To the Editor:
I am writing in response to this week's visit by Kwame Ture and the reactions that have emerged as the week has progressed.
From your two letters to the Oberlin College community I have gained the impression that you did not agree with much the former Stokley Carmichael had to say. Although I have tremendous respect for this man as an activist, a player in the pageant of history, and an elder in his community I must agree with you in my dismay at some of his statements towards the Zionist community. However, I take strong exception at your censure of his stance towards other groups, particularly continental Africans. As a man who has proved his loyalty to pan-Africanist and socialist ideals and yet can claim citizenship in the world Mr. Ture is in the unique position of being able to criticize African governments and elite without putting himself in danger of exile (Ngugi is a classic example) or death (Saro-Wiwa jumps to mind). In my view, and that of many young Africans who wait in the wings for the next act in the play of African self-determination, there is indeed nothing more disgusting than leaders who rallied their people to give up land, future and life for the sake of promised revolution only to betray the ideals of equality and opportunity with Swiss bank accounts and hundred-member retinues. There is nothing more disgusting than "intelligentsia" who would hide in the ivory sterility of Shakespeare and Shelley when there are Soyinkas ready to speak to a more urgent, immediate reality. There is nothing more disgusting than bourgeoisie who would gladly export their children to boarding schools in Massachusetts and France, and omit to teach them their own language in the hopes that these children will one day exploit and mistreat their compatriots as domestics. I thank Mr. Ture for saying what perhaps he alone can say with impunity and I thank you for listening a little more carefully before you run to the defense of causes for which you are exterior.
It saddens me to say that the image that comes to me after reading your comments is one of a listener who had made up her mind before having heard all Ture had to say, made up her mind that, as a former Black Panther and a continuing revolutionary, his words on all subjects would be suspect and threatening. I do applaud your encouragement to the community to continue in dialogue and your obvious involvement in this issue. I hope that in the future the various communities on campus and in this town will be encouraged further to engage in dialogue and not incited towards anger and misunderstanding.
Finally, I would like to tell you what I got out of Mr. Ture's speech on Monday, perhaps to put your mind at ease. I heard him say that no matter who we are, we are part of a continuum of mothers and fathers who have sacrificed for us to have the opportunity to study at Oberlin. We owe it to our communities to return all that we have drawn from them. I heard him say that organization is essential in the bettering of the collective human lot. I heard him explicitly state that his party and his set of ideologies is not the only one and that as intelligent students it is our prerogative and privilege to explore different social movements. I heard him challenge African American students in particular to strive for excellence and moral integrity, to make such characteristics an essential part of our identity. I heard him.
May we, Oberlin's community, learn to hear each other more clearly.
Copyright © 1996, The Oberlin Review.
Volume 124, Number 18; March 15, 1996
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