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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Letter to the Editor: The Gold Standard (Dec. 7)

Published: January 25, 2008
Section: Opinions

Dear Editor,

In his article “The Gold Standard: Spectral Evidence: the race weapon,” (Dec. 7) Mike Goldman ‘08 has ignored many crucial yet commonly understood rules of journalism and in doing so has unfairly attacked the credibility of Students Organized Against Racism. We are writing to remind Mr. Goldman of the standards he failed to observe while writing his article, provide corrections for his many factual errors, and clarify the goals and standards we hold ourselves to as the Brandeis chapter of SOAR.

When writing any type of article, including an opinion, the author should ensure that all quotes are correct, and provide a source. On several occasions throughout the article, Goldman quotes SOAR incorrectly and without letting readers know the sources for his quotes. In these cases, the quotes provided were based on hearsay, not on firsthand observations or interviews, and, as we will show, were largely inaccurate. Goldman also fails to mention that he did not actually attend the SOAR workshop about which he writes so vehemently, and misleads his readers by failing to tell them where his information is actually coming from. Unfortunately, Goldman never contacted any member of SOAR to either clarify or ensure the accuracy of the quotes he reported.

Goldman accuses SOAR of making statements such as “of course Jews are white—look at them!” and “only whites can be racist.” At no time were either of these overly simplistic utterances made. At the Senate workshop in question, all participants were given a list of terms and definitions to be used for the purpose of clarity during discussions. We stated openly that the definitions provided were developed by SOAR for the purposes of discussion. The definition of racism provided read, “a practice of prejudice or discrimination that is reinforced or upheld by the dominant power structures in society; racial prejudice as exercised by whites.” It was explicitly stressed during the workshop that in no way was any participant expected to adopt these working definitions as their own. They were provided to spark open debate and conversation, which they did. Throughout the workshop participants were encouraged to grapple with the definitions provided, and draw their own conclusions about how to define racism.

SOAR recognizes that each person experiences race in a unique way. Goldman’s opinion that, “every person is a minority of one, and individualism is much less intrusive means of interpreting the universe than racism,” is a perspective that merits discussion. If he ever wishes to attend a SOAR workshop, his thoughts and contributions will be welcomed. However, it is worth noting that, after making the above statement, Goldman alludes to the Jews as “the world’s pariahs for millennia” and states that “as usual the Jews get the worst of all worlds.” In making these statements he is identifying an oppressed minority status held by a group of people – in effect debunking his own argument that “every person is a minority of one.” Goldman himself recognizes that it is possible for a group of people to be singled out for unfair treatment and that systems of power and oppression have in fact existed for millennia.

It must therefore also be acknowledged, that many members of the Brandeis community—especially racial minority students—experience day to day life through a racialized lens. Experiences in classes and social interactions leave many students of color feeling isolated, misunderstood, stereotyped or even attacked, based on their race. This is a real experience of many Brandeis students, which SOAR seeks to recognize and validate.

No one attending a SOAR training will ever be told that their beliefs are wrong or invalid and no one is expected to automatically adopt or agree with any definition we might provide. Our goal is to provide open, facilitated discussions of an often painful and emotionally charged topic.

-Board of Students

Organized Against Racism:

Gabriel Gaskin ‘08,

Shaina Gilbert ‘11,

Blake Hyatt ‘08,

Katie Kelly-Hankin ‘08,

Sarah Kinsler ‘08,

Tenaira Layton ‘10,

Lily Swartz ‘08