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[whitespace] Angela Davis
Unraveling Prejudice: Angela Davis says Americans are currently witnessing the 'logic of racism.'


Race Card

Nüz spent the 12th anniversary of the Loma Prieta earthquake scurrying between a town hall meeting and a panel discussion, events that were both triggered by a very unnatural disaster: Sept. 11.

At the town hall meeting, pacifist sentiments ruled. Green Party member Paul Franklin, while expressing shock and sympathy for the victims of Sept. 11, called the attacks "an international crime and not an act of war." Former mayor Bert Muhly said, "If we overreact and massacre civilians, we become terrorists ourselves and forfeit the right to outrage." But Robin Kopit of the Santa Cruz-based Kol Tefilah, a conservative Jewish congregation, questioned pacifism as a response. Referring to Osama bin Laden's declaration of holy war against America and its allies, Kopit asked, "How could you make peace with someone who doesn't recognize you as a human being, whose hatred and vengeance is the driving force of his life?"

Nüz hotfooted it over to the panel discussion titled "Race and the Crisis" to hear Manuel Pastor of UCSC's Center for Justice, Tolerance and Community acknowledge that Sept. 11 could lead to right-wing attacks on civil liberties. Warning the crowd not to describe the attacks as "chickens coming home to roost," Pastor said, "We must speak with compassion not righteousness." He urged people to learn more about and stand in solidarity with American Muslims.

A headscarf-wearing Maha ElGenaidi of the educational Islamic Networks Group recalled how, at age 7, she tried to cover up her Arabic identity when she emigrated to the United States, but that today her mission is to teach about Islam. As for her hijab, or scarf, ElGenaidi sees it as something that frees women. "I found it very oppressive to be judged by physical looks," she explained.

Visited by the FBI on Sept. 11, ElGenaidi seriously fears internment for Arab-Americans, but noted that to date her organization has received eight hate messages but 60 supportive calls--a statistic which gives her hope that one day Americans will more fully embrace Muslims.

"I hope awakened European Americans don't leave it to the usual suspects--the people of color--to speak about state-sponsored terrorism," said ElGenaidi to a standing ovation.

Next came UCSC History of Consciousness Prof. Angela Davis. A political legend in her own time, Davis analyzed how a profound sense of mourning of the events of Sept. 11 came to be so quickly displaced by ubiquitous flag-waving nationalism.

Warning against historical amnesia, Davis said the Sept. 11 attacks "do not annul our history of militarism, Japanese internment, Vietnam, or the conditions that led to Sept. 11. Terrorism is a tactic used across the political spectrum, not a description of a group."

Reminding the crowd that not so long ago the results of the presidential election were being severely questioned, Davis pondered on the reconstruction of Bush as a hero.

"It's time to distinguish between the innocence of those who died and that of our leaders, as we are called to merge under the flag with people and institutions who have a long history of repression," she said. "This is not the time to proclaim the superiority of the Western value system." She added that in listening "to talk of smoking terrorists out of holes and trapping them in caves, or a moratorium on student visas and the introduction of ID cards, we're witnessing the logic of racism." Davis pointed out that nobody suggested nuking Idaho or Montana when Timothy McVeigh was first suspected of the Oklahoma bombing.

Davis blamed racism for allowing us to accept the war on Afghanistan and the removal from planes of people perceived

to be of Middle Eastern descent. "One individual from a group stands for all, all stands for one. We can aim at a picture of bin Laden at a shooting range, but see him in the faces of people living here peacefully," she said.

With the war on Afghanistan officially designated as Operation Enduring Freedom, Davis questioned whether this freedom was "the freedom of the market, or of the Taliban women, or the freedom to refuse to send a top-level delegation to Durban or call what Israel is doing racism?"

Davis, who did attend the racism conference in Durban, said, U.S. activists learned to gaze away from Washington, "to look instead to those who do not want another Gulf War, to those who say this war will not be conducted in our names."

Uncivil Liberty

Meanwhile, over at Santa Cruz-based KSCO-KOMY (1080-AM), civil liberties seemed to have already taken a hit. On Oct. 6, leftist talk-show host Peter Werbe had his program terminated, and though KSCO co-owner Michael Zwerling insisted Werbe was a casualty of no sponsors and few listeners, Werbe, who'd been broadcasting on KOMY-AM for a year, says KSCO had never sought sponsors for his program, which was provided free of charge. As for "few listeners," so many called to complain about the post-Werbeian lack of political balance, that Zwerling's mother, Kay, whom insiders describe as "the power behind the throne," took to the airwaves Oct. 16 and publicly denounced Werbe and his show.

