LETTER: There was nothing funny about the MU cotton ball incident, only hatred

Monday, June 21, 2010 | 3:58 p.m. CDT; updated 6:14 p.m. CDT, Monday, June 21, 2010

On June 16, the Columbia Missourian printed an opinion column from retired Marine Karl Miller. In that column, Mr. Miller asked why we can no longer laugh at racial differences, much like the way we used to laugh at "All in the Family" and "The Jeffersons."

Mr. Miller did not understand why we could not laugh at the "cotton balls" incident. He felt that everyone at MU was just too sensitive, that it was just a prank, a joke. His quote: "Getting back to the theme of tolerance through humor, the seeming lack of ability to recognize and enjoy amusement across racial, social and cultural lines is a disturbing trend."

This, I guess, could have been funny if it was from one friend to another, what I would call a ribbing or a jab. But these "harmless" cotton balls were left anonymously. They were meant to insult, meant to hurt. They were meant to hate.

These "harmless" cotton balls do nothing but remind us; they remind us of innocent men being hung by an angry mob just for looking at a white woman. They remind us of more recent hate crimes such as a man being dragged behind a pickup truck just because he was black. They remind us that there is still hate and all things are not fair. And that's precisely what the two individuals charged intended. That they were charged with the lesser crime of vandalism speaks volumes for Columbia in general.

Mr. Miller suggests we just get used to that. His quote: "Finally, those who are in the minority, have less influence and differ in ethnicity, race or sexual orientation must realize that there will forever be ignorance and bigotry on both sides of the coin. And though the bias always appears intensified toward minority groups, the vast majority of today's society is fair-minded and increasingly tolerant. Laughter is still the best medicine."

So, as Mr. Miller advises, the next time someone calls you the N-word or the F-word or any other hateful and racist word, just laugh it off, get used to it — there will always be ignorance.

I say no. I will not give in to ignorance. I will not just accept things as they are. I will work for a better future, a better nation — one that belongs to us all, not to those that just want to keep it for themselves.

One more thing: Mr. Miller, as I understand it, is retired from the Marine Corps. So Mr. Miller, so you must know that you are still subject to the rules and guidelines of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. I do not believe that your recent views would be looked upon favorably, especially those regarding the president of the United States.

Perhaps, in the future, you should choose your words carefully.

John Zamarripa lives in Columbia.

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