Saturday, February 28, 2009

Seeing Ourselves Through Another's Eyes

This past week, Anne Garrels, a foreign correspondent for National Public Radio, came to Mizzou. Because I currently work for the NPR affiliate station in Columbia, I had the amazing opportunity to eat dinner with her one night. Her stories were amazing and her courage that these stories revealed was even more so. Yet what surprised me the most was the story she told us about the U.S. invasion into Iraq. Garrels was one of the few reporters in Iraq at the time of the invasion, and she told us about the Iraqis' reactions to the invasion. 

Some were genuinely thrilled, she said, but most were just "scared sh**less." She would later tone down her language for a more public audience. Generally I do not condone cursing, but for some reason, the way she said it painted a more vivid picture in my mind than anything else she could have said.

The pictures that came back to the U.S. from that day show the Iraqis pulling down the statue and beating it with all kinds of weapons. But notice that you cannot see the people who are actually pulling down the statue. Anne Garrels said that there were not even enough Iraqis in the square to pull down the statue. U.S. Marines had to help them pull it down. 

This shows that ethical journalism is not just about writing the truth. It is about telling the truth in every way, even if that is through pictures. Some journalists like Anne Garrels did give an accurate description of the Iraqis' reaction to the invasion, but others did not. As viewers and journalists alike, we need to stop looking at the world through ethnocentric eyes. We need to see the world as it is, even if that picture is not as perfect as our ideal world. 

The pictures above belong to Reuters.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Triumph of Racism

I have always known that people have certain dislikes and prejudices against other races, but I have never seen it outrightly except for in a few cases. These cases are primarily seen in older people, and I generally excuse this as being "old-fashioned." But today, I heard a comment that blew my mind.

During a basketball game (Mizzou versus Nebraska), there was a player on the Nebraska team who was appeared to be of African origin. And when I say African, I don't mean African-American. Later on I discovered that the player, Ade Dagunduro, was actually born in California. 

The two college students began the game by throwing out the "f-word" whenever they got the chance. This made me cringe every time I heard them behind me, but it was when they told Dagunduro to "go back to the bush" that my heart started pounding with anger. Later on, when Dangunduro fouled one of the Mizzou players, they continued with their racial comments. "We don't do that in America! Yeah, Go back to the bush!" It took a lot of self control for me not to turn around and tell them to stop, to tell them that that kind of language and racism should not be tolerated. Then, I realized, I was not practicing self-control. I was practicing cowardice.

What was it that was keeping me from turning around and standing up for Dangunduro and all people of different origina? I wish I could answer that question. If more people stood up against racist comments, no matter in what context they are spoken, perhaps racism would dissolve much more quickly. Instead, we do what I did and stand by, pretending not to hear it, or we just walk away. Either way, we allow it to spread and thrive in our society. 

Edmund Burke was right when he said, "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."
The same is true for racism, for indeed, it is an evil. 

All that is necessary for the triumph of racism is that good men do nothing.

Next time, I pray that I will have the courage to stand up and do something.