Paul R. Lehman, CSU’s McConnell’s comments show little understanding of moral and ethical values relative to race.

September 13, 2019 at 11:15 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American history, black inferiority, democracy, discrimination, Disrespect, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European Americans, freedom of speech, liberty, Race in America, racism, respect, skin color, social conditioning, whites | 1 Comment
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The Denver Post published an article, “CSU won’t punish students who wore blackface in a photo shared on social media, citing First Amendment,” (9/11/2019) that raised concern relative to the incident. According to the article, the photo showed “four students in blackface—some smiling, some crossing their arms—with the caption “Wakanda forevaa,” a reference to the “Black Panther” comic book and film.” The suggestion taken from the article’s title is that because the students exercised their First Amendment right, the incident should be viewed as socially acceptable. The article’s title comes as a result of the university’s President’s statement relative to the incident.

CSU’s President, Joyce McConnell, emailed the students, staff, and faculty that “Because of the long and ugly history of blackface in America, this photo has caused a great deal of pain to members of our community.” She added that “We have heard from many of you—and we hear you. Moreover, we respect your voices.” She continued with “We know that images like this one—whether consciously racist or not—can perpetuate deliberate racism and create a climate that feels deeply hostile.”

A number of concerns come to mind relative to McConnell’s statement. First, the fact that the students were identified as part of the CSU family made her a part of the incident. The actions of the students were a result of a choice they made—to denigrate or demean people of color. While the President noted that the history of blackface in America is long and ugly and can cause great pain, she never acknowledged the actions of the four students as being wrong. In fact, she does just the opposite: “We also affirm that personal social media accounts are not under our jurisdiction.” She added that “Our community members-students, faculty, and staff—can generally post whatever they wish to post on their personal online accounts in accordance with their First Amendment rights.” Rather than addressing the photo incident as a cultural and social problem involving ethnic bigotry, she dismissed it as liberty protected under the First Amendment.

McConnell’s attitude is similar to many European Americans who are not acquainted with the biased social conditioning they have been accustomed to all their lives. She made reference to the “pain” experienced by members of the community but made no mention of the need for the perpetrators of that pain to acknowledge the fact that what they did was wrong, not legally wrong, but morally and ethically wrong. She said that the students would receive no punishment for their deed, an action that could encourage more incidents of a similar nature. What is needed in this matter is not punishment but an acknowledgment of the injustice and a course of atonement taken by the students to indicate that they fully understand the “pain” their photo caused and their remorse for doing it. Just because the photo does not violate any legal or university rules does not mean that it should be considered acceptable and permissible. On the contrary, the denigration or degradation of any ethnic group should be viewed as intolerable.

McConnell mentioned the words racism and racist and noted that “We are all here at CSU to learn, and we believe that this [the photo incident] can be a powerful learning moment that leads to healing and reconciliation.”While her sentiment and wishes might be well-placed, her knowledge and actions regarding this incident show that neither healing nor reconciliation will take place unless someone with the knowledge and understanding of the European American (white) system of superiority and social privilege take the lead. Healing cannot take place until an acknowledgment of a wrong committed is made along with remorse for the wrong. Those two actions, however, do not conclude the healing process; an apology does not necessarily mean remorse. If someone bumps into another person holding a glass of water and the glass fall to the floor and breaks, saying “I am sorry” does not repair the glass or recover the water. What might help in this situation would be for the person who instituted the bump to ask, in addition to the apology, if another glass of water could be offered as atonement. In essence, an action underscoring the apology helps in the healing. She suggested no such acknowledgment or action from the students.

Reconciliation brings to the fore a number of preconditions that must be acknowledged and addressed before progress can be made especially with regards to anything involving race. In America, European Americans have been conditioned to view people of color as less than human as an ordinary part of their life. Generally, they do not see ethnic bias as morally and ethically wrong because it has been an ever-present part of their daily lives from home to community, to school and church. In essence, many European Americans are ignorant of their ethnic biases, so attempting to identify racism and racist as socially unacceptable represents a challenge. We know that a table set by ignorance leaves no room for reason or wisdom but allows fools to eat to their heart’s content.

Reconciliation would require the recognition and admission of race by color as a false concept and racism as a substitute for bigotry. In spite of all the evidence and information addressing the falsity of the concept of race by color, American society continues to ignore it and try to proceed as though nothing has changed and is changing in our society relative to the debunking of the race concept. While McConnell’s words seemed apt and appropriate regarding actions that could be taken and opportunities that are presented by this incident, chances are little or no positive changes will occur at CSU regarding ethnic bigotry from a moral and ethical perspective.

McConnell’s final words regarding the photo incident underscore the lack of commitment for positive change: “We urge every member of our community to listen [to what], and to hear [hear what], all voices that make up this wonderful, diverse campus family so we can move forward [to where] together, stronger than ever.”The genuineness of McConnell’s statement rings as sincere as that of the grocery checkout worker’s “Have a nice day.”

 

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