Saturday, May 14, 2005

The next CARE seminar is in Room 101 

When we last left our colleague Mary Clifford, she was writing in the local paper about anonymous postings. Mary's monthly essay on Friday contains two fascinating elements. She is unhappy with one of her colleagues who also writes for the paper, who's column I discussed last month as debating the purpose of the Community Anti-Racist Education program, which Clifford helps direct. She writes:
Last month, a fellow columnist who also is a colleague in the Criminal Justice Department at St. Cloud State University suggested that the work being done by the CARE initiative is "probably criminal."

I have to say, I was outraged by his having made such a claim in the paper, especially because this program has been a great source of inspiration and education for me, as I believe it can be for others.
Now, on this campus in the last ten days we've had a raging debate over the union's executive committee attacking a white student-columnist who was outraged over a black professor's confrontational style in a meeting in the campus paper's editorial offices. How is Clifford's objection different, since Prof. Andzenge's columns even come with a picture (and, we're told by Miss Median, we should know his race by his name anyway)?

I'd've let that slide, except that she calls herself out later in the article.
My work with the anti-racism effort began about five years ago, when I made a racist statement on the St. Cloud State faculty list-serve. At the time I didn't think my comment was racist, and I was extremely hurt by the angry racist allegations. The attacks came at a personal level and at a professional level.

How could someone teaching and working in the justice arena not be more personally and professionally aware? Because I teach criminal justice courses � and so much of my training throughout my doctoral program, even though it was a program in justice studies, didn't include discussions about racism. I immediately became defensive and started offering evidence to support the fact that I was not racist. The more I learned about white privilege and the more I learned about the kinds of events that people of color are still subjected to, but which are very easy for my white mind to ignore or dismiss, the more I came to see that the allegations of "racist" fit my comments, and therefore they fit me.
Every time I read that today I flashed to the image of the self-flagellating monk in "The Name of the Rose." And to my mind came:
Do not imagine that you will save yourself, Winston, however completely you surrender to us. No one who has once gone astray is ever spared. And even if we chose to let you live out the natural term of your life, still you would never escape from us. What happens to you here is for ever. Understand that in advance. We shall crush you down to the point from which there is no coming back. Things will happen to you from which you could not recover, if you lived a thousand years. Never again will you be capable of ordinary human feeling. Everything will be dead inside you. Never again will you be capable of love, or friendship, or joy of living, or laughter, or curiosity, or courage, or integrity. You will be hollow. We shall squeeze you empty, and then we shall fill you with ourselves.
It is hard to remain a flaw in the pattern. And yet you must, lest you write editorials that contain your own confessions to someone else's religion.