Professorial perspectives on race

Regarding the March 28 opinion piece "A Jeffersonian take on affirmative action": Early Friday morning I attended the inauguration of the first woman president at the University of Michigan and heard an African-American scholar present a hopeful assessment of the future. Late that evening, I read with care the commentary by my friend Corey D.B. Walker on the racial musings of Thomas Jefferson, the father of my graduate-school alma mater, the University of Virginia.

In the hours that passed between the pomp and regalia of the inauguration and the straight talk on race from the pages of your periodical, I had the opportunity to interact with a lively group of black and white students enrolled in a course I am teaching. The day's topic: "Diversity as a compelling interest for affirmative action."

What Friday's events revealed were that no matter the outcome of the Supreme Court's deliberations, the American university and the wider intellectual community will continue to be the arena with the best opportunity to carve out the ideals of democracy so elegantly articulated by Mr. Walker. Not in spite of race, but rather because of it.
Larry Rowley
Ann Arbor, Mich.
Higher Education & Afroamerican Studies

University of Michigan

I was more than a little flabbergasted to read Prof. Corey D.B. Walker's article. While Mr. Walker makes many excellent points and offers a useful reflection on the past and future of racial equality in the United States, his use of Jefferson is questionable, if not wholly offensive. Unfortunately, it is also common.

While scores of politicians and historians have religiously quoted Jefferson to boost our self-image as a nation dedicated to equal rights, they have just as fervently avoided those passages where Jefferson's views on race come into ugly focus.

One has to wonder how far this nation will move toward extending equal rights to all its citizens as long as we insist upon dangerous illusions: beginning with consulting one of the biggest slave owners of his generation on the importance of freedom.
Michelle Wright
St Paul, Minn.
Associate professor of English

Macalester College

Celebrities opine on war

Regarding the March 25 article "Stars and gripes: wartime etiquette at home": The conservative radio establishment and morning zoo crews had a post-Oscar field day taking the documentary film winner to the cultural guillotine. Michael Moore accepted his award with an antiwar and anti-President Bush statement.

Why should well-known antiwar artists refrain from speaking their minds? Isn't this why the brave men and women are fighting? Two-way discourse is what makes this nation great, with entertainers and politicians engaging in words of support and dissent, unfettered and unsuppressed. Mr. Moore's speech, sloppy as it was, in no way threatens the outcome of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Some argue that it is unacceptable to criticize the president in a time of war and that such remarks undermine troop morale. I believe the president is well equipped to handle such criticism, and the troops remain steadfast in their mission. Let's remember, Michael Moore is a filmmaker, not the US secretary of state. Let the man speak.
Robert Nebel
Norcross, Ga.

If the liberal left in Hollywood is such a bright bunch, why don't they understand that no one is blacklisting them? They have a right to say what they want and we, the public, have a right not to spend our money on their movies and songs.
Marilyn Caffee
Sugarland, Texas

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