Kwame Ture's speech this past Monday evening provided many people on this campus with a cathartic feeling of empowerment. The letters which these students, and others, received preceding and following his speeches publicly delegitimized this source of empowerment for disenfranchised peoples. People who have never heard Kwame Ture speak read those letters and quite probably foster negative feelings towards him as a result of them. Since those letters were sent out they have served no other purpose than to divide the communities on this campus by successfully silencing any dialogue which may have occurred between communities. Those letters separated the Zionist communities on campus from other repressed communities. They show that the adminstration of Oberlin will support one community at the expense of another. Third World House (TWH) has been asked by a professor for a public apology in regard to Kwame Ture's speech. This request was made subsequent to a request by TWH for funding for the rest of the People of Color Conference. The actions of the professor and the letters which President Nancy Dye mailed to every student on campus are a disgusting abuse of power and a glaring example of racism. The preformed opinions provided by the Oberlin College administration in President Dye's letters are traced with the suggestion that the Oberlin students who support Kwame Ture are too stupid to evaluate his speech as free thinking individuals. These students are capable of questioning both Kwame Ture's speech and the actions of Oberlin administration.
Why did President Dye send out the letter to proclaim publicly her denouncement of Kwame Ture in anticipation of protests from offended persons? Why did she not send out letters in anticipation of disgust for the support of a former Aryan Nation leader, Floyd Cochrane, who also came to speak in Finney Chapel last semester? Why did she publicize a teach-in and workshop on anti-Semitism in anticipation of these protests? Where was the teach-in on institutionalized racism for the students who sat outside of Finney Chapel on the night of Floyd Cochrane's speech and voiced their outrage at the entire event? Where was the institutional support for the Asian American studies teach-in? Why is the three thousand dollars spent on travel expenses to bring Kwame Ture and his group questioned when the same amount of money was spent on Floyd Cochrane and his honorarium, without a disclaimer from President Dye? Why does one community have to feel like they are whining when they question the support for another repressed community and ask for support for their own? The question here is not whether or not Kwame Ture is an anti-Semite. We are asking not only about the power dynamics that have been set up by this particular event but also those dynamics which already exist.
Why is so much fear generated when a black man with power unabashedly supports a controversial position that is possibly threatening to white people? What about the fear that repressed people face everyday? Why has the Oberlin Administration chosen this particular event to recognize repression? When President Dye calls for the Oberlin community to "respond vigorously... to a speech that is hurtful to members of our (Oberlin's) community" does she not note that there are speeches made everyday that are hurtful to members of the Oberlin community, including the one that she made in those letters? Out of all of the issues that could have been raised from Kwame Ture's speech, why did the Oberlin administration choose to cite an aspect that many have used to discredit black leaders over and over again, anti-semitism? Why did they not make an issue of the widespread ignorance of Zionism or the general ignorance of the issues of repressed peoples? The answer to all of these questions point glaringly towards racism.
Copyright © 1996, The Oberlin Review.
Volume 124, Number 18; March 15, 1996
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