The hanging zombie



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The epidemic of racial transgression has yet to depart from our campus. Last week, the ASUC Senate passed a bill condemning the hanging zombie decoration that Theta Delta Chi — a fraternity at the corner of College and Durant avenues — placed over its lawn. Though the ASUC did bring crucial awareness to the issue of racial ignorance, it should also take the lead in creating programs to deter racial intolerance rather than react to events after the fact.

If the senate passed a bill every time a community was negatively affected by racial insensitivity, it would never get to the root of the problem. The ASUC would become the tolerance police, and countless hours would be spent reviewing the actions of individual organizations, a process that could be subjective and laborious. This reactionary attitude must be replaced with a more long-term solution.

While the fraternity had no negative intention in putting up the figure — which it intended to be a hanging zombie — black students poured into the senate meeting last Wednesday night to express their outrage at what reminded them of a lynching. At the senate meeting, Black Student Union Co-Chair of External Affairs Marcel Jones said that “lynching was a symbol of terror” and that “any visual representation of this affects the very core, the very soul and the very being of black students on the campus.”

The entire Greek system should not be blamed for the ignorance of a single fraternity. Not only did this action offend students whose ancestors were plagued by lynching but also those who still face it today. UC Berkeley student Zelina Gaytan representing Casa Magdalena Mora — a Hispanic-oriented theme program — broke out in tears and said that she saw a lynching two years ago in Tijuana and that “lynching was not dead, and oppression wasn’t dead.” The pain of these students cannot simply be shrugged off.

An estimated 3 percent of our campus is black, and the problem of racial discrimination must be faced so that we can in good conscience tell prospective black students that UC Berkeley is safe for them.

Unfortunately, black students on campus regularly face discrimination. A student at the meeting described a time when students called her and a friend “black dirty ratchets” on the way to the Foothill Residence Hall. Yet another student mentioned an instance when she and her sister had alcohol thrown on them while they were walking in Berkeley. Without a black senator on the ASUC Senate, it is commendable that the body took such a stance against racial discrimination. Multiple senators in the Greek system — including TDX member Mihir Deo — put their loyalties aside and voted in favor of the bill.

Before the meeting, TDX President Hamed Hosseini issued a public response on the fraternity website apologizing for the fraternity’s actions and also acknowledged the concerns of campus communities. Though this apology is welcomed, Hosseini should have sent an executive to speak at the meeting or had his statement read instead of allowing the pledge who made the decoration to speak on his own. By not taking initiative, Hosseini offended the pledge, the Greek system and the black students at UC Berkeley. Presidents are the face of fraternities in times of trouble, and pushing the burden onto a pledge demeans Hosseini’s position as president.

TDX pledge Noel Duarte came to the senate meeting and publicly apologized for making the decoration. Duarte should be commended for taking responsibility for his actions. However, just as he explained in his apology, Duarte’s words will not quell the pain of black students. While the pain will not go away anytime soon, the blame on Duarte as an individual and TDX as a house should not be permanent. Duarte said that as a gay, Hispanic student, TDX had expressed acceptance of his identity. Just because TDX is accepting of its members does not mean it is immune to its transgressions. However, it does paint the picture of a well-intentioned fraternity that simply made an uneducated albeit hurtful mistake.

In order to combat future instances of racial intolerance, the bill recommends the creation of a “mandatory racial sensitivity curriculum” for campus Greek organizations. This addresses the broader issue at hand of discouraging racial discrimination rather than punishing it ex post facto. This curriculum should be mandatory not just for members of the Greek system but for all UC Berkeley students.

At the meeting, freshman Mikela Topey advised that a program similar to AlcoholEDU be prescribed for all incoming freshmen in order to teach tolerance and raise awareness of the hardships campus communities face. ASUC-sponsored dialogues like Bears Breaking Bread and educational programs could prevent another hanging zombie.

The ASUC has the power to make students think twice before they take actions that negatively affect other communities. Although the body should not strip student groups of their right to free speech, it can at least help them to understand the potential consequences of their actions.

Contact Noah Ickowitz at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter: @noahickowitz.

