Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Racist University of Minnesota Instructor

Comments a University of Minnesota instructor made at a rally are causing controversy about what is and is not considered racist. Susana De Leon, an activist and part-time instructor of Mexican-American studies, was involved in a verbal confrontation at the rally in Owatonna. "Yes, people from Europe are wet backs man... their backs so wet because they had to cross an ocean to get here," De Leon said at the rally. De Leon is also an immigration attorney who led the rally in Owatonna. She added that it is not possible for minorities to be racist against white people.Nathan Smit, of the Minnesota Coalition for Immigration Reduction, says he felt her comments were racist toward white people. "It actually almost hurt my feelings," Smit said. De Leon said the confrontation escalated because members of the immigration group were being intimidating. "Eventually they came and shove a sign in my face, and they're murmuring under their breathe the most terrible racist things," De Leon said. "So there's a point, yes, I take the sign and I take it away." Another member of the immigration reduction group said it was De Leon who escalated the confrontation with her words. "I would never say those things to anybody, even if I didn't like them," said Paul Westrum. "But the thing is, because she's a minority she thinks she can get by with it." Vivian Jenkins Nelson, a diversity expert from the Inter-race Institute and author of the "Diversity Dictionary", would not condemn De Leon's language, but did say it was not helpful. "There are much bigger conversations that need our attention and effort than name calling at a rally somewhere," Jenkins Nelson said.Westrum and Smit said her language would be considered racist if a white person had used those terms. But Westrum is more angry that she is paid by the public."I'd like to see her services terminated," he said. University officials declined requests for an interview, but they said state employees have the same freedoms of speech and have the right to participate in political and social protests.