Courtesy of http://monroegop.com

Will County Executive, Maggie Brooks, be giving an empty promise to fight racism this Friday at the UR Diversity Conference? Given her history, her support for diversity is insincere.

This Friday, the University of Rochester will host the 2nd Annual Conference on Diversity, to celebrate and examine the challenges of promoting diversity in our community. During the opening ceremony, Maggie Brooks will be speaking on behalf of the YWCA’s campaign to fight racism. While Maggie Brooks position against racism is noble, her other views taint the true nature of diversity, respect, and equality – her political actions are proof of that. In 2008 the landmark Martinez v. County of Monroe case ruled that same-sex marriages performed outside the state must be recognized within New York and as such, same-sex couples are entitled to the same rights and benefits as opposite-sex couples. As a result of this ruling, Maggie Brooks issued an appeal to block those benefits from being extended to same-sex couples. Fortunately, the appeal was denied. But the fact remains that Maggie Brooks is an active opponent against equality.

At this conference entitled “Why Diversity?” the keynote address will be delivered by the highly esteemed researcher, scholar and author, Dr. Daryl G. Smith. Dr. Smith is an apt speaker to tackle the question “why diversity?” as her life’s work has been dedicated to a critical understanding of the full spectrum of diversity, particularly in higher education. In a 2009 issue of Diversity & Democracy she writes,

Diversity also means addressing the growing and differentiated issues reflected by different groups across the country, whether related to race, class, gender, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, immigration, or religion. And instead of seeing diversity as a laundry list […] we must address the intersections and multiplicities of identities and recognize how campuses must now engage the complexity of diversity.

A first generation Vietnamese American, I’m excited to hear Dr. Smith speak since I’m personally affected by issues of race, sexual orientation, and where these identities overlap. Being Vietnamese American, I enjoy the richness that my parents’ heritage adds to my American culture, but I also find myself standing against racism and bigotry. Likewise as a gay man, I not only have to fight against ignorance and homophobia, but am also forced to fight for the basic legal privileges and protections that elected officials continue to deny me and the one I love.

In my experience, I’ve found that discrimination against people of color and against people who are gay manifests in different forms and magnitudes, but the basis is rooted in the same hatred, ignorance and fear. I believe one cannot truly be free of personal racism, unless they also look at what makes them continue to hold to ideals that are sexist, heterosexist, classist, etc. This concept is not new and not uniquely held by me; “Homophobia is like racism and anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry in that it seeks to dehumanize a large group of people, to deny their humanity, their dignity and personhood. This sets the stage for further repression and violence that spread all too easily to victimize the next minority group.” – Coretta Scott King

For these reasons, I am shocked and disappointed that the University extended the privilege of leading a “Pledge Against Racism” to a well-known foe to the gay community. While having controversial speakers on campus is not a new issue, I believe it is wrong to let Maggie Brooks speak on issues of diversity, especially on a campus well-known for its unwavering support for diversity, in all its forms.

Although Maggie Brooks’ words may have face-value, they will ring hollow and disingenuous given her strong stance against equality. Her position on same-sex partner benefits proves that she does not fully comprehend the true meaning of diversity beyond its political correctness.

At a conference celebrating diversity and trying to solve its challenges, at a University that values and protects the differences of its community, it is perfectly reasonable that we hold Maggie Brooks to a higher standard as she visits our community. If anything, the tireless work of groups promoting awareness on campus have taught us to more deeply examine what it means to be supportive of diversity. I challenge Maggie Brooks to do the same.

  • Adam Ondo

    I think Maggie Brooks is a fine candidate to speak at the conference. You can’t blame her for doing what her constituents want. She’s an elected official in a very conservative part of New York, so of course she’s going to oppose anything supporting gay marriage. I think that marriage licenses (no matter what kind) should be good in every state, just like driver’s licenses(in my opinion, Article IV of the Constitution supports this), but I still support her actions. Also, you would be hard pressed to find an elected official who supports every single type of diversity you listed. There are officials who support gay marriage, but not “Mexican anchor babies”, or who feel that pregnant women should not be able to work (e.g., Sen. Jim DeMint), but support all religions.

  • ANDREW MORAN

    Adam,

    The problem is, Maggie Brooks’ Maggie Brooks’ constituents include the very same individuals who are hurt by the lack of marriage equality in the state. That’s the problem with deciding upon the rights of a minority based upon the opinions of a majority. It is wrong to deny a minority group a right (the absence of the right hurts them) because of the opinions of a majority (who would not be affected by the presence of the right). None of the states that have same-sex marriage have gone through the catastrophic upheaval that opponents of marriage equality fear.

