Political incorrectness: making light of tragedy

By Campus Community

John Katsantonis
My first reaction to the entire January “politically incorrect” mess is that somebody leaked the story to the Associated Press. In that way, the privacy of the entire Macalester College community has been compromised. That leak needs to be shored up in the future, and the student involved needs to be suspended.

Second, in all candor, it’s impossible to believe that a series of classes exploring “a deeper dialogue on…why these types of activities hurt people and why they get the kind of response they do” should be enacted in order to educate a handful of students whose Idiocy ship has already sailed.

Are you kidding?
They knew e-x-a-c-t-l-y what and who would be hurt by that, and they didn’t care, “because nobody said anything.” One student admitted that he would’ve removed his KKK robe if anyone had demonstrated a negative reaction.

Does that indicate he knew, or did not know, what he was doing? And if we agree that he did, why should people who know better anyway be forced to undergo redundant, demeaning classes or conferences? We call people who do not know the difference between right and wrong “sociopaths.” These kids aren’t Leopold and Loeb. They are, again, simply idiots.

Third, there’s no accounting for the idiocy of some college students, regardless of the era. Our class, which entered “Eisenhower” and graduated “Hendrix,” went through its own period of idiocy, primarily by exhibiting (and I do mean “exhibiting”) a behavior known as “streaking.” Anything short of that, where “the expression of individuality” is concerned, constitutes an act of cowardice.

Fourth, and perhaps most egregiously, I consider the Macites in question to have done nothing more, nor less, than join the League of Ordinary and Unoriginal Thinkers, which to ME is totally inexcusable.

Mind you, we had our share of revolutionary wannabes and Yippie copycats in our day. But by and large, those who demonstrated against the war in Vietnam (for example) had an immense, intensely sincere following, as did those who preceded them in the civil rights movement.

Those especially who were called “peace creeps” in the early years of the anti-war movement—1966-68, in particular—demonstrated the courage of their convictions, and were in the vanguard of ethical, moral and political thought-leadership.

No. REAL originality of thought would have been for the Macalester “P.I. Partiers” to have dressed as students from Texas A&M, Johns Hopkins, Trinity College, Whitman College and the other schools that have exhibited “satirical” racist behaviors, lately, perhaps by burning an Aggie in effigy, instead of going for the obvious, trite, redundant gag. Of course, that too would’ve been in poor taste, given the tragic bonfire collapse that killed 12 A&M students in November 1999.

So what I’m offended by is not only the incredible stupidity, tastelessness, and insensitivity demonstrated by the Macites in question, but also their inexcusable exhibition of dull, unoriginal thinking that’s only “funny” if you’re drunk or high.

Why not put your energy where it belongs, working for Amnesty International or to impeach the President. Is this too difficult? Too much work? Is too much thought required?
Thus, to these witless slackers, by the power vested in me by no one in particular, I hereby bestow an “F” for Lack-of-Originality.

Next, and in all seriousness, I strongly suggest belaying the expense and redundancy of offering campus-wide seminars, sit-ins, vigils, classes, conferences, etc., in favor of solving the problem directly with the perpetrators.

The best path for those who wore the KKK robes and noose is to be seated in front of a giant-screen tube and made to watch a collection of Spike Lee’s films—specifically, Do The Right Thing, Malcolm X, Clockers, Get On The Bus, Four Little Girls, Bamboozled, and When The Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts—repeatedly, throughout the month of April, beginning with the April 4th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

In between showings, they should clean every urinal on campus for a salary of 15 cents an hour, so they can know exactly how our black population was rewarded, following the Emancipation Proclamation, Brown v. Board of Education, et al., and so they can learn the meaning of “separate but equal.”

Finally, they each then should write a 10,000-word essay on the topic of racism, so they can explain exactly how unfunny what they did was and why.

We didn’t march (well, I didn’t march much at all, but that’s neither here nor there)—nor, more to the point, were millions of Africans and African-Americans sold into slavery, their families separated forever, transported in rat-infested ships to a land where they were gifted with the most menial and back-breaking labor imaginable, their bodies beaten, their heads cracked, the flesh on their backs ripped open by overseers’ whips, their children raped, their parents hanged and their belongings burned—so some white kids could make light of all that in a manner demonstrating no heart or soul whatsoever.

John P. Katsantonis
President, Macalester College
Class of 1970