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Friday, December 3, 2021

Column: Lesson in progress

I messed up. I realized this when my phone began to update me with Facebook messages from people that I had never met saying that they thought my last column was racist and ignorant, among other qualities. I’m going to be honest with you all: I burst into tears each time; it didn’t matter that I was in the library, in class or even at the CoHo. Each one made me realize how many people I had hurt through my column. This was never my intention and the very least that I can do is apologize to those that were affected by my words and take it upon myself to learn from this experience.

Obviously, word choice throughout the column was flawed, to say the least. While reading through the many responses to the column, I decided to contact Dr. Halifu Osumare, an African American studies professor, and Lori Fuller at the Campus Unions center, who works closely with the Black Student Union, to better understand the implications behind my words.

The term “jungle fever,” as I learned from Dr. Osumare, refers to a time in which African American men and women were killed for having interracial relationships. Dr. Osumare also mentioned Spike Lee’s movie of the same name, and the racial stereotypes that have formed about what the black male represents.

My understanding of the term prior to this was solely in a colloquial sense because I had heard people use it when referring to a general infatuation with African American men and women. In the same way, I used the word “ghetto” to describe certain rap music in a way that is sadly common. Also, when I said that I “came out,” to my fraternity, I did not think about the associations that were made with the struggles of coming out for the LGBT community. My use of these phrases was sheer ignorance on my part, and I apologize profusely.

I also received e-mails and responses asking me how I would feel if someone had written about the Indian community using such blatant stereotypes.

I spoke to Lori Fuller at the Campus Unions center and when she asked me the same question, we discussed the portrayal of different cultures in the media.

There has been such an obvious display of stereotyping Indian culture that I, personally, had become somewhat desensitized to it. If someone assumed that my dad owns a Kwik-E Mart like Apu from “The Simpsons,” that all I eat is curry, or even that my entire life is like a Bollywood movie, I wasn’t too bothered by it because I had become so used to it.

As Ms. Fuller and I discussed this more, we talked about how there is more to Indian culture than convenience stores and curry and in the same way, African American culture is much more than rap music. The way that my column was written, associating culture with solely one genre of music, was far more hurtful than my intention.

My conversation with Dr. Osumare taught me that corporations utilize stereotypes about African American to sell products, and even some rappers play into those stereotypes to make money. She went on to say that people, including myself, don’t realize the complex history behind such stereotypes and we are educated with omission of so much information that we become culturally illiterate.

Dr. Osumare encouraged me to continue my research, and I certainly plan on enrolling in African American studies courses in the near future.

Words hurt. Whether they’re written by me or to me by someone else, they do. I never intended to hurt anyone through my words and I deeply regret doing so through my ignorance and lack of understanding. However, I am glad that this turned into an opportunity to educate myself. Even though this is a work in progress, this is by far one of the best learning experiences I have had.

Contact MEDHA SRIDHAR at mdsridhar@ucdavis.edu.

9 COMMENTS

  1. Awesome! I am inspired by your willingness to take a second look, to speak with experts, to learn and to share your new knowledge with others. Thank you for leading by example. This is what our community — and the world — needs more of.

  2. Your attitude in regards to this situation is one that I think many people could benefit from emulating. It takes strength, courage, and a truly level head to admit when you’re wrong–especially if your words have been heard by a large group of people. Admitting it is particularly more daunting/frightening/difficult when you’ve also offended a lot of them.

    I had my suspicions that your original post was simply misguided/uninformed, and I’m glad that was the case. The way you came out and publicly admitted your (honest) mistake, explained where you were coming from when you posted the original article, that you’ve made the effort to educate yourself to understand why what you said was wrong/hurtful–and have clearly learned from it–is to be commended. This is one of the most genuine things I’ve read/witnessed in a long time. Respect.

  3. I’m so very glad this experience has led you to take some African-American courses to better your understanding of African-American culture. I’m sorry you had to go to an emotional low point after receiving all of those messages from various strangers about your first column, yet sometimes one must receive a “wake-up call,” so to speak, to understand the implications of their actions. While I apologized for some of the things some folks may have said to you that were demeaning or otherwise unnecessary, I can’t be sorry that they said them in the first place. I’m just glad, in the face of everything that’s been happening on campus the last couple of weeks, this ordeal has turned into a learning experience for us all. Good luck in all of your endeavors.

  4. I’m very proud of you!
    I applaud your boldness and courage in writing your previous post, but especially this one. I’m glad you sought out Dr. Osumare and Lori Fuller and educated yourself as well as others (through this post) on African American history and the implications your words had on many in the Black community. I wish you all the success in the world with your studies and with finding your Mr. Right (Black or not).

    Blessings!

  5. I started reading the Aggie after the pepper spray incident and stumbled onto this thread. While obviously important and a mistake, it pales in comparison to people being sent to the hospital at the hands of UCD Police.

    I think the writer clearly and elogquently clarified and apologized for her previous article. I appreciate the effort she went to educatiung herself. I hope that the 100+ commeters on the original article accept what is obviously a heart felt and sincere aplogy.

    They Aggie Staff and editors could have easily hid behind the freedom of press, not aplogized, distancing itself from the opinions of one writer, hoped things would go away, hoped that students would forget in the midst of a much bigger story. They did none of that. Kudos to The Aggie for having he courage to admit that a mistake was made and allow the writer to express her journey.

    With everything going on within the Davis Community, this is not something that warrants an ongoing dialog.

    • I hope people continue to remember that as horrendous as the pepper spray incident was, instances of police brutality, such as this, occur within communities of color on a consistent basis with no such news coverage.

      Although you may feel that this letter addressing the HUNDREDS of students that were harmfully impacted through the words and actions of the previous article aren’t warranted, those of us who experience this constantly can relish in the fact that at least one person [the author of this article] has finally taken a step towards educating themselves on the ignorance of their behavior.

      My hope is that dialogue such as this CONTINUES around this subject area. Bias and hate crimes (which this author was not a part of) are occurring on a WEEKLY basis here at UC Davis.

  6. Let me be the first to say that i appreciate at the least, your motivation to find out the meaning behind the hurt displayed to you by my community. Hopefully this issue can bring awareness to us all.

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