    I ask you to put yourself in the shoes of an LGBTQI individual. How would you feel if you could not marry the love of your life, because of an immutable characteristic, that the majority of the population disagrees with? How would you feel when faced with daily legal reminders that you are not equal of others in the eyes of much of society? Much of what we see is the same fear and prejudice that made interracial marriage illegal. On a more personal level, imagine this analogy. Imagine that you love someone who is a foot taller than you. The society that you live in believes that tall people are less suitable for procreation, might try to make their children taller, and harm the nature of family and social life. How would you feel if you were denied the right to marry the person of your dreams because of that characteristic?

    With regards to her speaking at the conference, I had Maggie Brooks speaking about the need to fight oppression and all forms of discrimination. As someone who does identify as gay, to hear her saying that she actively fights all forms of discrimination except many of the ones the LGBTQ population faces, hurts quite frankly.

    If we are celebrating diversity in all its forms, we should have speakers who are reflective of a wide range of diversity issues, rather than one. The same roots that cause racism, ageism, sexism, and all the other “isms” are the same ones that cause homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia. Dr. Darryl Smith, the keynote speaker, talked quite eloquently about the need to look at diversity as a whole, focusing and working together on all issues, rather than looking at one issue and saying that one issue is the sum of our work on diversity.

    Dr. Smith challenged us to look at our views of diversity and our actions that we take to support diversity. I challenge everyone to follow her advice. Additionally, I extend an invitation to you, Adam, and anyone else who may ever wish to, to engage in dialogue in person about the issues of of diversity and the LGBTQ community. At our core, we are all humans worthy of respect.

    Meliora,

    Andrew Moran
    President, Pride Network

    • Adam Ondo

      Maggie Brooks represents more than “one” type of diversity, she just so happens to not support the one that you specifically associate with. Also, that may not be her personal belief, because, as I said above, she has to do what her supporters want. And I’m sure Dr. Smith has a bias of her own, just as everyone does. If Maggie Brooks supported gay marriage, but opposed Mexican immigration, then you wouldn’t be nearly as vocal. You just have a problem with her because she represents a majority that disagrees with you.

      And you don’t have to lecture me on gay marriage. As I stated in my previous comment, I believe gay marriage licenses should be recognized in every state. So I’m on your side on the overall issue, but I still understand why Maggie Brooks did what she did. She did what a good politician should have done.

  • ANDREW MORAN

    Adam,

    I thank you for believing that marriage licenses should be recognized in all states. However, I feel that I should still respond. This is an academic community afterall, and I hope that our discussion will bring education to us both, and to the wider community as well.

    The problem is, Maggie Brooks stated at the conference that she stand against all forms of oppression and discrimination. Her words ring hollow and hypocritical though with regards to her actions towards the LGBTQ comunity. While we all have inherent biases (we all are human), we can and should bring light to them, to move forward in our acceptance.

    As a Mexican-American as well as someone who identifies as gay, I would oppose someone who held a discriminatory attitude towards my community as well. My point is still that we can’t look at issues of diversity and acceptance in a vacuum. We must look at it in a global view, and understand that there are intersectionalities between all diversity issues, both on a personal level and at a larger level. Racism, sexism, ageism, and the other “isms” have the same root causes as homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia.

    As a public official, her actions are more important than her beliefs. Her actions have a real world consequence for everyone, whereas her personal beliefs only affect her. Actions speak larger than words. I would hold the same true for anyone who believes one thing but acts in a manner contrary to their beliefs.

    Maggie Brooks does not have a duty just to her supporters. She has a duty to ALL her constituents. And the LGBTQ community is included in her constituency. If a politician was elected in a county that was predominantly racist, does that mean that he or she has a duty to promote racist policies? Maggie Brooks should not choose who receives equal civil rights based on what other parts of her constituency say. There is a deep problem with deciding upon the rights of a minority by the opinion of a majority. A minority’s rights (which do not infringe upon the rights of the majority) should not have their rights chosen by the majority. However, that is exactly what Ms. Brooks tried to do. In this case, recognizing same-sex marriages that were performed out of state does not infringe upon the freedoms of anyone else. Are there any examples of people who have been harmed in Monroe County after same-sex, married couples moved here? On the other hand, I know of people who have been deeply hurt by the fact that they were not able to legally marry the person that they love.

