:: Running from the Thought Police ::

Reality-Based Thoughts, Ruminations, and Unsolicited Opinions of a University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign student alumnus and employee.
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:: Wednesday, January 10, 2007 ::

More Comments On Recent Stupidity

There I was, thinking I was mostly done with blogging, or at least this blog, and then someone goes and makes a threat against a Native American student for being anti-Chief, along with someone else being generally anti-Indian. Since my last post supplying the online community with Chancellor Herman's massmail, some more information has popped up online about what actually happened.

The Champaign-Urbana Independent Media Center has a press release posted condemning the incident, and at least partially what actually happened.
On Facebook, the popular student-centered social web forum, a University of Illinois student has begun a group called "If They Get Rid of the Chief I'm Becoming a Racist." The group's web site can be viewed at this Facebook address: http://uillinois.facebook.com/group.php?gid=2216973206, though it is likely that Facebook authorities will soon remove the site, because it violates Facebook policies. One hundred and ten University of Illinois students have joined this group.

Two students have posted inflammatory messages on the group's web site. These messages are available to any web user who registers with Facebook, which includes most University of Illinois students and many other people across the campus community and across the national and world-wide network of Facebook users.

On November 20, 2006, a University of Illinois student posted the following explicitly racist words that call for the death of Indian people, which of course includes the Indian people who are members of the University of Illinois community: "what they don't realize is that there was never a racist problem before..but now i hate redskins and hope all those drunk, casino owning bums die." On December 2, 2006, another student wrote the following explicit threat, a call for violence directed at a specific University of Illinois student: "that's the worst part! apparently the leader of this movement is of Sioux descent. Which means what, you ask? the Sioux indians are the ones that killed off the Illini indians, so she's just trying to finish what her ancestors started. I say we throw a tomohawk into her face."
The first comment was bad, but not not out-of-line for many/most of the more vocal Chief supporters once you start talking to them a bit and manage to get them off-message. The second one, though, is decidedly not cool. In a campus like ours, that's constantly torn apart by this issue, one does not threaten to physically harm someone holding the opposing position in a public forum. I've met rabit pro- and anti-Chief supporter, and I know from personal experience that it's not the anti-Chief people who'll be likely to do damage over the issue. As such, I am not disturbed at all by the prospect of students being punished over this.

As I said in the comments of the previous post (which I would link to and quote directly if Haloscan was not down at the moment), this is just the tip of a very ugly iceberg. While these two were caught on the internet where everyone could see, most incidents like this happen in social settings where very few, if any, people are liable to report it. I wouldn't be surprised to hear that part of the reason the Chancellor's going after this now is because he can and so address the larger issue.

One also needs to remember that this incident came after the earlier one where a fraternity and sorority held a racially-themed party and got nailed to the wall for it. They, too, stepped afoul of the Chancellor, and this more recent incident can only confirm for him that racial and ethnic sensitivity, or the lack thereof, is an issue that needs to be addressed.

Illinipundit has his own post up on the issue, and as the predominant local organ of the Mighty Wurlitzer, is trying to downplay the seriousness of the incident by insisting that someone answer the question: "[W]hy isn't it "hate speech" to label all Chief supporters as racists?" There's two answers to this question. The short answer is, "It's not hate speech because it's accurate."

The longer answer is that the Chief is a racist symbol, mascot, and institution, and supporting the Chief at least condones, if not supports, the racism embodied by that institution. As such, support for the Chief either permits or is an active case of racism, and so such support is accurately described as racist. While the term 'racist' has deservedly negative connotations, properly using the term in the context for which it was intended, such as describing the Chief and its supporters, is not hateful but merely an accurate description of the truth, as uncomfortable as such may be.

The News-Gazette has its own story up, but it doesn't say much more than was in the press release and the Chancellor's massmail. Unfortunately, the DI doesn't have anything about this yet. Hopefully they'll start reporting on this when they get back from break. The Spring Semester starts a week from yesterday.

:: The Squire 5:37 PM :: email this post :: ::


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