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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


    Civil Rights Author Questions Racial Achievements

    ‘?Civil Rights and Human Limits: Getting Beyond thePast,’ a lecture by Ellis Cose held in the WHERE MANSOOR at Stony BrookUniversity, was the second event in the President’s Lecture Series thissemester. The Series’ proclaimed purpose is ‘?CelebratingDiversity.’

    Cose has published nine books, including his acclaimedbest-seller, The Rage of a Privileged Class,and is a columnist and contributing editor for Newsweek. Cose, who is a past recipient of the BlackJournalist Lifetime Award, is most famous for posing the question, ‘?Fromapology, to affirmative action, to reparations, to what extent can we overcomethe sins of the past?’

    After a brief introduction by University President ShirleyStrum Kenny, Cose delved into his opinion on affirmative action. On thebirthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., President George W. Bush announced hissupport of a Supreme Court challenge against the University of Michigan’s affirmative action-oriented admissions policy.

    Cose recalled that Bush cited King’s famous ‘?IHave a Dream’ speech. The President reportedly insisted that affirmativeaction interfered with King’s goal of having individuals ‘?not bejudged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.’

    Cose expressed disapproval for Bush’s use ofKing’s rhetoric.

    ‘?But Martin Luther King would not be on the same platform as George Bush,’ saidCose, who cited a 1965 interview with King in Playboy Magazine. ‘?Kingwas all for the preferential treatment of Negroes in America.’

    Cose added that, in 1968, King affirmed that he did notbelieve the nation had made up for the past 200 years of black oppression andslavery.

    Some students in attendance openly disagreed withCose’s stance.

    ‘?I think Martin Luther King’s whole agenda wasto encourage equality,’ Esposito said.

    ‘?I agree with President Bush in that affirmativeaction is going against that.’

    Cose gave anecdotes about how various individuals andcountries deal with the issue of forgiveness and reparations. One of theseinvolved a woman who was brutally raped and beaten by police authorities. Aftersome time, she found herself willing to forgive her attackers, only to findthat they insistently denied that any such incident occurred.

    Cose explained his view of the difference betweenretributive justice, or vengeance, and restorative justice, or seekingrestoration. ‘?Most people are looking to be made whole,’ he said.’?What I see is not so much in the past, but a discussion of what’sin the present.’

    Cose said that he wants the National Agenda to be refocusedon African Americans in order to achieve restoration. ‘?WeAmericans,’ he said, ‘?are very quick to disown the past.’

    Our country, he continued, must question whether we haveachieved racial equality and provided the necessary reparations for pastoppression. He cited statistics that say one in four black men will beincarcerated sometime in their life. ‘?If you were to put all of them inone city, it would have a population of 800,000,’ said Cose.’?That’s the 13th largest city in the U.S.’

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