April 26, 2010

Letter to the Editor: The opposite of paralysis

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To the Editor:

Re: “Too Quick to Punish,” Opinion, April 26

The author, however well meaning, gets it wrong in this column. His definitions of racism and sexism are in fact, extremely narrow. Prejudices such as these do not operate only on an individual level, but rather are systemic, and pervade nearly every facet of our lives. This means that one can believe in the equality of races and sexes and still make racist and sexist comments or do racist or sexist actions. Even if Prof. Grant Farred was “just joking,” the effect of his comments was to hurt and demean two students. Sexist and racist comments masquerading as humor are still racist and sexist. In my dictionary, “bitch” means female dog. How is comparing a black woman to a dog not racist and sexist?

Furthermore, having attended the Willard Straight takeover commemoration this year, I can say for certain that far from being paralyzed on racial issues, the Cornell community, particularly Africana and other academic programs, is constantly addressing and reevaluating these issues. I have spent much of my education discussing race issues through the lens of Human Development, and other students have done the same through other lenses. There are people on this campus who have “real conversations” about race issues every day. This is the opposite of paralysis.

Lauren Schneider ’11