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Letter: Initial reaction to reparations ad lacks political tact

I do not defend the record of America with blacks. I strongly supported the reparations that were provided by affirmative action in the 1960s.

However, blacks need to learn to think politically. An emphasis on the need for reparations 35 years after 1965 implies that blacks are still inferior because of their disadvantages. That reinforces old stereotypes. If one says blacks are so fragile that they can't stand a silly advertisement, this inevitably implies that they are not strong enough for responsible jobs that must deal with crises.

If they create the publicity David Horowitz is seeking to sell his book, someone may wonder about their political smarts, and that may lead a few bigots to wonder about their smarts in general. Blacks need to think about the subliminal messages they are sending.

Life is like playing inside in basketball. The big boys push you, they hold you, they elbow you. The referees only give partial protection and are not always fair. There is a real limit to how much complaining and whining helps.

Minorities and women should not exaggerate the amount of discrimination against them. Unfortunately, white males often treat each other terribly, and, alas, they often treat minorities and women equally as terribly. You can play very tough and be polite.

Blacks at Duke should look at Mike Krzyzewski. All of his life he had terrible Polish jokes thrown at him far worse that anything than that could be said about blacks in recent decades. The "n" word is nothing in comparison to those jokes. If any students think that Polish Americans were not heavily discriminated against, they are fools.

But did Krzyzewski think to himself, "I cannot have self-esteem because of those jokes?" Did he think, "People will not think I am smart enough to be a coach and I shouldn't try? Maybe I really am not smart enough." Of course not. He went ahead and did his job. He became the opposite of the Polish stereotype-the brightest of the bright, the most disciplined, the hardest working and the classiest, the most determined to achieve. As a result, even more than Senator Ed Muskie and National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brezinski, he has done more than any other person in American history to bury the decades of stereotypes about Polish Americans.

It is when blacks acquire the self-confidence of Krzyzewski in the face of discrimination that the legacy of slavery will end.

Jerry Hough

James B. Duke Professor,

Department of Political Science


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