Monthly Archives: October 2008

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Obama Effigy: By Colonel Mustard, With the Candlestick, In the Library

With so much name-calling and blind accusations flying around in the wake of the Obama effigy incident at good old Gee Eff You (that still cracks me up), my expectations for thorough, nuanced reporting or analysis have remained pretty low, because most of the noise generated has been voiced in comments sections of articles where, by and large, a lot of folks don’t even begin to have a clue about the larger issues at play.

Which is why I was pleasantly surprised by a Newsweek piece that I read today, which does its best to deal with the hardest question surrounding investigators: what was the motive behind hanging Obama in effigy?

The best part was discussion of the concept of “the limited good,” which may be an understandable explanation for the undercurrent of resentment that many White students may have toward programs like Act Six:

That’s a phenomenon called “the limited good,” explains Ron Stansell, a professor of religion at the school, and it may have more to do with the effigy hanging than outright racism. The concept, in anthropology, refers to the perception that wealth is a finite entity, such that one person’s gain is at another person’s expense; that economic life is a zero-sum game.

“I think that’s what I’m seeing here,” Stansell says. Students might think to themselves, “Here are minority students that have gotten a benefit I have not gotten. It must mean, in the cosmic scope of things, that I’ve been cheated.”

The point is that academic success is not a zero-sum game, where certain students only succeed if they can do so at others’ expense.

Which isn’t to say that there aren’t winners and losers in college life, because there are winners and losers in all frames of life. It just means that the people who blame other students of color in general, the Act Six program specifically, and (almost inexplicably) Senator Obama for their own insecurity or lack of opportunity shouldn’t look much further than the mirror if they want a clearer assessment of culpability.

More specifically, the four individuals who owned up to this abhorrent prank are not losers because they chose to hang a cardboard cutout of Obama from a tree and scrawl “Act Six reject” on it. They were most likely losers in some shape, form or fashion already. All they did with their prank is notify the rest of the world of their decency deficit.

I hope that Newsweek story will be the last word on this particular incident, because what students at George Fox need, more than knowing the motive for the crime, is how to move forward and bring more healing into their community.

And thanks be to God, they already have a clue about how to do that. Matter of fact, they have more than a clue.

They have the whole story.

I’m Jelani Greenidge, and thanks for Mixin’ It Up with me.