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About The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current | View Entire Issue (Oct. 7, 1999)
Flash causes trouble
on train ride to Zambia
After spending three months at the University
of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, I was beginning to
feel comfortable in my new setting.
The initial lessons in cultural adaptation were
well memorized. Daily we were quizzed on them.
What do you do when class is canceled?
Answer go to the beach. What do you do when
the power is out? Answer light some candles and
sing. What do you do when there is music play
ing? Answer drink some beer and dance ndom
Our first major exam was much more exten
sive. However, I still passed with flying colors.
The question was: what do you do when class is
canceled for three weeks because of faculty
protests and student riots? Answer (and I assure
you this.is the answer on every version of the
test): take a three-week trip across Africa by land.
And how do you do it? Answer you make it up as
you go along.
Actually, the idea wasn’t mine. It was another
hot, humid morning defined by roaring roosters
and wake up calls throughout the dormitories
when Ted (my new friend from Baltimore)
barged through my door with the good news.
Class had been canceled for at least three weeks,
leaving us free from our scholarly duties.
Ted said he was leaving on a train to Zambia
and asked if I wanted to go. It took some lobby
ing with my girlfriend, a quick trip to the bank,
half an hour of packing and then we were off.
Because we were so late in buying our tickets,
we were left with third-class seats. The train ride
to Lusaka, Zambia was two days.
For those of you who haven’t made the Dar to
Lusaka trip on the TAZARA coach in third class
seating, let me describe it to you. There are no
beds, no plumbing and little electricity. There are
few windows, many thieves and pickpockets and
plenty of monstrous bugs. I didn’t sleep much
those two days.
Before we crossed the border in Zambia, Ted
and I befriended a young, cordial Zambian
y/oman who began to casually guide us bn our
She warned us that in the first border town
after we cross into Zambia, we should close all
the windows we could and secure our belongings
as best as possible.
As we crossed the border and the train slowed
for the stop, I was surprised to see a herd of pas
sengers anticipating the arrival of our train.
I was stunned and flabbergasted, and actually
physically overwhelmed as the 300 or 400 per
sons waiting bum-rushed the train, completely
oblivious to their need to buy a ticket before
securing a seat.
In a matter of less than three minutes, and
before the train even slowed to jogging speed,
third class went from about one-fourth capacity
to over 300 percent full as people ran, jumped
and dove through the remaining open windows.
The women, carrying suckling children, 50
pounds of bananas and responsible for the several
children following behind, were at quite a disad
vantage. By the time they actually made it on the
train via the real entrance, the bands of carefree
thugs had already stolen die remaining seats.
Needless to say, Ted and I were in a state of
semi-shock, not so much from the events
described, but from a mistake I now share with
you. As the peasants flew through the windows in
this rioting hysteria, I dared to capture it on film
despite the warnings from our Zambian escort.
I had to get a single picture at least. So, I
raised my hand and snapped the shutter just as
quickly as possible, hoping people would think I
was jerkily stretching. Much to my dismay, the
flash was on.
All movement in this ruptured anthill of con
gestion stopped, and all eyes were frozen on me
for two seconds, then back to loading.
At one table of youngsters, a man whom our
Zambian friend informed us was the main hus
tler/town thug, pointed at me and began talking
aloud. I stared ahead and played dumb.
He notified a soldier on the train platform
who brandished a well-polished AK-47.
Our guide said the thug had told the soldier I
was taking a picture of government property and
that I didn’t have a permit (and he was right). The
soldier ran to me, screaming, pointing his gun
through .the window, into my face.
Excrement flows from my shorts. What do I
do ...? Do I lose my $400 camera and take no
pictures the rest of the trip or hope he’s bluffing?
The clumps of crowded women saved my
day! The soldier, realizing that I wasn’t just going
to give him my camera, tried to board the train.
Luckily for me, the entrance was so jam-packed
with toddlers, potatoes, bulky farm women and
firewood that he couldn’t get on.