Declaring that "partisanship is out; we are all Americans now," Kay Zwerling first criticized dissidents. in general. "As pacifists; they want us to assume the dead roach position,"she said, before attacking Werbe, whom she characterized as an extreme leftist whose favorite target for ridicule is Bush.

"This may have been fair game in normal times, but we're in a state of war. We cannot afford the luxury of political divisiveness," Zwerling said.

Werbe, whose syndicated show is still available on the Internet at www.ieAmericaradio.com/peterwerbe (a network owned by United Autoworkers in Detroit) is one of only two remaining leftist syndicated talk- show hosts, the other being liberal Mike Malloy. Says Werbe, "That doesn't make me a big shot, but it does show how American audiences are being exposed to a consistently right-wing drumbeat."

One talk-radio listener, who requested anonymity, says he doesn't always agree with Werbe, but doesn't feel threatened by the ragings of a pacifist. "Santa Cruz deserves something better than a diet of wacko right-wing radio," he said.

Veteran talk-show caller Milly Plummer 77, says the suppression of dissent by a local radio station is neither healthy nor prudent. Plummer, who listened to KSCO on a daily basis before Werbe was let go , says her issue is not free speech or the choice of hosts on Zwerling's broadcasting corporation. "My issue is the recent and apparent suppression of dissension," Plummer told Nüz.

For now, KSCO-KOMY callers are at the mercy of right-wing syndicated host Michael Savage, who is broadcast six hours daily. Says Plummer, "Savage typically slams dissenting voices off the air with a tirade of abuse, in stark contrast to Werbe, who may have disagreed with callers, but he didn't treat them with disrespect. He gave the otherwise right-wing KSCO some balance."

Curious, Nüz tuned into Savage's spot on Oct. 19 and heard him accuse "peace marchers of committing treason." Savage advocated "nuking Afghanistan," and "stopping immigration and affirmative action" as a solution to the crisis, which he blamed on "ultraliberalism."

Neither of the Zwerlings returned Nüz's calls, but Michael has invited Werbe onto his October 27 show at 10am. Will the Zwerlings rediscover the value of dissent? Stay tuned.

Peace Offering

Internationally acclaimed public health promoter and human rights activist Dorothy Granada is in town. A passionate advocate of nonviolence, the 70-year-old nurse is famous for her resistance to government persecution in Nicaragua. Though she successfully resisted attempts to deport her and close down her Maria Luisa Ortiz Women's Clinic last year, Granada was forced to leave this September when Nicaraguan President Aleman refused to renew her residency. Granada hopes to return in January if a Sandinista government is elected. For now , she's on a four-month speaking tour, and will speak in Santa Cruz at a Nov. 3 benefit for the clinic she runs in rural Nicaragua.

In light of current events, Granada offers this advice: "Don't accept the concept of the 'enemy,' but offer friendship and service to those who are different, because violence only begets more violence and too many widows and orphans."

Through her work in Nicaragua, Granada discovered that the Contras, who she says were created by the United States to act as terrorists in Nicaragua, "weren't monsters, but victims of violence." Noting that "the knee-jerk reaction of giving violence back is a very male response," Granada recalls how the campesinos stopped the cycle of violence by making friends of enemies.

As for the plight of Afghan women under the Taliban, Granada is opposed to intervention of any kind. "The road to liberation is within their own faith. Other Arab women have worked it out," she says.

Granada's advice to Americans? "Hit the streets, do civil disobedience, write articles of protest and inform yourself about what's happening. The time has come when we can no longer stay passive, living in our own little worlds. The people in charge are not to be trusted. Citizens are the only ones who are going to stop warmongering and imperialism."

Granada speaks Nov. 3, 6:30pm, at the First United Methodist Church, 250 California St., Santa Cruz; no-host bar, dinner, presentation, salsa dancing with instructors from Salsa Rueda Santa Cruz. Special guest is Rep. Sam Farr.

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From the October 24-31, 2001 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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