Speaker believes racism might never die

Professor says America should pay reparations to slaves' descendants.

For racism to end, those of European descent first have to want it to, according to an Miami University of Ohio professor.

But, he said, his hope is fading fast.

Mark McPhail shared his thoughts at Bracken Library at noon on Tuesday about what can and must be done to combat racism.

McPhail presented his speech titled "Freedom of Speech and the Rhetoric of Racism" as the communication studies department's keynote speaker during CCIM week.

"I believe that racism will disappear when people of European descent decide to make it disappear," McPhail said. "People of color must be open to that and willing to ally."

McPhail also said blacks in the U.S. deserve reparations for the wrong done to them in the past.

"White people owe black people at least an apology," he said.

Americans tend to "point fingers" and should look at problems within our own nation, he said.

"We blast China and Saddam Hussein - who we put into power - for their human rights violations, and yet we have a history of human rights violations in this country," McPhail said.

McPhail said racism is largely a foreign notion to too many people, college students included, who believe it is a problem limited to the South.

"We rarely see the historical accounts and images of that history," McPhail said. "We see the dramatized version of the events, such as [the miniseries] 'Roots.' It all seems so far away until we see it happen."

McPhail is a professor and chair of the department of communications at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. He has written two books about racism.

"After twenty years studying rhetoric and race, I'm not too hopeful anymore [for a solution]," McPhail said. "I'm hoping someone in this room can change my view of that."

With that, he opened the room to dialogue.

One attendee's question concerned the use of the word "nigger" within black communities and why usage of it is not acceptable when white people talk to black people.

"That word has led to a whole bunch of debate among the black communities," McPhail said. "Many people of African descent find it painful that other black people would use the word 'nigger.'"

McPhail said the biggest consumers of rap music are white men between the ages of 18 and 35.

"What you're seeing is a conception of black people being affirmed," McPhail said.

According to McPhail, a conversation about race cannot be held without judgment - even in a room of just 200.

McPhail still reserves some hope for the future, he said.

"You can see hate speech as the speech of your enemy and do everything you can to stamp it out," he said.

Student reaction to the presentation and subsequent informal forum was mixed.

"He said a lot of what needs to be said and what people are afraid to say," junior Tiy-Marjani Griffin said. "The first step toward change is dialogue."

Others were skeptical of McPhail's position.

Junior Ryan Tirre said, "I'm concerned about the idea that anyone owes anyone anything. You make judgments on an individual basis." He also said, "Because someone similar to me has an opinion doesn't mean that I do or that I should be accountable for that."

Another student reasoned that a race resolution is not possible due to human nature. Instead, divine intervention is needed.

"It's an apathetic university," junior Josh Zolman said. "Personally, I believe the issue here is limited to humankind. I think this is between God and Satan. I don't think racism will be solved until the Second Coming of Jesus."

Sophomore Michael Rogers tallied what he said were worrisome statistics. Of the approximate 200 attendees, he counted 33 whites, one black and one person of Oriental descent leave the room before the discussion was over.

"The majority of them walked out shaking their heads," Rogers said. "I know they weren't going to class because they're in my class."


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