Letter to the Editor

Why isn't college opening Lillie Wade's mind? Plus: Seeking the truth about Marilyn Monroe; Pat Buchanan's party switch is about winning, not principles.

By Letters to the Editor

Published November 18, 1999 5:00PM (EST)

What did I say?

Sadly, Lillie Wade is not alone in being uneducated and yet smugly
confident in her opinions about race and gender. I just found out last
week that my 19-year-old cousin, who is black and a freshman at a small
private university, thinks in many of the same ways that Wade does.
Both of these young women seem to have bought into the all-too-popular
belief today that it is people of color who are hung up on race. The
party line for this generation is that if
those pesky black, brown, yellow and red ones would stop carrying those
chips on their shoulders, they would realize that race is no longer with
us and we could get on with the serious business of just being human -- that the real racists today are people of color and their liberal white sympathizers.

As I told my cousin this past weekend, there are major problems with
this line of thinking. It makes anecdote (my best friend didn't get
into Harvard because of affirmative action) and feelings (black
women hated me because black men found me attractive) into theory. Such
an approach makes intelligent, rigorous analysis impossible. It is a set
of narrow-minded blinders that prevents us from thinking about
interracial marriage in anything more than the most worn-out "isms."

If Wade came into my office hours for assistance, I would encourage her to
look into the historical, geographical and political usages of the
term -- for starters. I would also encourage her to stop "barely
listening" and shutting out what boggles her mind and try to
understand why someone might compare her ideas to Nazi notions of
miscegenation. But I have a feeling that she just might stare back and see me -- a black anthropologist who studies Asian-American families and
who is married to a Jewish man (how's that for identity politics?) -- as
just another one of those angry black women who still has an ax to
grind about Nicole and O.J.

-- Jacalyn Harden

I find it amazing that all Lillie Wade could find to discuss about
interracial marriage was the hostility of nonwhites to the topic. What
about the lynchings and home bombings done by white men "hostile" to
the notion of interracial marriage? Hostility might make you "feel bad,"
but at least you have the opportunity to live another day.

-- Deborah Taylor

In answer to Wade's question, "interracial" marriage does cause a great
deal of conflict for the most bigoted and emotionally constipated members
of society -- black, white and otherwise. The Civil Rights movement also
provoked much conflict between
the "races," in that the most racist members of the "white" group mobilized
against it. The Allied armies and anti-Nazi resistance fighters of World
War II provoked conflict with the Third Reich; if they had not resisted
the forces of tyranny, there would have been a "peace" of sorts. The point is
that the conflict is more than worth the just peace and freedom that follows.

-- A.D. Powell

Wade says that her professor,
when asked where she could find writings supporting her position, said,
"There is, but it's old, and a lot was racist. You could read Nazi
literature." Wade then interpreted that she was "being compared to a Nazi,"
which is something of a stretch to begin with. The article's subtitle,
however, referred to "having a professor call you a Nazi." So "You could
read Nazi literature" became "You're a Nazi!" While this transformation may have made the episode seem a little more dramatic, it was a rather serious distortion of what actually occurred.

As a graduate student, I can testify that "political correctness" on
campus is neither the universal plague that those on the right imagine, nor
the complete and utter myth that those of us on the left committed to
freedom of thought and expression would hope. Occasions when students are
truly prevented from expressing their beliefs should be noted and critiqued,
but this was plainly not such an occasion.

-- Paul Waldman

Lillie Wade missed the point in her article about
having her views dismissed by her professor. The
professor did his job by telling her what current academic thought on the subject
of interracial marriage was. Wade did not even
listen to the professor's viewpoint. She had already
dismissed him as a reliable source because he used
"clichid jargon about giving center stage to the
marginalized." She writes that she barely listened
because she was trying to find a way out of the
conversation -- because he did not agree with her.

One of the purposes of college is to experience new
points of view. Wade had the perfect opportunity to
have a dialogue with this professor and understand the
complexities of the issue. Instead, she chose to
ignore research that contradicted her and search for
research that validated her own hypothesis, which was
admittedly based on anecdotal evidence. If her paper
was to have any merit she would have had to address
that contradictory research. Basically, Wade needs to grow up and realize that
she's in college now.

