Commentary | Letters

Speak plain English

Dear Daily,

Many things have been said about the article “You are racist” (Commentary, October 18, page 7) by Guillermo Martínez de Velasco in The Daily. A guy who lives in Norway even wrote a response in the Ottawa Citizen. As a racial minority of the female gender, my comment is constrained to: “huh?”

My favourite phrase: “racism is a systematic essentialization of others’ perceived cultural signifiers.”

Mea culpa for not being a Cultural Studies major, but what happened to Orwell’s plea on cutting down the wordy Latin? Do I need to take a class to read a campus newspaper?

The Daily acknowledged the problem of jargon in “Dailyspeak” (Commentary, October 29, page 7), and explains terms like “systematic oppression” and “privilege.” The article in itself was written in an understandable and engaging manner, precisely because it avoidsed using jargon. But ultimately, I think the article is missing the point. People’s problem with Dailyspeak is not that we are too immersed in privilege to understand. It’s that articles with potentially valuable points are written in a way that alienates people. For one thing, jargon stifles productive public discourse. I may feel uncomfortable rebutting points from Mr. de Velasco’s article, for example, because I feel like I do not have the appropriate academic degree to do so. Secondly, the clarity and conviction of an argument comes from using your own words, not words borrowed from a book. This is an article for the public, not an essay. Simple words deliver the most force.

I hope the editorial board of The Daily and all like publications commit to making sure all its articles are devoid of jargon. Websites that address similar issues as The Daily commentary section, like Jezebel, publish thoughtful pieces that get their points across in a simple way that makes a lasting impression. It is possible.

—Linda Yu

U4 Psychology Honours

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Nature of the threat

Dear Daily,

I was ready to put aside my letter in response to “You are racist,” (Commentary, October 18, page 7) knowing that others had expressed similar frustrations with an article designed in its title and content to offend and not to inform. A second author’s convoluted 1000-word dismissal of any criticism that followed, (“All racism happens because of whiteness,” Commentary, November 8, page 7) however, was too much.

Let’s be clear that racism exists. It has been most significantly perpetrated through European colonialism, and systemic privileges for light-skinned people persists today; but the article’s division of our modern world into two definitively and homogenously white and non-white categories – implying Serbs are no different from Argentines, or Hausa-Fulani from Papuans – was a statement of tremendous cultural ignorance.

More appalling was the main thesis that “whiteness,” rather than the existence of many human races, causes racism. The first article’s author wrote that “Racism is something that inhabits all humans.” But if it were “assuming anything about anyone based on a perceived deviation from a racial norm known as white…assuming that white is the central node from which one departs to evaluate otherness,” the author would have to mean that either non-whites are not human, or that whites are capable of social recognition and evaluation that non-whites are not.

Race truly affects everyone: each human experiences race, first, in the benefits and detriments their race confers in their historical circumstances, and second, in their role as an individual observer of otherness. Anyone who can see their reflection in a mirror or on a pool of water has this second capacity for observing their differences from another. Otherness-recognition is always “racialized,” but racism is perpetrated by individuals, not by whole ethnic groups.

A person displays racism when they ascribe general and inherent qualities to an ethnicity. Thus, despite the authors’ valiant intentions, the articles were racist.

—Mike Prebil

U4 History

Daily Public Editor, 2009-10

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Pointlessly mean

Dear Daily,

When we asked if we could write a letter about the Compendium piece “SSMU Council does nothing” (November 8, page 20) and actually get it published, we were told: “As long as its not hateful. And 300 words or less.”  Ironic, eh? The amount of hatred, violence, and general lack of basic decency we read in the aforementioned piece was shocking and appalling; yet here we are, being told that we can only express our opinions if we’re not hateful. Which leads to our point: for the nth time this year, we question if the difference between healthy political satire – what Compendium is supposed to be – and lazy, tasteless, offensive insults is known to the editorial staff.

