Students sensitive to others’ racism often the worst offenders

Paul Eaton is a Weinberg senior. He can be reached at [email protected].

This is an issue that needs to be brought to certain people’s attention so that they might introspect and scratch their heads. I want to bring to bear the issue of WISPs both here at Northwestern and in the big, bad world.

WISP is my own acronym for Well-Intending pSeudo-Progressive. To whom am I referring? Well, mostly ivory- to caramel-complected persons whose own racism is so covert and deep-rooted that they aren’t even personally aware of it. People who think they are part of the solution, but really are the true form of the problem at NU and elsewhere. Hence, pseudo-progressive.

Did you read Vivi Abrams’ column in the Oct. 6 Forum or were you at the game Saturday to hear the offensive comment “Catch the ball you lazy black retard,” yelled in reaction to a failed reception? Did you stop in your tracks to gasp and shake your head? How horrible, you think. How can people at this level still say things like “black retard.” At least here at NU, people should be at an intellectual and educational level where they realize such commentary is offensive and that racist attitudes are unfounded, right? Of course.

Now think honestly and carefully to yourself. Have you ever seen a group of people of a different ethnicity and disapproved of their behavior? Behavior that may or may not be harmless but is nonetheless outside the social conventions of your subculture and therefore “inappropriate”? Can you remember what thoughts went through your head? Can you recall your body language or the look on your face?

Have you ever noticed when a Caucasoid and a Negroid are standing at different parts of the fast food or deli counter and the Caucasoid is served first, despite the fact that the Negroid has been waiting longer? Have you ever been that Caucasoid? Have you ever been walking down the street and moved your purse or even crossed the street when a young black male was coming towards you? Maybe you changed the pace of your walk and became more alert when you heard a group behind you start to speak with a hip-hop accent. Maybe you had a certain attitude or look on your face when someone with that hip-hop accent approached you with a question or spoke up in class. How many times have you discounted the intellectual prowess of someone that talks “black?”

These are the behaviors of a WISP. Perhaps you don’t count yourself among that group. Perhaps you should.

I have seen these behaviors from innumerable members of the NU community. I have seen the attitudes and faces in class. I have seen college women move their bags and purses or change sidewalks after looking me straight in the eye. I have received attitude from the registrar, the Office of Studies, various academic departments and other NU faculty when I call them on the phone and speak a certain way. I have seen people treat me better or worse than the friends I am with, depending on their complexions.

And I am a Caucasoid. I just speak and dress a certain way.

If you have no idea what I am talking about, or don’t notice these things, you are a WISP. Getting upset over blatant remarks or behavior is not enough. Every WISP throws a fit when they hear “black retard.”

Racism = Bad is the first equation we are taught as children. Even if you are sure you are not a WISP, do you recognize that the things I am talking about are the daily aggravations of your non-white fellow students?