-- Tim Sherman

Freudians prefer blonds


For Damion Matthews to rely on Donald Spoto's "definitive" biography on Monroe -- featuring
research that was reckless at best and irresponsible at worst -- is just plain inexcusable.
Spoto relied on unnamed "witnesses" and anonymous "sources" to paint
Monroe's last psychiatrist, Ralph Greenson, as a control freak who had a
sexual obsession with Monroe and a quasi-incestuous relationship with his
own sister; thus Spoto's most outrageous claim, that Greenson ordered
housekeeper Eunice Murray to adminster an enema to Monroe on the night
of Monroe's death, must be taken with a huge boulder of salt.

As far as Spoto's claim that Monroe and DiMaggio were going to remarry
at the time of her death (his "evidence": quotes taken out of context
from a DiMaggio biography), DiMaggio -- through friends -- told columnist
Liz Smith that he and Monroe were not planning to retie the knot.
Forgive my tending to believe DiMaggio more than Spoto.

And, forgive me for feeling ill when Peter Swales proclaims
Norman Rosten as "perhaps [Monroe's] most loyal and closest friend in
the world." Like so many "close friends," Rosten hopped on the Monroe
gravy train by penning not only two books about her, but an opera!

Lee Strasberg had 10 years to fulfill Monroe's wishes to have her
belongings distributed; don't blame Anna Strasberg for not doing what
her husband should've done a long, long time ago. No doubt, she and
Christie's are very, very happy that he didn't.

-- Lisa Davis

Los Angeles

Naked World: Malawi president condemns traditional sex rituals


You note that "the Old Testament itself is loaded with atrocious sex
laws, such as the decree that unmarried rapists are required to marry their victims." While I won't argue that the Old Testament has a few laws that are at odds with current cultural trends, I do feel that
this particular law is fair given the cultural context at the time.
Whether we like it or not these days, unmarried women without a family
who lived at the time of the writing of Deuteronomy were basically
doomed to be poor for the rest of their lives. Making a rapist marry the
victim is a way of ensuring that the woman, and a potential child, are
provided for. For the Hebrews, to have a single woman with a child in
the throes of poverty was a worse crime than to have her in a difficult, forced marriage.

-- Stephen Waters

Austin, Texas

The kingmaker speaks


The only thing more disgusting than Pat Buchanan's racism and
homophobia is Pat Choate's tendentious, tortured and finally
ridiculous defense of the indefensible. His responses on questions
related to the Holocaust represent a kind of political psychosis
characterized by delusions and hallucinations.

As for the left-right-center flake-fest of the current Reform Party
leadership, it is a demonstration of politics as usual: Winning is
more important that political principles. It's also goofy and bound
to fail. America certainly
could use an alternative to the two main parties that could offer a
rational critique of the current power structure, but anyone who
believes the Reform Party represents this alternative belongs in the
same loony bin with Choate and Ross Perot. Pat Buchanan, on the other
hand, isn't a bit crazy -- he's just in business, and his products are
hate and an intellectually dishonest and distorted view of American
society. His supporters belong in a hospital; Buchanan belongs in
the "dustbin of history."

-- Joseph Duemer

Potsdam, N.Y.

Pat Buchanan is not, never was and never will be a viable candidate for
president of the United States. No matter the posturing and proclamations
about being for the interests of the common man; Pat is a mouthpiece
for the religious right.

Efforts to turn the discussion to economic issues are transparent. Jesse Ventura won the Minnesota governor's race because he appealed to the "mind your own damn business" sensibilities of the voters. It had nothing to do with his economic philosophy. Of course he said he was fiscally
conservative. Who would vote for anyone who said otherwise?

The difference is that Pat appeals to the "your business is my business
and I'll tell you how to run your business" sensibilities of religious
fundamentalism. He has pandered to the sympathies of the religious
right since he first took pen in hand. So what if he appeals to anyone's economic interests? It's not the economy anymore, stupid. It's me. And Pat Buchanan should leave me the
hell alone.