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  • alum

    Oh please – it’s a hanging zombie. If you’re offended by that, perhaps you should turn your attention to yourself and figure out why your skin is so incredibly thin.

    Fortunately no one set up a fake guillotine as a decoration, it would have greatly offended our French exchange students.

  • iPosit

    This is dumb. While the zombie does appear to be of darker skin, it would still appear to look like a lynching (because anyone can be lynched). However, it is Halloween. That decoration isn’t some Haunted Compton Cookout KKK Theme – it was a hanging person/zombie. This was clearly unintentional, and should be treated as such.

    This is what I presume white people hate the most about being white. (pretext: white people still have it pretty fucking easy comparatively). If you do not intend to say something racist, but it appears to be racist, you can be labeled as such. Act like you wish to learn, but not apologetic – truly it was not your intent to be racist. If you say something that actually IS racist (or in anyway reinforces an artificial hierarchy or separation of people’s on the basis of anything that is derived from hate or an attempt to control) and are neither apologetic or in an attempt to learn, then you should be ashamed. This is an instance of the first – TDX made a mistake of using a dark grey zombie (this is more likely ageism if anything..) and subsequently apologized for their unintended racial consequences in many mediums. ASUC condemned their mistake – I guess this isn’t all too wasteful in that it supports consequences for hasty decisions, demanding that students take more time to consider their actions in context of racial dynamics.

    However, to condemn this is silly, but to conflate this issue with inviting Farrakhan is another thing entirely. Farrakhan is (arguably) an anti-Semite because of his views about the culture that he lives in – but to that end he does not preach anger or hatred or violence when he speaks to the community at Cal. His main thesis is that communities who have been oppressed for so long should seek to educate themselves critically outside of the paradigm that narrowly prescribes the fate of colored peoples into the middle-class or upper-middle class positions (if they’re incredibly lucky) with no chance of truly overcoming any sense of historically embedded racial injustice. To believe that such a fate is sealed is ontologically damning for young black men and women. Instead, he contends that insulated black communities that are skilled enough to not have to depend on races that would likely steal from or condemn them should form.

    He does not hate Jewish people, he thinks they own a disproportionate amount of the scarce resources that then make them more powerful than races. Whether or not this is fact does not betray his logic – why work for those who can at any moment sacrifice you for the sake of their blood relatives when you are more safe working with your own kind. While I have personal reservations against such divisive dialogue, he is speaking from having seen first hand, and many years of study of these sorts of actions, the dangers of impoverished and unskilled communities by nature of reinforcing a drive towards the abyss – nihilism as the underpinning of the communal pain and suffering.

    This is why the ASUC and anti-defamation peoples are so silly. The problems we face are all essentially the same – OH MAN I AM ALIVE, I AM NOT ENTIRELY SURE WHAT TO DO. On top of that problem is amalgamated centers of control that end up deciding what others can and can’t do. It’s so very sad, but the truth. This condemnation reads as a castigation of not paying attention to accidental racial jabs. Should each group have a panel that oversees public actions to avoid unintended racial remarks? Seems excessive – and so does a public censure. Do Jewish people need to be upset that Israel as a particular country is selected as an abuser of human rights when in reality is violates clear settlement freezes? If any faith in international law exists, then probably.

    • andrewsu

      “He does not hate Jewish people, he thinks they own a disproportionate amount of the scarce resources that then make them more powerful than races. ”
      The KKK never hated black people, they thought they committed a disproportionate amount of murder and rape. Facts back up that they do. The difference is Jews own a disproportiante amount of scare resources through their hard work while blacks are disproportinately a burden on society because of their lack of work ethnic, lack of morals, dispostion towards violence and stupidity, and lack of applying that not so hard concept called family planning.

      • iPosit

        Hey now, the KKK hated anyone who wasn’t Aryan. You’re completely off base. They targeted blacks en masse because towns had beliefs like you which allowed them to become bystanders to or active participants in the brutal murders and lynchings that took place in those times. You seem to be a terribly intolerant person who is willing to obscure the past to justify their own beliefs. You suck.

