Monday, November 9, 2015

Equality Begins With Respect, And... (with update)

Will we ever get there?

Have you good readers been following events at the University of Missouri?  The African-American football players are striking and they and others are demanding that the President Wolfe resign over nonresponse to a climate of racism.

NPR News published two statements, one by a Missou student and another by a faculty member.  I was almost in tears reading them.  These ladies projected both grace and faith.  I was especially saddened to know that the faculty member had been called racial epithets by - other faculty members.  To me that is almost unbelievable.  Please take the time to read their statements here .

This follows revelations such as the OSU racist chant controversy.  There was also an article in The Guardian by a Boston U. Student who detailed some racist incidents at the University and its environs.  All I can think of is: if this is happening in academia, which should be more open to diversity, my goodness what must be happening elsewhere?

I'm continually stunned to think: here it is, 2015 and we're STILL dealing with this?  Have we not grown up?  Did some of us not get the memo about: "all men (and women) are created equal"? Did someone miss the Civil Rights movement, not learn Dr. King's dream?  What's going on here?  Why are we still so eager to belittle others?  I have a suspicion that the economic downturn of the past few years may be playing a part, as folks try to find convenient targets for their displeasure.  I keep hoping folks would look to blame the real sources of economic problems!

That said, if we want to form a basis for true equality, I feel it has to begin with simple respect. Is that really so hard?  Is not calling names and being civil to people really asking so much?  Do most of us not learn the "Golden Rule"?  Hey, it has been taught in many faith traditions!  

To give an example, let me tell a true story.  Now even for the non-Irish, don't most of us learn it's disrepectful to wear orange on St. Patrick's Day?  Well, my late Mother came down to breakfast one St. Patrick's Day in - you guessed it - an orange outfit. Well, she could be stubborn, and it took both me and my late Father to convince her that this wasn't a good and respectful idea; she finally did change before leaving to teach.  Point is:  I'll bet most everyone wouldn't dream of wearing orange on St. Patrick's Day.  So why would we consider or condone hurling a racial epithet at anyoneAnd why allow racist symbols in gov't spaces for another thing?  There was a fine c-span discussion about the confederate flag and two things in it stood out for me:  the one panelist, Prof. Spencer Crew, said that seeing the confederate flag fly on gov't property was to him like a slap in the face, and that those who cling to this symbol need to know that it had been hijacked as a racist symbol.  The other takeway was that the other panelist said that removing things like monuments may not always be the best idea; but supplying other historical and educational stories at those sites might be more productive (I think that was Mr. Rubenstein).  You can view the discussion right here !

Simple acts of respect can mean a lot and can do much to clear the sometimes polarized climate of our society today.  But that's only a start.  We need to start building each other up and stop tearing each other down if we want an equal and just society.  We need to look beyond superficial differences and start seeing common humanity and common citizenship. And then start working as equal partners to address the problems that we as a nation, and a world, face.

I was really stunned to read of the confrontation between the U. Missouri protesters and the press - especially one of their own student journalists!  How sad.  They had really come so far, really shone a light on the problems there, the leadership will be changing, there will be some sort of diversity classes offered there in the future I heard.  Then they spoil their good work by disrespecting the press!  The press they had previously been calling for, according to the commenter in the news video at the following link.  They also have a strong journalism program she noted, so they should have known better (especially the professor).  Didn't they note that Freedom of the Press is part of the First Amendment -- just as is Freedom of Assembly, Freedom of Speech, and Freedom of Religion? I'm not sure what they were hoping to accomplish with that attitude; I would have thought they would have wanted to be inclusive and show the media exactly that. Actions such as their treatment of reporters will cost them sympathy of those who might otherwise be inclined to be in their corner.  I just hope it doesn't completely undo the good that has been done so far.

link:  Missouri protesters vs. student reporter  

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