Copeland Typifies White Racism
To the Editor:
I am deeply disappointed in Professor Copeland’s contorted way of thinking in his letter to the Review, “Copeland Questions Siddiqui’s Open-mindedness.” Open-mindedness is about being aware of and acknowledging different people’s experiences across race, class, gender and/or sexuality. It is not about the absolutely patronizing and even insulting notion that people can put themselves in the shoes of another person who is different in the aforementioned ways and claim to know where he/she comes from, or in Professor Copeland’s words, “understand the experiences.” Professor Copeland obviously was not at the Vagina Monologues or if he were, he certainly did not recognize the intense depth and passion with which junior Dominique Atchison wrote and shared her piece, a piece that could have only been written by someone who has shared her experiences.
In the early half of the 1900s, people of color characters in movies and other shows were continually played by white people, (black face in Birth of a Nation, yellow face in Broken Blossoms). This has continued in the Broadway musical Miss Saigon, where white British actor Jonathan Pryce played the role of the Vietnamese engineer. These white producers’ and actors’ perceptions of colored people were so absurd and so insulting, always giving the white characters status, always portraying people of color characters as submissive. White people used their own deception of knowing how other people are as an imperialistic mentality to go into other cultures and claim to “save the barbarians.” In reality, they committed mass genocide, brought over their diseases and forced the natives into indentured servitude in one way or another. It is this attitude that [first-year Shahana] Siddiqui ultimately does not have in stating that she could never give “a voice to African-American women.”
Professor Copeland could also never project himself “into the psyches” of any person of color, even though society would allow him to do so. People of color cannot claim the experiences of being white because we do not have the white privilege. We will always be rendered different, either as enemies or as “model minorities” — any extreme, never individuals. Whereas white people may think of race from time to time or what people they claim to “understand” on any day, people of color think about race everyday, every waking hour.
To Professor Copeland and some white people, different cultures are like a masquerade. They jump between different races, different cultures thinking they know exactly where people of color come from and thus keep feeding their so-perceived liberal, progressive gut. This is exactly the same kind of imperialistic mindset that led to the destruction of so many cultures and it is this white supremacist attitude today that makes “identity politics” the scapegoat. It is the historical oppression of people of color that makes not only identity politics, but way beyond that, multicultural studies and a critique of racism in U.S. society necessary. Yet, many white people continue to dismiss these brutal circumstances. Apparently, Professor Copeland is quite content to live in his own conniving world of multiculturalism, along with the majority of the white race.
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