        Facts only back up that blacks are targeted as suspicious peoples more often, at least as of late. In some districts in New York, there are more instances of black men being pulled over than there is black men at all in those districts. Racism is alive and well, and mostly because people like you believe in that. White people are also capable of doing stupid things, being on welfare, being lazy, having hatred or being unintelligent, and having many children as well. They are called tailor trash, which is also another instance of class-based denial of education and opportunity.

        Andrew Su – I am not questioning the hard work of people who are high income earners, but I am being critical of how they got the opportunity to do such a thing. It is far more likely for one born to a rich family to become (or stay..) rich than it is for one born to a poor family. What Farrakhan believes is that, instead of being subject to betrayal and sacrifice on the basis of not belonging to a similar racial division, that blacks unify against such a possibility. He promotes critical and self-aware education to the end of self-reliance for black people. This seems like something you would be a fan of.

        I think you are a bad person for holding these beliefs. I think I will target you until you believe less racist thoughts.

      • iPosit

        Andrewsu: If someone assasinated Obama blacks would react the same they have for the last half century, not only here but in London. Which is attacking Asians. I like Asians and every perceived injustice against blacks apparently gives them the right to victimize Asians and steal from them. It’s kind of like what the most racist whites once viewed blacks (except for the stealing part). Social justice and anti-racist activists apparently see nothing wrong with blacks victimizing other minorities like the KKK once did towards blacks.
        Please share this article by using the link below. When you cut and paste an article, Taki’s Magazine misses out on traffic, and our writers don’t get paid for their work. Email [email protected] to buy additional rights.

        It does not make sense that, in an instance where a Black Leader is killed, that Blacks would find it an appropriate response to attack and harass Asians. What is more likely is general rioting, in which those targeted are property owners and small businesses, but riots happened because the SF Giants won the World Series, so you can’t say that is a race specific issue.

        Also, you should stop claiming that people accept the victimization of races while concurrently believing that the desperate situation some people of color live in are their own faults. Accepting the victimization of any race is problem of the individual’s belief in them. If you do not believe that it is you who allows racism to persist, and instead continue to blame it on the ‘general societal belief’ you will only continue to promote such beliefs in the future.

        Instead, you should understand and love your own racial identity and history and then try to understand why African Americans love theirs. Then you should quit believing that people accept any violence at all. They do not, unless they promote it themselves.

      • iPosit

        Andrewsu:Sorry if you were called the “n” word by a Jewish guy in Isreal. Perhaps he thought it was okay since in Isreal, just like every other place on the planet, they hear the “n” word spewed by black people constantly because of the popularity of rap and hip hop. I was called a “k ke” by a black man here in America, I have also witnessed dozens of horrible instances of anti-Jewish, anti-Asian, anti-gay, anti-women hate speech by blacks males here in America every bit as bad as what happened to you in Isreal. You think it’s okay to be prejudice against Isreali Jews because you were called the N word by one? Is it okay to to racist against black Americans due to all the instances of hate speech and hate crimes I’ve witnessed from them?

        No, Andrew. The answer is no. You should either distance yourself from those people, attempt to educate them that individuals ought to make their own choices and only bind together out of fear for others and a human need to belong to something more than themselves. You should be aware that race is something people do not choose and hence anger as a result of it is pure nonsense, to hate someone for being something that they are as opposed to something that they choose to do is absolutely ridiculous. You can hate people who murder, steal, or rape. You can hate those individuals. If you see statistics that liken a particular race to said activities, be critical of who wrote it, and about why those numbers might be true. Is it because there is something in those genes that make them predisposed to violence? Aren’t you personally capable of suicide bombing, sepuku, or violent anti-Japanese protests (of whatever part of Asia you’re from, can’t tell from Su alone..). I don’t want to make crude gestures about your ethnicity, because it is what I am trying to teach you not to do. Please, realize that racism as a result of personal injustice is the worst reaction. If you were in an impoverished neighborhood in South Carolina populated by Whites, you would probably get mugged too. Not because they enjoy mugging people, but because they are poor and (wrongfully) feel like they need to do that to survive. Hate the injustice, and the individual, but do not hate the race that you see.