In the same issue, CKUT made their appeal for an additional $1 per student, per year, by saying “there is no better journalism training than student media”; as The Daily is proud to announce on its “About Us” page, it has been a “training ground for generations of journalists since its inception in 1911.” We’ll accept that the kind of hands-on education one gets from working on things like The Daily and CKUT is extremely beneficial, and can launch careers. We have no doubt this will be the basis of The Daily’s campaign during their upcoming fee renewal referendum.

However, what we saw last week, and what we’ve seen in weeks past – allowing students to call another (identifiable) student “Pointless Fuckface” – is not the attitude we should want the journalists of tomorrow to be taught. Daily, take note – we won’t tolerate this unadulterated hatred toward our fellow students, and particularly not toward the representatives we elected. A little editorial discretion isn’t too much to ask.

Kate Sheridan

U2 Cognitive Science

—Sarah Monaco

U3 Psychology

—Kayla Herbert

U2 English Literature

—Harmon Moon

U3 History

—Dennis Lee

U3 Microbiology & Immunology

—Andrew Kuo

U3 Biology

—McKenzie Kibler

U1 Political Science

—Peter Guo

U3 Physics

—Daniel He

U2 Joint Honors Math/Economics

—Finola Hackett

U3 Environment

—Nicholas Renzetti

U1 Arts

—Natasha Fenn

Psychology

—Nicole Millward

Psychology

—Danielle Bohonos

Environment

—Raphael Krespin

Anthropology

—Sameer Kushwaha

Anatomy and Cell Biology

—Beni Broniscer Fisch

U3 Arts

—Jessica Drozd

U2 Political Science and Psychology

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No personal attacks

Dear Daily,

Does being offended at another’s personal opinion (“Dear boot-licking apologists,” Commentary, November 8, page 8) justify a personal attack?

Better phrased: Can any good come out of it?

No, and reminder: words are more powerful than you think. Name-calling and jokes about one’s cognitive capacity does not add any positive value to a comment. The only usefulness it holds is as emotional persuasion.

Remember: ridiculing someone for being a U5 is a low blow. Let’s accept and respect that everyone comes from different situations. There are individuals around you with ‘invisible’ disabilities/problems you are unaware of, many of whom most likely already feel inadequate. Please stop reinforcing and perpetuating that belief.

An extremely malicious attitude was supported and left unquestioned. It’s inseparable from bullying when the majority participates. Ethan may be strong, but some people aren’t.

Please remember the power of your words.

A U4 student
registered at OSD

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Drunk poetry is better, anyway

Dear Daily,

Thanks for everything.

Also, I am too hungover to read poetry right now. Nice lit-sup (November 12) though.

Carol Ellen Fraser

U5 Basket-Weaving

Former SSMU VP Clubs & Services

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An open letter 

Dear Mr. Strople,

I would be more careful with accusing students of negligence and making essential errors in their graphical depiction of the McGill Board of Governors (BoG) as you expressed in your Daily letter “Errata-city up here” (Commentary, Letters, November 12, page 7). Alongside the table’s picture it was clearly stated that they provided only profiles of “the fifteen that come from outside the University.” It should be asked, why? Let’s think logically.

Students represent a new generation that is smarter, thinking faster, and much better at filtering essential information than the previous generations. It has always been like that in our evolving civilization. If the students “neglected to include the ten representatives of students, faculty, and administrative and support staff” it should be carefully examined why they did so before attacking them.

In this case, students only wanted to know about those external members that are truly powerful and can present freely their opinions shaping McGill strategies. This approach simply protects their brains from unimportant details about those paid or graded by McGill BoG representatives. This minority is easily manipulated and in the last thirty years we have never heard about such representatives being forced to resign after opposing certain policies or presenting alternative views.

Loudly expressed different opinions with dynamic changes are only seen in more democratically organized administrative structures. At McGill, we enjoy something ‘better’ than unity – it is total silence. We never hear about elected BoG representatives meeting openly with their colleagues to present their reports or consult their future policies in this highest governing body. In this way, we have to fully trust the Secretary-General about their “invaluable contribution to the Board.”

How much more trust is needed at McGill without us compromising the value of tuition and salaries?

Slawomir Poplawski

Former McGill staff member


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