The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current, April 10, 1992, Page 5, Image 5

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Columbus brought oppression
By Marcela Juarez
The other day, I asked a class
mate of mine what he thought
about the Quincentennial cele
bration. He looked at me and said
indifferently, “Oh, you mean the
anniversary of Columbus’ discover
ing America?”
Not exactly. What exactly is the
Quincentennary, what does it cele
brate and who is celebrating? Being a
Chicana, a nationality created by the
mesh of two countries, Mexico and
Spain, and brought up in another, the
United States, the subject of theQuin
centennary has been of some interest
to me.
However, I cannot understand why
it would not be of interest to the
Anglos who live in the very land that
Columbus supposedly “discovered.”
It is ironic that at one time, I, too,
would have said that Columbus dis
covered America, for that is defi
nitely what I was taught growing up
in Lincoln.
Now, after two years of college
and a little less ignorance, the Quin
centennary signifies four things for
me: 1) manifest destiny — the greed
of the Spanish kingdom to rule the
entire world, 2) the almost complete
wiping out of an indigenous people
through warfare and the introduction
of smallpox and other diseases in the
Americas, 3) the loss of the scientific
advancement of a people way ahead
of their time and 4) the creation of the
mestizo people, an oppressed people
up to this very day, whether it be by
First-World countries or simply by
their Anglo peers.
I do not deny my Spanish/Euro
pean heritage, but I choose to see my
ancestors and my own history realis
tically. The Quincentennary stands
for 500 years of oppression, not dis
covery. The Americas and its peoples
were in existence for thousands of
years before the Spanish powers ever
came to rule.
/ think it is only fair
that. being such a
populous group, in
the United States.
have the rifht to
know the true history
of their people and
the formation q£_this
The conquerors of the Americas
were the first immigrants, and the
colonists who crossed the Atlantic in
the Mayflower were the first “wet
backs.” The Europeans robbed the
indigenous people of the Americas of
their gods, their countries’ natural
wealth and their dignity. The Europe
ans forced them into slavery and had
the audacity to judge them as half
human, blasphemous creatures.
It was Spain that benefited and
became the greatest world power in
the late 16th and early 17lh centuries.
Manifest destiny continued in the
history of the United States. Mex
ico’s northern territories were stolen,
and then the Mexicans and Native
Americans were portrayed as savage
beings killing defenseless settlers.
During Spring Break, I attended
the National Association forChicano
Studies Conference in San Antonio,
where I participated in a protest of the
infamous Alamo. The description of
the events that occurred at the Alamo
are very biased.
We do not hear that the Mexican
people were the very ones to build the
Alamo fort to protect their land (and
it was their land). Nor does it tell us
that the Mexican fighters were hardly
trained militarily, but were peasants
fighting against skilled soldiers.
I think it is only fair that, being
such a populous group in the United
Slates, Mexican-Americans have the
right to know the true history of their
people and the formation of this coun
The exploitation of the Mexican
people continued and continues into
this very century in the form of cheaply
paid hard labor that is the only source
of income offered to Mexican immi
The U.S. government thought it
was doing us a favor with the “Brac
ero” program in the 1940s, allowing
Mexicans working in the United States
to receive full citizenship. I think my
ancestors would have preferred their
land and homes to a piece of paper
saying they were U.S. citizens when
no real rights came along with that
To me, the Quincentennial cele
bration is a hypocrisy. This summer
the Summer Olympics will take place
in Barcelona, Spain, along with fes
tive parades of the Nina, the Pinta and
the Santa Maria, portraying Colum
bus as a heroic figure. They will not
disclose that by the end of his lifetime
Columbus was discredited.
Now, the Americans of full-Euro
pcan descent are making a futile at
tempt to compensate for their con
quest and exploitation of the indige
nous people. However, the American
government does not realize that 20
years of affirmative action will not
make up for 500 years of the injustice
and oppression.
It is a tragedy that minority stu
dents on the UNL campus cannot
even be represented equally in terms
of faculty, staff and administrators.
Perhaps one day, we may have a true
celebration of discovery when we all
realize that all people are created
equal and are treated with respect for
their individual differences.
Juarez is a sophomore graphic design
and Spanish major and the vice president of
the Mexican-American Student Association.
Travelers must adapt to host culture
It was with dismay that I read
Manjit Kaur’s column in the April 3
Daily Nebraskan (“English not a for
eign language”). The column displayed
a complete lack of respect, courtesy
and common sense.