I waited some more. The train began moving
again, and as it gained speed and the soldier ran
with me, I finally turned to him, made eye con
tact and swallowed in disbelief.
But my situation with the thugs hadn’t
improved. One stepped right in front of me and
tried to rip my bag straight from my hand. Others
began shouting at me and asking me to give them
things. So I did.
Five minutes of intensive harassment and pul
sating fear was silenced when I gave some of the
young men mangoes. The sullen, stem stares and
frowns I was getting literally and instantly turned
upside down after that meager gesture.
Apparently, I wasn’t a “white devil” after all
and had a heart that understood some of their suf
fering. A few mangoes might have saved my life!
Look for highlights of the rest of the trip next
Thursday. See you then.
David Baker is a senior sociology, anthropology and African studies major
and a Daily Nebraskan columnist.
Hurting by helping
Affirmative action programs cause
racism they seek to end
I know this may send some people reeling,
but we have not achieved racial equality in
I have spent a lot of time pondering why,
exactly, this is. I’ve had a number of courses
here at UNL, most notably Blacks in the
American Political Process and Black Women
Authors, which have provided insight into the
complexity of race relations.
I’m still pondering.
I came across an interesting book on the
subject this summer, “Good Racism-Bad
Racism, An Essay on Racism in America.”
The book was written by Glenn Freeman, a
Nebraska resident, and I had the pleasure of
hearing him speak on campus about his book
and his experiences as a black man in
Glenn Freeman joined the Air Force in
1955 and served three tours in Vietnam.
He retired, highly decorated, from the ser
vice in 1985 as a chief master sergeant (high
est enlisted grade) after serving his country
for 30 years.
In 1989, he was appointed by Gov. Kay
Orr as commissioner of the State Equal
Opportunity Commission. Currently he serves
on the Human Relations Board, as well as the
Civil Rights Hearing Board for Omaha and is
a senior advisor for U.S. Sen. Chuck Hagel.
Why am I giving you his biography?
Because I want you to understand that this is a
man who is not only dedicated to his country
and his community but who has worked hard
to achieve his goals. And because I want to
recount something he shared with a group of
UNL students - and I want it to hit you the
way it hit me.
He was explaining what it was like to be
black in America. He used the examples of
people moving to the other side of the street at
night out of fear or hatred.
While this experience is both illustrative
and absurd, it just didn’t do what I imagine it
was intended to do.
Now, just as I don’t think a man can ever
fully understand what it’s like to walk into a
large meeting and be the only woman present
or understand the anger that results from hav
ing to be afraid after dark, I don’t suppose that
I can fuHy understand what it is like to be
However, one personal illustration of
Freeman’s hit me like a brick. Do you know
what his experience as a black in America has
been? He has repeatedly been mistaken for
“the driver” during his political career - and
for no other reason than the color of his skin.
In his book, Freeman contends that “all
acts of racism, good and badj derive from the
fundamental premise that blacks are genetical
ly inferior.” He defines “good racism” as acts
intended to benefit blacks, such as affirmative
action - and “bad racism” as acts of outright
hate and discrimination, like racial slurs and
Freeman is equating affirmative action
with hate crimes, and I think he’s right to do
so. Hate crimes are obvious acts of hatred
bubbling above the surface. They are acted out
by people who consider blacks to be somehow
less than whites.
Likewise, any educational institution that
adds points to entrance exams is assuming
that without that extra boost, the black student
would be unable to achieve. It’s the same fun
damental principle of inequality that drives
these government-mandated equality pro
Sure, the argument can be made that affir
mative action merely levels the playing field
in a nation where discrimination runs rampant
both outright and as an undercurrent. But the
mere fact that a government mandate is the
leveling tool for the problem is evidence that
Americans lack the confidence in themselves
to change their own racial attitudes.
