Letters to the editor: Week of Nov. 5

Halloween decoration was not racist at all

Our country unfortunately has had a long and sad history of prejudice against African Americans. However, the recent allegation of racial prejudice against the Theta Delta Chi fraternity is unfounded and unacceptable in today’s society. TDC had a zombie that had been hung from the roof as a part of its Halloween decorations, which is nothing more than a traditional Halloween motif. The campus Black Student Union and ASUC are either completely delusional if they believe this decoration was a reference to lynching or, alternatively, are trying to fabricate a case of racism at the expense of TDC.

Some might justify the Black Student Union’s complaint by saying that the union is only being overly sensitive. This term does not apply in this situation. Being overly sensitive implies that there is something to be bothered by but the response is not proportional to the crime. The Halloween decoration was not racist in any way, and it appears that the Black Student Union and ASUC are using this situation to prop up a platform denouncing racism. I do not believe that false allegations of racism will aid in ending racial prejudice. If the Black Student Union and ASUC are attempting to use this to prop up a platform denouncing racism, they are greatly misguided and are only harming their case. This allegation by the Black Student Union is especially hypocritical, because the Black Student Union hosted a noted racist, homophobe and anti-Semite, Louis Farrakhan, last semester. TDC did nothing wrong.

— Matthew Hepler,
UC Berkeley grad student

Do your part to look after the zoo animals

As a lifelong animal enthusiast, I hope other Cal Bears will join me in voting Yes on A1 this Tuesday. The Oakland Zoo isn’t just a place for the community to visit; It’s a place that actually helps animals. Many of the animals there come from the zoo’s partnerships with wildlife conservation and animal rescue organizations. Measure A1 would continue those partnerships and help improve care for rescued animals. Yes on A1 helps care for these animals that are rescued from abuse, wounded in the wild or are retired circus animals, including lions, tigers and elephants. Yes on A1 ensures the zoo has quality veterinarians and animal specialists to care for the unique needs of zoo animals. A1 is required to spend all the funds on quality humane animal care, educational programs for children and keeping the zoo affordable.

— Katie Werner,
UC Berkeley junior

The trouble with Measure T

As one of the many students living and working in West Berkeley, I stand with my community in demanding a development proposal that promotes local empowerment and sustainable growth. That’s why today, I’m voting no on Measure T.

Measure T would allow 75-foot multiblock projects in a neighborhood where buildings now average 25 feet high. The proposal’s environmental impact report identified many unavoidable, detrimental impacts, including gridlock at major intersections like University and San Pablo, air pollution and potential toxic releases that could endanger public health — particularly that of young children living and playing in the neighborhood.

Supporters of Measure T argue that it is a community-based initiative that would create green jobs and revitalize “underutilized” industrial areas. The truth is that Measure T would incentivize land speculation and cause rising rents that would erode West Berkeley’s vibrant economy of innovative small businesses, artists and artisans. For that reason, Measure T is opposed by vital West Berkeley businesses such as Acme Bread, Libby Laboratories and Urban Ore, as well as more than 50 community leaders, elected officials and organizations.

Furthermore, thousands of people who live and work in West Berkeley were shut out of the planning process that led to Measure T. Just as students, faculty and staff have the right to participate in and shape our university community, West Berkeley citizens should have a voice in the decisions shaping their neighborhood’s future. Recognizing that an empowered community is at the heart of a healthy economy, please vote no on Measure T.

— Katie Hoffman,
West Berkeley resident and UC Berkeley senior

Unity should be built across ethnicities

I fail to see the “insensitive” aspect of the zombie-hanging incident at Theta Delta Chi. Was the zombie a black zombie? No. Was it hung out of malice? No. It was a decoration for Halloween, and nothing else. One must consider for a moment the incongruent response. Hanging as a punishment for crimes has existed far longer than it did as a tool for bigotry and racism, and should be considered as such. It is inappropriate to consider this an attack on the black community. The lynching events might be the most prominent in U.S. history, but it was certainly not the first. Should the ASUC write another letter of apology to the Berkeley Hillel for the Jews that were hanged during the Holocaust? Or to the countless Christian associations for their persecution and torture as a minority group in Roman times? Or for that matter, should Halloween even be celebrated at all, considering it was a pagan holiday and it is insensitive to the victims of the Salem witch trials? There needs to be a line drawn between what is truly insensitive, what is so perceived and what is ridiculous.

Society cannot function when it must constantly check itself for fear of insult. Integration and community across racial and ethnic lines is not helped by overreaction and forced apology and compensation. I do believe that education about racism is important, but not as a punishment. Punishment only harbors resentment and accentuates divisions. To quote a saying: “Forget the past, you cannot change it.” This is not wholly true, as the past has taught important lessons, but too often is the past used to hinder progress. To preach from one’s high horse, expecting deferential treatment, only accentuates “racial” differences, as opposed to looking to the future to build unity across ethnicities, which can only exist if all let go of their prejudices and seek brotherhood only as fellow human beings. To hold men today responsible for atrocities that occurred in the past is to dwell upon the act, not upon the lesson.

— Maximilian Pitner, UC Berkeley junior


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