When a person travels to a foreign
country to study, teach or work,
common sense and courtesy suggests
that it is the traveler’s responsibility
to adapt to her host culture rather than
the host nation’s responsibility to adapt
to her. The answer to the question:
“Why do international leaching as
sistants have to learn the American
culture when the American leaching
' assistants do not learn our culture?” is
obvious to any rational person. When
in Rome, do as the Romans do. If I
were in your country, Manjit, I would
not complain that I had to learn your
language or adapt to your culture.
Should 260 million Americans learn
and adapt to your culture (and that of
every other international student) so
you don’t have to make the effort to
fit into a country in which you are a
I also come from an English-speak
ing country. I was bom and educated
in Canada, and 1 am a Canadian citi
zen. When I travel to another country
I believe it is my responsibility to
adapt to their way of doing things. If
I could not or did not want to do this,
I would not go to that country.
Certainly, I agree that accents are
relative. There is absolutely nothing
wrong with having your own way of
speaking (it makes the world interest
ing) but if an individual’s accent or
dialect precludes understanding her,
then it is her responsibility to make
the effort to be understood.
It is too bad, Manjit, that you have
had such an unhappy time here. It is
unfortunate but true that prejudice
and discrimination exists in the United
Slates (as well as every other country
in the world). It is also true that lan
guage proficiency, accent and skin
color are confused by some but differ
completely in terms of their relevance.
However, I respectfully submit that
no one has forced either of us to be in
this country. Our presence here is a
privilege, not a right. We certainly
have a right to free speech here as we
do in our respective home countries,
but we have no right to demand that
the people here bend over backward
to accommodate us. Alternatively, we
can return to our homelands to escape
the monocultural, racist, U.S.A. in
order to enjoy the tolerance, freedom
and multiculturalism of our home
lands. Well, perhaps I can’t, but you
Stephen Duff
postdoctoral research associate
Poetry critique off the mark
I have a problem with Mark
Baldridge’s review (“Reputable
poet’s good works buried within
mediocre poems,” DN, April 6) of
the Joy Harjo/Laura Tohe poetry
reading held at the Lied Center on
Sunday night. I think he missed the
point, the tone, the mood of the
whole event. I attended the reading
— I was inspired by the messages,
imagery and heart of the writing of
these women; I was soothed and
transported by their voices in
combination with their words. They
performed as human beings and
writers, making adjustments, re
sponding to the audience (the Lied
should provide a microphone next
time). Baldridge criticized Harjo
for “flubbing” up—he didn’t seem
to notice that she was reading to us
from memory, making eye contact
with the audience vs. having her
eyes glued to the page, so yes, she
did misspeak some lines and then
correct herself. She began reading
to us from a work-in-progress and
stopped to look for another draft.
While Baldridge interpreted all this
as disorganization, I saw as repre
sentative of the writing process,
alive and dynamic, and something
that humanized Harjo — she writes,
revises, writes more, doesn’t know
what will become of the work, but
knows she does think and feel these
things and wants to put them down,
pass them along to us.
Although he heard these women
telling us the importance of story- -
telling in their cultures and their
lives and how it influences their
writing, Baldridge ignored this fact
when he critiqued the poetry. It is
the passing down of stories, within
the families, and from them (the
readers) to us, the continuation of a
strong oral tradition, the union of
the natural and mystical with the
daily, the relaying of experience,
that is the point here. And I benefit
from hearing what is part of the
common experience of the Native
American in America — cultural
alienation, life on the reservation,
the Navajo language itself. It is not
necessary for literature to be wildly
experimental or full of such so
phisticated verbiage that I am sent
to the dictionary, for it to have an
impact and be of value to my life.
The reading was a positive
experience for me, and I came away
with more than I brought in.
Pam Weiner
staff member
English Department
Poor grammar mars image
mere seems to oc a need tor a
review of basic grammar. In your
March 20 issue, three English stu
dents expressed their views on the
opinion page. Each had sentence struc
ture and/or punctuation errors. This
detracted from the message and causes
me concern.
Where is the high standard of
excellence that has been traditional at
the University of Nebraska? If stu
dents are admitted with limited gram
mar skills, shouldn't this be remedied
by the time they arc juniors and sen
The article on the front page,
“Requirements may change,” ad
dresses entrance requirements. Great! _ ...