As a concerned American citizen, this
cover-up of America’s racism makes me
uncomfortable. As a conservative, trying to
find solutions to the ramifications of this age
old problem rather than addressing head-on its
mistakes makes me furious. I’m tired of the
denial that racism exists when we can see it all
around us. And I’m sick of fundamentally
flawed programs that operate on the refusal of
white America to come to terms with its own
Freeman asks black America,
“Are we satisfied wheh political paternal
ism consistently supports programs that serve —
only to increase blacks’ need for further help
rather than aid blacks in becoming indepen
I hope the answer to his question is no.
There is no doubt that black America has a
lot of ground to cover, and much of that will
have to be covered with its own sweat and
Blacks will have to stand up and be willing
to address the challenges they are faced with
in their communities and families.
And I believe blacks can rise above their
But only if white America has the courage
to confront its own prejudice. Only if white
America has the decency to actually work
toward racial equality instead of offering ill
Until then, our society will remain a mere
reflection of our own racial prejudice.
Jessica Flanagain is a senior English and philosophy major and a Daily
Exploiting emotions to make a buck
Stamp set is beyond the bounds of good taste
You too, can now lick John F.
Kennedy Jr. into your heart.
Just when you thought civilization
couldn’t stoop any lower than
Backstreet Boys videos comes the John
F. Kennedy Jr. stamp set
Guinea has put out a set of nine
black-and-white stamps, featuring pho
tos of John F. Kennedy Jr. as a little
child with his father, at his law school
graduation, with his mother and with
his late wife.
It’s pretty depressing when an
African country with 7 million people
(85 percent of which practice the reli
gion of Islam and speak French) issues
a set of stamps of an American “leg
end” who is best known simply by who
his dad was.
Even more depressing is the adver
tisement for the stamps, which
appeared in a recent issue of
“The World Honors John-John!”
the headline read. Then, with a newspa
per-style report, it went on: “The stun
ning news of the tragic death of John F.
Kennedy Jr. has inspired the world to
pay homage to the beloved heir of
Camelot. Now collectors are suddenly
scrambling to obtain toe new Limited
Edition Set of 9 Official Postage
Stamps commemorating his life...
Gotta have ‘em? They’re available for a
short time at $9.95 (plus $3 p&h).”
I’ll be perfectly honest by saying
that I thought news coverage for John F.
Kennedy Jr.’s disappearance and death
People are probably buying them, licking
them and using them, all the while thinking:
“Who is this guy with the nice hair? Is he
one of the Duke boys? ”
was complete overkill to the point that
you couldn’t turn on the Weather
Channel without hearing about how the
weather conditions would be for the
people searching for JFK Jr.’s body. -
Don’t get me wrong - I’m not cold.
Cold would be my refrigerator, which
somehow always turns my milk into an
icy white rock. I think John F. Kennedy
Jr.’s death deserves coverage but not
enough to drown viewers and readers.
I think decency was thrown out the
window for sheer speculation, rumors
and, above all else, ratings and money.
At the paper I worked at this sum
mer, I overheard the editor telling the
copy desk chief to make the next day’s
front page Kennedy headline “really
big” because “we sold 65,000 newspa
pers yesterday, and we haven’t sold that
many in a while.”
The philosophy behind this latest
stamp set is no different than that edi
tor’s philosophy. It’s dollar signs that
matter... so blow things up bigger than
they really are.
Kasey Kerber is a senior news-editorial major and a Daily Nebraskan columnist
And I highly doubt these stamps
are being advertised widely in Guinea
as emotional keepsakes. People are
probably buying them, licking them
and using them, all the while thinking:
“Who is this guy with the nice hair? Is
he one of the Duke boys?”
As long as there’s a bucl^ to make,
someone will always rely on the frailty
of human emotions to make it.
If practices like this anger you, do
what l do: First, tell people just how
stupid the money ploy is and second -
above all else - DON’T BUY IT.
If people actually honored dead
celebrities with their hearts and memo
ries instead of cheap souvenirs, then
Guinea might have to rely on agricul
ture again to make money.
So don’t be surprised if you see a
George C. Scott stamp set in the future
for $9.95 (plus $3 p&h).
Just don’t be surprised enough to
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