GUEST COMMENTARY: Cotton ballers tried to degrade African-Americans

Thursday, March 11, 2010 | 6:48 p.m. CST; updated 10:43 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, May 4, 2010

An MU student felt the need to create a Facebook group, titled "FREE THE COTTON BALLERS!" to express his disgust with the arrest of the two MU students who defaced the Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center and mockingly dehumanized African-Americans.

I am not amazed by anything anymore. It is clear to me, now more than ever, that racism grips many with its rigid hands, while blinding some with its often obscure nature.

Racism is never afraid to show its grotesque, evil behind. Two sides exist to every story, but I cannot sit by and condone the extreme and premeditated manner of this heinous act. What they did was more than a simple joke; it was a conscious jeer constructed to debase the history of African-Americans and their contribution to this campus.

What they did was an act of vandalism, but if their actions were deliberately committed with the thought of degrading African-Americans, then it is a hate crime. A hate crime is classified as a crime that the victim, witness, third-party or anyone else thinks was caused by hostility, prejudice or hate of someone's disability, gender identity, race, religion or belief, or sexual orientation. By targeting the Black Culture Center and no other building on campus, people are left with the conclusion that they defaced the building because of its association with the black student population, making it a hate crime.

Furthermore, why spread cotton balls, which symbolizes the ties that blacks have to chattel slavery in America? If it was not a target on blacks, then sprinkles, tacks, etc. should have and would have been spread, not cotton balls.

Dismissing their actions as small is part of the problem, and those who do so contribute to fostering an environment where we tolerate discrimination. In my opinion, when "small" things like this happen, they stand as signals that larger things are brewing beneath the surface.

In addition, to those who ask "Why do blacks get Black History Month, the Black Cultural Center, the NAACP, the United Negro College Fund, etc.?" I have a simple response: we fought to obtain these few things because you basically get this entire campus and the entire world to move around freely in.

Many argue that blacks get special privileges, while whites get nothing. They say blacks do not uphold the concept of equality. To them I say that it was never a question of equality but more a question of equity. We fought to level the playing field in a society where we had been oppressed and limited by elitists who were too afraid to lose the advantages founded on a social construct derived from slavery, with whites on top and blacks on the bottom.

If this society had given blacks access to this system of advantage in the first place, no need to create these organizations, institutions, events and resources would exist.

I do not want to be equal to you because there is nothing that makes me inherently inferior to you. I just want to transcend the systematic disadvantage standing against me as a black man living in America.

But once again, racism and ignorance never fail to show just how real and ugly they truly are.

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