Letter to the editor

Discussion shows lack of awareness

Dear Editor:

This is in reference to B. Rankin’s “I am not a White Bitch” column, D. Cooper’s response and the related blog discussion on kentnewsnet.com.

As I pointed out in my letter on March 14, from my experiences as an immigrant writing teacher who has lived and worked in many different places in Northeast Ohio, I have noticed that the racial tensions in and around us are, to a great extent, rooted in a fundamental lack of awareness toward their underlying causes: (1) economic, (2) historical and (3) psychological.

As the heated reactions to Rankin’s column indicate, many of the responders (similar to the students in my writing classes) are quite oblivious as to how much their postings reflect their deep-seated prejudice against difference in general. Students with a white middle-class background are often completely unaware how their oddly sheltered upbringing in the suburbs has affected not only their ability to interact with people of different races but also their chance to reflect halfway adequately on the reasons why this might be the case. Of course, African Americans (or other “minorities”), who grew up isolated in their neck of the woods, are facing similar challenges.

What is stunning to me is how quickly and aggressively many of my students (no matter if black, white or other) are willing to jump to the following conclusion: If someone doesn’t make it in America, it is exclusively his or her own fault. Students base this conclusion on their vague feeling that — well, by law and constitution — everyone is born equal and has the same rights, right? On the other hand, these same students get rather defensive when asked if they condone their parents’ conscious choice to have raised their kids in complete ethnic isolation.

One blogger’s comment that being a college student makes one a non-racist by default is a very good example of this kind of cause-and-effect confusion. Again, to assume that highly segregated (economic and/or racial) schooling and (religiously manipulated) goodwill should prepare you well for actual interaction with someone from the other part of town is as dangerous as it is idiotic.

Rankin, Cooper and other student leaders need to stick their heads together: (a) to acknowledge that the underlying causes (see 1-3 above) for segregation are universal and affect each ethnic group, (b) to raise awareness toward more specific aspects of these causes at Kent State (for example, by addressing racist attitudes individually within ethnic groups or student organizations) and (c) to get students and teachers involved in a more informed dialog.

Frank Rosen

Doctoral candidate in English