Hind Malik, Staff Writer
A personal response to the current controversial photo of the free expression tunnel printed and distrusted on The Brick- a booklet distributed on the orientations bags of upcoming freshmen.
I would like to begin by providing a brief account of my background as it pertains to the subject at hand. I am a student at NCSU. I am Black. I am an African immigrant. I am a naturalized and socialized African-American. I am a woman and I am a Muslim. In short, I am the definition of a “minority” and a magnet for racial, religious and gender discrimination, harassment and stereotyping. When I first started high school in South Carolina in 2002 students would make fun of me by asking questions such as “Did you wear clothes in Africa?” and “Did you live in trees and have tigers as pets?” It’s obvious that stereotypical caricatures instead of interaction with people from Africa were what shaped their conclusions on Africa. To counteract the frustration at their comments I would entertain myself by feeding their imaginations with stories; embellishing them with tales of heavy, bare breasted women and wild animals. Then, in more academic settings, I would do the opposite and present a realistic image of Africa; one of people with rich, diverse cultural traditions and languages. This allowed my peers to recognize the absurdity of their prejudicial assumptions. You see, the ignorant are not accountable for their ignorance. The burden for educating them falls on the shoulders of those who know better.
In Arabic the word “abd”, which literally means “slave”, is commonly used. In the Islamic tradition for example, the name Abd-Allah, meaning “The slave of Allah or God”, is positive and almost as common as John or James. However, the African slave trade was an integral part of Arab and Islamic history. For this reason the word “abd” in modern times continued to be used as a derogatory term describing anyone with darker skin pigmentation. Few years ago, I began working at a restaurant owned and operated by a group of Arab nationals. While working I began hearing my co-workers using words like “abd” when referring to African American customers, particularly during lunch hours when both customers and servers are frustrated and exhausted. “Why do you call them that?” I asked one of my coworkers. He did not have an answer for me. He was silenced not because he forgot the new black girl speaks Arabic but because he didn’t even know why he used the word; it was just a socialized response, a failure due to improper education. My point is that hatred, stereotyping, discrimination etc., are not innate behaviors but are acts of ignorance. The racial slurs painted on the free expression tunnel express the thoughts, beliefs and ideas of our diverse college campus. This issue does not only concern African Americans. It reflects the failure of proper communication resulting in the sort of confusion and anxiety among our community’s diverse groups. Reacting to such incidents by restraining the freedom of student’s to express their thoughts will only allow such hatred to fester into a more dangerous kind of xenophobia. Also, to make a great deal about a word that took me more than thirty minute to find on the photo only gives voice to the perverse mentality of those who wish nothing more than to spread the contagion of fear and hate. I do not agree with this sort of hateful and hurtful behavior. Everyone has the right to be outraged but is rage the solution? Let us not divert our focus and deplete our energy only to satisfy the aggressors. Our community has greater issues to tackle. Let us use incidents like this one as a source of strength and a reminder that the fight is not over. So, the next time you walk through the free expression tunnel and you see the word “nigger” written, don’t erase it but write back. Perhaps an excerpt from “How It Feels to be a Colored Me” by Nora Zeal Hurtson,
“I was now a little colored girl…but I am not tragically colored. There is no great sorrow dammed up in my soul, nor lurking behind my eyes. I do not mind at all. I do not belong to the sobbing school of Negrohood who hold that nature somehow has given them a lowdown dirty deal and whose feelings are all hurt about it. Even in the helter-skelter skirmish that is my life, I have seen that the world is to the strong regardless of a little pigmentation more or less. No, I do not weep at the world–I am too busy sharpening my oyster knife. Someone is always at my elbow reminding me that I am the granddaughter of slaves. It fails to register depression with me. Slavery is sixty years in the past. The operation was successful and the patient is doing well, thank you. The terrible struggle that made me an American out of a potential slave said “On the line!” The Reconstruction said “Get set!”; and the generation before said “Go!” I am off to a flying start and I must not halt in the stretch to look behind and weep.”
*****On July 8th, 2011 NC State Parents and Family Services received a letter from a concerned family who were upset to find a racial slur in The Brick, which is a publication that introduces university traditions to incoming students. On pg 42 of the publication a photo of the Free Expression tunnel contained the N-Word as well as other offensive messages. The tunnel which gives students the opportunity to write whatever they feel has become the center of controversy for the past couple of years due to hate speech which has been found in the tunnel on several occasions which commonly target minority groups on campus. Immediately after campus officials were notified of the situation, they met in a closed meeting to discuss possible options to remedy the situation. Later that afternoon, they invited students to join the discussion. New Student Orientation made the decision to pull copies of the publication. On July 11th, after several meetings New Student Orientation agreed to continue distributing the publication as long as Student Media made alterations to the page by placing a sticker over the offensive word. Many students had differing opinions on the situation. In the July 14th edition of the Technician, photo editor Brent Kitchen wrote a response to situation entitled “Dear Black Community, Embrace the Hate” which received numerous feedback from students. Brent Kitchen stated that the black community should learn to embrace all aspects of freedom of expression, even speech targeted towards them and that they should use that as a teaching experience. He also stated that hate speech was not the true issue, nor the real danger. However, a couple of students have differing opinions on this subject and have submitted a response to The Brick controversy, as well as the editorial written by Mr. Kitchen in the Technician.***** – Nubian Message