Magazine Strives For Amusement, Not Racism

Allen Haim is an editor emeritus of The Heuristic Squelch. Respond at [email protected]

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The Heuristic Squelch has been assailed by charges of racism from various factions of the campus community, all of whom trivialize the very real and very serious concept of racism by blindly applying it without examining the facts ("ASUC Condemns Published Racism," Sept. 29).

Three particular issues have caused the publication to be hysterically and illogically slandered: first, the biased conclusions jumped to in The Daily Californian article; second, the passed ASUC bill, which finds the Squelch "inappropriate in the extreme" and condemns the "racist" material in it; and third, the actions of the students offended by the joke.

The joke was the following: in "Top Ten Ways Not to Answer the Question, 'Have Your Bags Been Left Unattended at any Time Since Entering the Airport?'" in the September issue of the Squelch, entry No. 3 is, "'You're just an unathletic Filipino working for minimum wage - what are you gonna do about it?'"

In giving only the most cursory treatment to the facts, drawing highly subjective conclusions, and not even reproducing the joke, The Daily Californian has delivered not only a slap in the face to the Squelch, but has snubbed any standard of journalistic integrity. The result has been an angry stream of condemning letters on the matter sent by unwary, and unfortunately unquestioning, readers of the article.

In regards to the ASUC condemnation, the passage of the bill was accompanied not by reason but by highly-charged rhetoric. The Squelch was compared at various points to both the Ku Klux Klan and Adolf Hitler at the ASUC Senate meeting. But one might examine the concepts of stereotyping and racism more closely. Merriam-Webster's dictionary defines racism as, "a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race." Thus Theodore Roosevelt, the Ku Klux Klan, and Adolf Hitler were or are all racists, but to my knowledge nobody attempted to rationally show how the joke fits this common definition in the case of the Squelch.

Stereotyping might have been an argument, had someone tried to actually make it, but again it would have missed its mark. Simply examining the joke reveals that far from stereotyping Filipinos as unathletic airport workers, it does the complete opposite, making a humorous observation not about Filipinos, but rather about airport workers. The difference may seem rhetorical but in fact it cancels any argument about ethnic stereotyping.

Finally, not a single complaint was lodged with the Squelch before the offended students went straight to the ASUC. It is not the job of the ASUC to act as a playground monitor when students bypass rational discussion with the source of their frustration and instead go straight to bureaucratic condemnation. Further, this is clearly an example of special-interest lobbying; perhaps students of other ethnicities mentioned in the publication do not have such easy access to senators or, hopefully, can more intelligently assess such material.

Though deeply dissatisfied with the actions of the bill's author, Catherine Ahn, I am glad that no one has threatened censorship of the publication. It is deeply unfortunate that anyone was offended - pure offensiveness is not, in my own opinion, the magazine's object - but I sincerely hope that nobody will suggest that potentially offensive material of any nature be subject to censorship from the ASUC or the campus community. Let's leave Mario a shred of dignity.


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