Written by Stanley Greenberg Friday, 20 November 2009 00:00
It was a red-hot discussion (battle) in the classroom and I was in the center of it!
The course was “Politics and the Media” and the SUNY Old Westbury students were a cross-section of the New York urban area. The professor was John Friedman and he loves a good argument. The class was about 50 percent African-American, 20 percent Latino and the rest were an assorted group of Irish, Italian, Swedish and I was the only Hebrew (other than the professor).
We had just witnessed the racist classic film Birth of a Nation, by D.W. Griffith filmed in 1915 and the battle was begun. The film depicts life in the south before and after the Civil War. The rise of the Ku Klux Klan is very disturbing.
The movie glorifies the racism of the South. Many in the class mentioned the racism which exists today in the North. Other groups chimed in with their complaints about bigotry in America. It was a total “free for all.” Shouting about injustices filled the air. Even I, “the model of good manners and tolerance,” had a few words to inject.
But everyone was civil!
The professor kept order and everyone who raised their hand was given their time to speak. The students were getting long-harbored problems off their chests. It was a true lesson in academic freedom and democracy.
I wrote the following letter and read it to the class at the next session. I got applause and left.
Thank you Professor Friedman for allowing such a broad diverse discussion after the film. Only in the U.S.A. could such an eye-opening discussion be held. The conclusion I reached was, that each group thought that it had suffered the most through the ages and particularly in America.
Pierre thought his group, the Haitian Blacks, were treated the worst.
Eamon based his negative thoughts on the Irish problems.
I based my ideas on being Jewish in the 20th century of the Holocaust.
The Latinos had their negative views on the immigration.
We live in a heterogenous nation called the United States of America.
Again, I must praise Professor Friedman for letting all parties speak. I hope I did not speak out more than most of the other participants, which I did.
A delicate subject, no conclusion reached. Life goes on!
I wish the professor and all the students well!