Column: Blaming MU for graffiti isn't the answer
Feb. 15, 2011
The opinions expressed by The Maneater columnists do not represent the opinions of The Maneater editorial board.
As a columnist with a 12 p.m. Sunday deadline and a general lack of originality when coming up with topics, waking up Saturday to the news of the graffiti incident gave me a clear reason to write, but also a sinking feeling.
Frankly, I don't want to write about this. I don't think I'm qualified, and I don't want to sit here and state the obvious for 600 words. To me, and to everyone who reacts to this news, it's quite clear what is right and wrong in this situation's immediate context: That some prick, probably drunk, perhaps with accomplices, got sick thrills out of vandalizing property with deeply inflammatory language, knowing all too well the public reaction and condemnation it would receive. Taking advantage of and completely disrespecting the language and identities of racial communities for cheap pranks is clearly bullshit. I think we all agree on that.
If my summation of this event seems incomplete, don't be offended; I'm not trying to glaze over the extent to which this graffiti is offensive or wrong, as the NAACP and Legion of Black Collegians have already made extensive public statements on the matter. I can't say much in addition.
To me, the most honest indicator of our political, racial, social or cultural climate is our collective reaction when something offensive or inflammatory like this happens. While individual events such as these clearly show we as a society have room to grow, I don't think they always accurately portray systemic racism. Who we blame, who we condemn and our language when doing those two things reveals a more developed image of our general attitude toward racism.
When considering those things, I support organizations like LBC with hesitation. LBC is certainly in the position to make public statements on the matter, and its prompt and strong reactions are commendable and a sign of their unity. However, while they do not explicitly say this incident is the fault of MU, they do not seem to eliminate that possibility either.
MU clearly has the potential to improve by establishing consistent and strong standards when it comes to any diversity issues, as progress regarding diversity course requirements and zero-tolerance policies has been gradual yet unclear. However, I am unsure what MU can do to stop stupid individuals from doing stupid shit.
Clearly MU, Residential Life and all of the university muckity mucks have reacted promptly in condemnation of the action and now have an opportunity to set the tone of how hate crimes are punished in its dealing with this criminal. But to say MU is to blame is unfair.
I do not want to suggest that prevention methods are futile and not worth our time. While individual actions are most often unpredictable, we need to establish consistent standards when it comes to the marginalization of any minority communities, and the LBC is not the only one responsible for this.
We determine the health of our community; we set the tone for the environment in which we live. We are responsible for eliminating oppression, and we are responsible for being vocal advocates. University policy is a step in the right direction, but not the magic solution. Take your anger toward MU or whomever you believe to be responsible for this situation and replace it with productive activism.
Our responses to these events should not be temporary. Expressing our outrage is natural and expected, but we cannot assume our sensationalized responses do enough to heal any wounds. Racism in reality is more subversive, more invisible and more commonplace than we potentially accept, and our education on the matter should be a concern to anyone who thinks this situation was fucked up.
Demand answers, demand appropriate handling, but don't pretend blaming people is your only responsibility.