Annual Meeting of the Chippewa Valley Civil Liberties Union
Unitarian Universalist Congregation, 421 S. Farwell St., Eau Claire, WI
October 27, 2016
(Minutes to be approved at next annual meeting)
President Heywood called the meeting to order at 7:05 pm.
1. The minutes of the October 28, 2015 meeting were approved as distributed.
2. Treasurer David Rice reported a balance of $1,020.94.
3. President Heywood named the four candidates for the Board: Myron Buchholz, Anna Leffel, Teresa O’Halloran, and Gary Smith. Buchholz and Leffel introduced themselves and gave brief statements about their interest in serving on the Board. All four candidates were elected unanimously (13 ballots total).
4. President Heywood asked CVCLU members for discussion of ACLU goals and activities.
a. Sue Gordon announced that Sara Ferber, a presenter as last year’s annual meeting, has secured a half-time position as organizer for EXPO (Ex-Prisoners Organizing).
b. Stephanie Turner reported on the racial profiling of a UW-Eau Claire faculty member by UW-Eau Claire campus police. Other members contributed to the discussion, asking “How do we [CVCLU] meet with the Chief of Police to discuss this incident?”; “Can the CVCLU request records of racial profiling kept by campus police?”; “Doesn’t campus police publish these incidents in some fashion?” Mildred Larson moved that the CVCLU investigate this matter; the movement was seconded and approved.
5. The meeting adjourned at 7:31 pm. The program “A Panel Discussion on Political Correctness, Language Use and Racism” began shortly after.
David Shih, Secretary
The following are unofficial notes from the program
By Ann Heywood and David Shih
Panel Discusses Political Correctness and Racism
Four panelists presented an open and lively discussion on the topic of political correctness and racism at the annual Chippewa Valley Civil Liberties Union program on October 27 at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation. Pastor David Huber, of the Plymouth United Church of Christ, moderated and opened with the question, “Is PC different from being polite?” Three UW-Eau Claire faculty members and one UW-Eau Claire student proved that the issue is more complicated than the opening question would imply.
Dr. Heather Moody, an assistant professor in the American Indian Studies program, said virtually all of the generic terms used to describe indigenous people, such as “Native American” and “American Indian,” are actually “wrong.” She is a member of the Ho-Chunk nation, but she nonetheless accepts most of the generic terms except “Indian.” Tribal designations are the truly correct terms, said Dr. Moody. She added that the “R-word,” the team name for the NFL Washington football team, is among the most offensive terms because it refers to a history of collecting bounties for the scalps of indigenous people. Dr. Moody does not feel honored by teams that use Indian names or tribes as mascots.
Dr. Moody mentioned that The Sign of the Beaver, a popular book that includes many offensive terms, is still used in schools. It is not acceptable to use such books with the excuse that the terms are “old language,” Dr. Moody said. Students should be taught to recognize the racist terms in such books.
Student Ka Vue talked about how hostility emerges when free speech challenges white supremacy and how students feel endangered when they use free speech in dismantling racism. She said it is important for students to have a safe space to talk about professors who use racist terms or practices. She sees that the university recognizes individual racism, but institutional racism not so much. Educational institutions have ways of upholding racist practices and silencing demonstration against them. She discussed how she promotes anti-racism in her online and on-campus activism.
Dr. Ali Abootalebi, a professor in the Political Science department, discussed how language and technology set the tone for different narratives of history. Anti-Islamic feelings in this country and Europe stem from a deflection of the problem: Western meddling with the affairs of many Mid-eastern countries to the detriment of their people, who are then blamed for their problems. Yet the popular narrative is that Americans and Europeans are the victims of radical Islam and militant Muslims who hate them. Racism is about power, and overcoming it involves learning about each other. Dr. Abootalebi notes that in Iran, where he was born, racial discrimination isn’t as open as it is in the US, partly because its society has historically comprised multiple, diverse ethnic groups. Americans and Europeans rationalize discrimination through a sense of cultural superiority, modernity, secularism, democracy, individual rights, and most of all “national security interest.”
Dr. David Shih, associate professor in the English Department, reported that his students, particularly his white students, do not know how to talk about racism with any authority, and he sees that as an institutional failure of the schools. Educational institutions have not committed to talking about the topic. Shih explains to his students why individuals and institutions use “people of color” instead of “colored people,” and he adds that “black” and “African American” are usually both unoffensive terms, but that some people have a preference. “Mixed race” and “multi-racial” are acceptable, but “mulatto” is an anachronistic term that many students are not told is offensive today. He suggested that political correctness offers people a greater capacity for free speech, not less, despite the negative, popular narrative of “PC.” Learning about the language choices when talking about race and racism can lead to more authentic relationships with others.
Following the formal presentations, panelists and audience brought up a variety of experiences, observations, and questions. These points included the effect of militarism on the use of racist terms; racist distortions of Filipinos in the press in the American-Philippine war of 1898; the common use of native terms in the American military, such as “Operation Geronimo” for the capture of bin Laden, “Blackhawk Down,” and “Apache helicopters.”
Dr. Shih’s parents sometimes still call themselves “Oriental” because they grew up in an American society that used that word. When a minority group gains enough social power, Dr. Shih noted, it can shift language use so that terminology represents the needs of the group in question rather than the needs of the dominant group.
Ms. Vue said students are protesting because people can rise to the top of their professions and social standing without any consciousness of racism and its continuing institutional nature.