-- Russ Miers

Gore's premature obituary


The pundits have wanted to get Clinton for so long, and for so little reason,
they are taking their impotent furies out on Al Gore. They think that they
still have their old power of making or breaking politicians, and want to
break Gore just to prove it.

Unfortunately for the press, the American public has gotten into the habit of
not listening to them. Meanwhile, print and broadcast journalists
have tarted up and watered down what they used to call "hard news," in the
mistaken idea that the people will take them more seriously if they are
indistinguishable from the Weekly World News.

When Al Gore rides into the Oval Office next year and takes a Democratic
supermajority with him into both houses of Congress, the pundits will be as
surprised as the CIA was by the collapse of Communist Europe.

-- Tamara Baker

St. Paul, Minn.

Screw the polls! The vote is not taking place today, nor tomorrow, nor
for another 11 months! Why should voters care about poll standings? The
media should be reporting on who the candidates are, not on how far one is
ahead of the other in the minds of people who are just as uninformed as
you and me -- unless we've totally thrown over the idea that we vote for
candidates based on their views and traits in favor of simply voting for
whoever is most likely to win.

Let the campaigns use polling data for their own purposes; the news media
should never report poll results. Doing so taints the political
process. It sends the message to the voters that there is no point in
voting, because the election has already been decided without their input.
It breeds complacency on the winning side and disheartenment on the losing
side. And pundits wonder why people stay home in droves on election day!

-- Keith Ammann

Albany, N.Y.

No littering


Arthur Allen writes in "No Littering" that "the American Society for
Reproductive Medicine Thursday recommended that its 9,000 specialists reduce
the number of embryos they implant" in order to prevent an "alarming" rise
in multiple births. Allen cites the numbers of children born in multiple
births, but it is the number of pregnancies that lead to those births that
actually matters in determining the risks involved. Using Allen's own
numbers, 76 percent of successful assisted pregnancies result in one child and
another 21 percent result in twins -- so 97 percent of these pregnancies present no problem
at all. The other 3 percent would be no problem if the parents allowed selective
reduction of the excess embryos. To avoid the problems these 3 percent of cases
represent, the ASRM would be willing to lower the odds of successful
fertilization for the other 97 percent of patients. This seems like a bad deal for
most patients and another example of the kind of media-enabled hysteria that
increasingly guides policymaking. Calling fertility specialists "medical
cowboys" and multiple births "litters" substitutes cheap shots for thought --
if the ASRM (and, presumably, Allen) want to address this problem, a more
measured response is to call for reduced embryo transfer in those patients
unwilling to consider selective reduction in any event.

-- Michael Dardia

San Francisco

Unarmed and under fire


Each woman who served in Vietnam has an "individual" story, which does not
necessarily represent the experiences of all of us.
In my case, in one unit assignment, I was assigned and carried a weapon
during alerts, and would have used it if necessary.

It is now recognized that all of us who served in Vietnam were exposed to
Agent Orange and other chemicals. The high percentage of children with
genetic birth defects born to women and men who
served there, is not "just a coincidence." Nor is the high percentage of
cancer among Vietnam vets.

The reunion in Olympia this week is not just for WACs, but includes enlisted women and officers of all
branches of service. Clare Starnes, and those who assisted her in putting this together, have
done an outstanding job of finding women who served in Vietnam, something
that neither the Veterans Administration nor the Department of Defense has managed, or bothered, to do in all these years..

-- Elaine L. James

LaGrange, Ga.

"Fair use" vs. foul play


It is ironic that the L.A. Times, the finest newspaper in the United
States, would be a party to the lawsuit against
Free Republic, since the Times depends on the free flow of information for its own
livelihood. In so doing, the Times is suppressing discussion in the
public square -- hampering the freedom of those wishing to discuss current
events by burying the dissemination of said information underneath a hill of legal

-- Gary Garland

Yorba Linda, Calif.

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