Focus on Differences Obscures Individuality

George Matchen is a UC Berkeley alumnus. Respond to him at [email protected]

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Chris Zamani's sarcastic tutoring in "Behind the Black" makes me feel like a target myself. As a white person, how can I expect a young man like Chris to see me as an individual when he obviously bases things on race and the present power structure?

Mistrust begets mistrust. Mr. Zamani would do some good if he would start acting like an individual himself, eschewing class and race differences, instead of polarizing himself as "the Barrows 6" or "a Black Man." Besides, he assumes that white people don't feel like targets already themselves: Let Mr. Zamani IMAGINE walking out of Oakland's 12th Street Bart station at night, a well-dressed white male, only to walk a "gauntlet" of puffy-jacketed black boys who throw a bottle at your head when you didn't give them a dollar. That's exactly what happened to me, so Mr. Zamani is not the only "target" who lives in "reality". There are two sides to the racist coin he tosses.

According to his logic about cops, my bad experiences with many blacks should make me think that they are not individuals, but indoctrinated into a "fight the power" mentality out to intimidate, rob, or injure anyone who looks like a sheltered white male. But I try not to. Also, he should consider one reason he may have been picked up by his ears (which is wrong) is that many cops, who are working class, despise uppity ivy-league students, regardless of their race.

So Mr. Zamani paints a simple picture of state-sponsored racism, when in fact, the situation is more complex and deals with class, race, personal politics, and perhaps a few officers who are simply fed-up with protesting students who don't just picket, but chain themselves to doors, shut down buildings, taunt and throw things at officers to make their political point.

After reading Mr. Zamani's response, he also seems to justify violence anyway ("throwing bottles and taunting cops is often the only recourse they have"). So violence begets violence.

Also, the danger in paying too much attention to what "mainstream society" thinks, is that one loses the ability to escape the polarizing influence of TV and magazines to see ANYONE as an individual, including himself. I suggest that Mr. Zamani look inside himself and see how willing HE is to see others as individuals, even though they may dress and act stereotypically. It is difficult, but we all must try.


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