Monday, November 14, 2005

Pot, kettle, part 478 

Some people get to use stereotypes and others don't. Take a look at this story of a community college president called racist after giving a talk to the school's basketball team.
When Steve Maradian gave a talk to the baseball team at Los Angeles City College, he said, the players thanked him and gave him a hat.

So Maradian, president of the college, was shocked when a reporter showed him a letter signed by the members of the men�s basketball team � an all-black squad and one of the strongest of any community college in California � saying that a similar talk Maradian gave last Monday, before the season opener, was racist.

The letter called the talk a �lecture which reeked with the stench of blatant racism.� Maradian �informed us that we had to go to class if we planned on playing for the team, as if we didn�t already know this. [Head] Coach [Michael] Miller lets us know that every day.�

Maradian, who arrived at City College in August, told the players �I was proud of them, and that their academics are of far more interest to me, because they have to transfer on,� he said.

The letter, which Maradian said he had no knowledge of until it was given to the Los Angeles Times, was signed by all 12 players, and Wendell Westbrook, a black assistant coach who was the only coach present when the president spoke. After the talk, but before he learned of the letter, a few of the players thanked him for coming to see them play, Maradian said.

t is unclear who actually penned the letter, which said that Maradian told the team not to �embarrass the school or �we will feel his wrath,� � it read. Said Maradian, � �Wrath?� I don�t even speak that way.� Maradian said he noted in his talk that alcohol is not allowed on campus. The letter read: �We half expected him to warn us not to � sell crack in the library.�

So they felt like they may have been stereotyped as basketball players at a community college that are not good students, and that they should not embarrass the school. Presidents should not say this I guess. A story in LA Times adds detail and shows the letter the student-athletes wrote. I'd leave the story as a group of athletes not enjoying being "addressed like 5th or 6th grade students" except for this from the Inside Higher Ed piece. He quotes Wendell Westbrook, an assistant coach that was the only one in attendance at the president's talk (the head coach having been suspended for violating conference decorum policies for smoking a cigar at a cross-country meet).
Westbrook pointed out that Maradian is of Armenian descent, though he is from Massachusetts. �Armenians are a clannish type of people,� he said. �They don�t do a good job of communicating with the black community.�
Now what is really interesting about this is that LACC sits on Vermont in east Hollywood, which is the middle of little Armenia in LA. That was speculated as part of Maradian's appointment to the presidency. Coach Westbrook has been there for awhile, I assume? How is it he can call Armenians clannish in one breath while presuming speaking to student-athletes about keeping their noses clean is racist?

(And yes, my last name indicates my own Armenian roots but we're not clannish enough for me to have ever met Dr. Maradian.)