However, what image will the pres
ent students project as educated per
sons in their own identities, and as
graduates of the University of Ne
Dorothy McNaught
Afton, IA
Judge exposed true colors
I am writing in response to Janclle
Hergolt’s letter (“Writer should seek
facts before judging judge,” DN, April
7). Because Ms. Hergou’s major is
broadcasting, she should know that,
when you have an opinion column,
that’s what should go in it, your opin
ion. Now, I believe that Mr. Green
did the best, with the information that
he got, on disclosing his feelings on
how Judge Orville Coady conducted
himself in a court case. To say that
Mr. Green would have to know the
judge, or had to have been present in
the courtroom, to have been able to
gel the full story, is silly. That is like
saying that in order to really know
why the Los Angeles Police Depart
ment beat the hell out of Rodney
King, we all would have had to know
the officers, or been at the scene of
the crime. Come on, now, let’s be
The judge meant exactly what he
said. Ms. Hergott did a marvelous job
of sugarcoaling it, but if he really
meant something else, he should have
said it. Furthermore, the use of the
word “nigger” is not only insulting to
me, but in bad taste. Coady should not
only be booled off of the bench, but
should have to spend an ample amount
of time in Omaha’s ghetto. I don’t
think he would go around using the
word nigger just as a figure of speech.
I don’t care how many black friends
the judge has, you can always sec
someone’s true colors when you least
expect it. After all, aren’t people of
the law supposed to be friendly to
everyone, in order to keep progress
ing? I am not going to read into the
obvious statement that Coady made. I
choose to take that as it came, racist
and degrading. Really, Coady shouldn’t
be complaining about the criticism he
is gelling. After all, “sometimes, you
just have to cat crap.”
Tahnee Markussen
general studies
Judge’s comments ‘personification’ of racism problem
The recent issue of a judge’s
racist comments about “niggers”
has alerted me to the fact that it’s
going to take something drastic for
society to change its views about
people of color.
People have written the Daily
Nebraskan in response to Sean
Green’s column (“Judge won’t
digest punishment,” DN, April 6)
and I can fully understand Coady’s
son, Nalhanial, being upset with
Green, but I can also understand
that he is in a state of denial that his
father is a racist. Well, maybe he
isn’t a racist. Maybe the “N” word
was forced into his head and out of
his mouth against his will by some
unknown demon, and it wasn’t in
fact he who said it.
But anyway, Nalhanial Coady
stated that two of the five wit
nesses defending his father were
African-American. Well, blacks can
be ignorant and gullible as well as
whites. Have you ever heard of the
faithful slave or the classic racist
phrase, “Some of my best friends
are black”?
If I as an African-American and
others like myself find it degrad
ing, insulting and upsetting when a
black person says “nigger, why is
it assumed that we will say, “Oh,
well, a distinguished white person
— a judge — didn’t mean to say
nigger, when he actually did, but it
slipped out accidentally, but he
meant to say something different’’?
Nathanial Coady stated “nigger”
and “would have to eat crap” were
simply products of the papers
making the story a seller. This may
be true. However, when African
Americans and other people of color
have reason to know that the media
perpetuates stereotypes of so-called
minorities, people complain that
we aresexaggerating.
I don’t care how the newspapers
may have twisted and distorted
anything about the incident, be
cause the official court transcript,
as well as the judge’s own admis
sion, shows that he did say “nig
gers” and “would have to eat crap”
within the same breath.
Had a black judge, or any other
distinguished person of color said
anything whatsoever that degraded
a while person, we all know that a
little “vacation” without pay would
not be their “penalty.”
Jane He Hergott stated about
Green, “If Green had gathered all
the information (as journalists
should), he would know that the
judge’s intention was to motivate
the individual to take advantage of
his opportunities to improve him
• self.’5 She sounds more like a pub
lic defender than a journalist her
self, because she virtually gives
Coady a paragraph (or two) ex
plaining to readers the inference of
what he was saying, or what she
believed he meant to say.
Hergott states that the judge
“wept — not for himself, but for
the African-Americans he had of
fended and the reputation his fam
ily would have.” Well, to you, Ms.
Hergott, and others who may not
know, here’s some food for thought:
African-Americans have wept
streams of tears for more than 300
years and continue to do so; the
oppression that was and continues
to be brought upon myself and my
people has caused us to weep those
We cannot go back and trace
our African history; our knowl
edge of our culture is lost We .
don’t know our mother tongue and
we will never experience the rich
ness of our true culture and heri
tage that existed centuries and
centuries and centuries ago.
So, you see, as I said before,
many African-Americans have shed
the tears of hurt, frustration and
anger for years and years and years.
Judge Coady’s tears were not the
tears of African-Americans, they
were his tears that are now gone
and will not come back. Judge Coady
wept, because at the time he spoke
those words, he realized that he
was a personification of the racism
inherent in this society.
Judge Coady made a mistake,
but no matter what the intent, he
has lost respect of members of the
African-American community who
actually thought that he was on
their side.
Kimberly Spurlock
news-editorial and broadcasting