White people: What’s going on there?

Elton Wong

I notice that I haven’t been getting very much hate mail recently. Because of my desire to be a cutting-edge, in-your-face journalist, I figured something had to be done to get people more involved. To this end, I tossed around a few ideas.

First, I considered incorporating a variety of wildly inappropriate racist and sexist epithets into this column, as a way to generate controversy and encourage people to think. That would likely lead to email but probably wouldn’t be the sort of thing the administration would go for.

I considered maybe saying bad things about freshmen or engineering students, but then I realized it had been done before. I even considered trying to stir controversy without resulting to direct personal insults, but then I realized that most college students don’t care about any issues enough to get worked up about them to any significant extent. Anyway, I came up with an idea, so here goes:

Man, I can’t stand white people. If there’s anything worse than a white person, it’s a whole bunch of white people going around being white all the time.

It’s enough to make me want to act in a socially and economically discriminatory manner toward them. If I could think of a suitably derogatory racial slur for white people, I’d be using it.

However, even Chris Rock was unable to come up with a good one; the best he thought of was “yahoo.” I don’t know about you, but that’s not nearly offensive enough for me.

What’s up with white people’s music? Why is it that lame pop groups like Brittany Spears and the Backstreet Boys get to say they’re R&B, meaning rhythm and blues? I can think of two things wrong with this title when applied to their music. First of all: rhythm.

Do they use the word “rhythm” when describing their white-sounding drum-machine beats to differentiate it from music that doesn’t have rhythm?

Like, are Tito Puente or Philly Joe Jones in the Miles Davis Quartet not properly rhythmic?

I don’t mean to insinuate that white people don’t appreciate jazz or Latin music. I mean, Jennifer Lopez is basically as good as Celia Cruz right? And Kenny G is basically the John Coltrane of our time.

As for calling it “blues,” I guess I can throw away my obviously bogus John Lee Hooker and Robert Johnson albums now that I have Christina Aguilera and the producer who writes all of her music.

To digress for a moment, it’s pretty weird that if I were, say, a white guy saying these kind of things about, say, Asian people, I could very well be expelled from this school. Ha ha.

And what’s up with white Hollywood action stars? Nicholas Cage and John Travolta? Please. Samuel L. Jackson could cause those guys to disintegrate into little puddles just by cursing at them angrily.

Try giving Chow-Yun Fat and Bruce Willis two “gats” each and see which one of them could pop caps into bad guys with more style. The answer is obvious.

OK I think that’s far enough. I’m not really being serious, you know. College is no place to categorize people into racial groups and then to make generalization about them.

Then again, maybe not. Since I was a freshman at this school, I’ve been getting mail from something called the Minority Student Affairs office.

As far as I can tell, this organization exists to help minority students become familiar with the opportunities available at Iowa State and to make sure they do well in school.

This is related to the university’s goal of improving retention among minority students, which is a way to measure the performance of a school.

Now, the word minority is not very specific. The general meaning of this word when applied to people includes any person who is not a member of the majority with respect to some given trait, interest, opinion or whatever. The thing is, every person is a minority with respect to something.

If this is so, then why doesn’t the Minority Student Affairs office exist to help everyone? The answer is that the word “minority” has come to mean “racial or ethnic minority.” There is a great deal of political baggage that is carried along with this arbitrary redefinition.

I have no problem with a department that exists to help people. However, the mailings and activities of the Minority Student Affairs office at Iowa State give the message that minorities (in the racial or ethnic sense, remember) somehow have it harder than “normal” ISU students, and that they need special attention.

A week or two ago, I was invited to a banquet that recognized “minority achievement.” What exactly is minority achievement, and how does it differ from regular achievement?

Why is being a minority with respect to race more important or determining than being a minority with respect to musical tastes or philosophical stances?

Anyway, as long as the aforementioned office calls itself “Minority Student Affairs,” it should be open to anyone.

The next time you have a legitimate question or complaint about something that the Minority Student Affairs office could help you with, feel free to ask for assistance.

Remember, everyone is a minority with respect to something. This can go on until the office changes its name to “Racial and Ethnic Minority Student Affairs.”

That would be more accurate, but it would also expose the racial and ethnic determinism that people usually end up returning to.

The alternative would be to realize that categorizing people is silly, no matter how these categories are drawn and presented.

Elton Wong is a junior in biology and philosophy from Ames.