  • Tiffany

    This was a good article on the issue and attempting to dig at the roots rather than just the incident. I appreciated this excerpt:

    “If the senate passed a bill every time a community was negatively affected by racial insensitivity, it would never get to the root of the problem. The ASUC would become the tolerance police, and countless hours would be spent reviewing the actions of individual organizations, a process that could be subjective and laborious. This reactionary attitude must be replaced with a more long-term solution.”

  • Calipenguin

    TDX pledge Noel Duarte, a gay Latino student, put up the zombie. Notice how the ASUC, cowardly as usual, does not mandate that gays or Latinos take the racial sensitivity training. Only Greek system members are listed in the ASUC bill. This is guilt by association and interestingly Noah, a strong defender of Jewish anti-defamation rights, goes along with this punishment. The BSU as well chose not to focus its anger on gay or Latino students, only Greeks.

  • I_h8_disqus

    I am sure Noah feels good about himself now. However, in 10 years he will be living in an area that has fewer blacks than where he lives now, and he will be working for a company that will have a black work force of at most 1%, and he won’t even notice. Experiences like Halloween and the responses of the ASUC don’t bring the races closer together. They just push us further apart. White students learn that they can suddenly be labeled as racists for nothing, and their most likely response will be to avoid situations where it can happen again. So they segregate themselves from blacks. Look at the demographics of the Bay Area, and you see it happening in real life. Hundreds of thousands of college graduates have moved to areas and work for companies that are much less diversified than what the graduates saw in college. Until we recognize real racism instead of politically correct racism there won’t be any changes in race relations.

  • Dan Spitzer

    Noah is right. Racial intolerance has no place at UCB. But how about the Black Student Union and MSU inviting overt anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan to campus to speak. That’s an infinitely worse act of intolerance than a fraternity putting up a hanging grey faced zombie.

    And then there is the Graduate Assembly trashing HR-35, a resolution condemning anti-Semitism. Again, that’s an action far more bigoted than an ill-conceived Halloween decoration.

    • Calipenguin

      Exactly! The ASUC, cowardly as usual, wants mandatory racial sensitivity training for members of the Greek system yet does not make the same request for the Black Student Union which invited Farrakhan to campus and ignored the racial sensitivity of many Cal students.

    • Southerngod

      When Black people hang Blond haired manikins from trees on campus we should all condemn that. To tell anyone that they cannot meet and speak with their brothers or sisters because you do not approve betrays a twistedness in you. If you have evidence of anti-semitism argue it. You and your people are no longer slave owners and we do not have to bend for your approval. Any Black man or women that bends to that nonsense is weak and deserves to be a second class citizen in your world.

  • Stan De San Diego

    “While the fraternity had no negative intention in putting up the figure —
    which it intended to be a hanging zombie — black students poured into
    the senate meeting last Wednesday night to express their outrage at what
    reminded them of a lynching.”

    I’m willing to bet that not a single one of the besides that hysterical bed-wetter who calls himself “Anti-Racist” believed there was any racial intent behind that Halloween decoration. These students merely wish to retain their victimhood status and are willing to manipulate the system. Political Correctness has cowed student groups and the administration into acquiescence to the demands of the incompetent and unhinged. Expect this to continue until people start developing some backbone and stand up against the screaming mob.

  • A fan!

    Right on :)

  • Anti-Racist

    “This curriculum should be mandatory not just for members of the Greek system but for all UC Berkeley students.”

    This white man has it right. Good job, Noah, for speaking out for the few black men and black women at Cal.

    • Hahahahaha….

      LOL this “white” man. Let’s exacerbate more racism and create more distinction… “we” vs. “not-we”.

    • I_h8_disqus

      Just remember that you would have to attend the class too. Then you couldn’t support visits by Farrakhan and other racists. You also couldn’t trash whites at Cal when a Latino puts up a hanging zombie. Take a good hard look at your racist actions over the last year, and then go apologize to white students on Sproul.