Archive for 4/15/2003
Despite the noble claims of those who support erecting a statue of Matthew Gaines on campus, their real motivations are dishonest, and their “tribute” is fundamentally racist in nature. If Gaines had been instrumental in the founding of A&M, and had his contribution hushed up because of his race, there might be a case for recognizing his efforts –but even his supporters admit that their primary motivation for his memorial is his skin color. Whether they believe that the memorial will inspire other students or be a politically popular move for the administration, there can be no doubt that their motivations are racist in nature.
Some people reduce racism to a dislike of a particular skin color or ethnic group, but this is a very incomplete understanding. Racism is the notion that one’s race determines one’s identity. It is the belief that one’s values, character, and achievements are determined not by their mind, but one’s anatomy or blood. To praise or condemn an individual based on his race is to claim that the value of a person comes from inherited characteristics rather than their achievements, destroying people’s confidence in their own mind. Classifying people by racial identity creates an unbridgeable gulf between groups, as though their skin color determines their identity and actions. When Frederick Douglass took inspiration from Thomas Jefferson’s immortal words that “all men are created equal” was he mistaken in applying them to himself because he was not white? Am I wrong for thinking of Martin Luther King Jr. and Walter Williams as heroes and great Americans because I am not black? Should those who follow the teaching of Jesus forget them because he might be white, black, or neither? Would the supporters of the memorial have me ignore the contribution of all the great men and women in history because they are not the same sex or color as I?
I will not accept this view. I will judge individuals based on their values and actions, not their race. If the administration truly wishes to extinguish racism, it must teach students to recognize people for their values and actions, not traits that they have no control over.