it was announced the Marvel character Thor would become … a woman. (This is in the comics, not the movies, so don’t worry about Chris Hemsworth ladies. Oh, wait, was that sexist? My apologies.) Even reactions such as “it’s just a cheap gimmick” have been met with angry counters, invoking “misogyny,” “angry white males,” “marginalization,” and, of course, “racism.” Like the movie industry’s predilection for churning out “reboots” of even classic science films, such announcements, much like comicbook character “deaths,” are merely short-term gimmicks, guaranteed to result in a sales boost, however fleeting. I suppose it’s just too much work to actually create new (diverse) characters, much like it’s the same situation with writing original movie scripts …?

Science fiction aficionados crave good stories, no matter the race/gender/sexual orientation of the creators or the stories’ characters. An all-consuming desire for — and corresponding knee-jerk criticism toward dissenters of — superficial “diversity” does little to enhance and encourage the human oneness much of science fiction envisions. Nor, for that matter, does seeking to “displace the hegemony of the post-racial imaginary” with cluttered, separatist racial/ethnic literary enclaves.

Lastly, in terms of access and availability, today there is little to prevent minority science fiction creators from getting their creations out to the public. They certainly don’t face, for example, what Benny Russell did in my favorite Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode, “Far Beyond the Stars.” All it takes is hard work and a lot of persistence. Just ask sci-fi author great Larry Niven; even a trust fund (white) guy’s stories like his got rejected a gazillion times … but eventually one broke through. And I, for one, am glad he kept at it.

Dave Huber is an assistant editor of  The College Fix. He’s written about science fiction and comics (among other things) for over a decade, mostly at The Colossus of Rhodey.

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IMAGES: Matthew Vaughan & x-ray delta one/Flickr

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