    Besides that point, does Ms. Brooks know what her constituency wants? From some brief cursory research, I cannot find anything in her platform that mentions her position on rights for LGBTQ individuals. Additionally, there have not been any polls done to determine either the size of the LGBTQ population in Monroe County, or the support for marriage equality in the county. This is all in addition to the stronger point I made in the previous paragraph.

    As a public official, we must hold Ms. Brooks to a high standard. She must represent all of her constituency, not just the ones who elected her. I cannot even find any evidence that scientifically proves that her constituency is against marriage equality. She cannot truthfully say that she opposes all forms of oppression when her actions have proven otherwise. As a public official, it is her actions that matter, not her personal beliefs, whatever they may be. Again, let us stand against discrimination in ALL its forms. We aren’t perfect, but we must try to make progress. If we don’t make progress, we lose many of our wonderful brothers and sisters. I ask everyone, including to Ms. Brooks, to look at her actions from the viewpoint and experiences of anyone who experiences discrimination based on their sexual orientation.

    Emma Lazarus says it beautifully, “Until we are all free, we are none of us free.”

    Meliora,

    Andrew Moran
    President, Pride Network

    • Adam Ondo

      Hi Andrew,

      I understand your point about minority rights from a moral level, but on a political level, which is what Maggie Brooks is on, it doesn’t actually make sense. You say her duty is to ALL of her constituency, but that is not the case politically. An elected official is going to represent the beliefs of those who will get her re-elected, because that is what politics is about. It may not be the nicest policy, but that is how it works. Also, she has to worry about not receiving funding and support from lobbyists and her own party, who will not let her support gay marriage. In case you didn’t know, moderate Republicans like Olympia Snowe are being targeted by the Republican Party, which is getting more partisan and conservative. This could also influence her decisions. If I were her, I would probably have done the same thing. However, I don’t like being controlled by lobbyist and party bosses, so I would rather be an appointed judge (federal, preferably), that way I could rule based on what I thought the law said was right (like marriage licenses extending to every state), not what lobbyists and constituents wanted.

  • ERIC PHAMDO

    Io suggest that we be complacent with people like Maggie Brooks because “she did what a good politician should have done” is offensive. Being a politician gives no one the excuse to deny basic rights to a portion of the population, no matter how “popular” those ideas are.

    I am not asking Maggie Brooks to be perfect, no one is. But I am challenging her and anyone reading this article to re-examine the roots of discriminatory beliefs and make that connection.

    I am not naive and I don’t believe that all politicians are moral and rational people. But I do believe that at a conference celebrating diversity, Maggie Brooks was not the best candidate.

  • ANNA COUGHLAN

    Mr. Ondo,
    There was a time when an openly racist politician could get elected because his constituents were mostly ignorant racists. There was a time when Dred Scott Laws were the norm in the South because the people in power oppressed those who were not in power.
    There were also brave people such as Dr. King who believed that even though the politicians were “just doing their jobs,” they were morally wrong. Thus the Civil Rights activists adopted the tactic of civil disobedience; doing something illegal but morally just.
    When inviting people to speak at a Diversity Conference at a private University, do you invite the politicians just doing their jobs, or do you invite people based on their morals/the content of their character? Maggie Brooks can believe whatever she wants to believe, but its on us to judge her and to assess her qualifications for being on such a sensitive panel.

    • Adam Ondo

      Maggie Brooks may be very well qualified to speak on a diversity panel. We’ll just have to wait and find out. Maybe you should criticize people once they’ve already spoken at the conference instead of beforehand.

      And if I were running for governor of Georgia in the 1850s, then I would definitely have been in support of slavery and the Dred Scott decision, else I would have had a 0% of winning. As for Dr. King, he didn’t have to worry about getting votes, so he’s not a good example.

      • Adam Ondo

        And you can’t invite people based on “morals”, because many people would invite her BECAUSE she filed an action against gay marriage, for many people believe homosexuality is immoral. You invite people qualified to talk.

  • CRISTIN MONAHAN

    Adam, you can’t judge someone’s qualifications based on their future actions, only their past ones. For example, you were accepted to UR based on your past grades, not on your future ones. Your past actions suggest your future actions, but you are ultimately judged on your past actions alone. Along the same vein, Maggie Brooks’s past actions do not bode well for her supposed ongoing commitment to diversity.

    As for inviting people based on “morals,” I would argue that since a commitment to diversity is in fact a moral commitment that the University has decided to espouse, the University has the responsibility to make sure that the actions of those invited to speak are actually in line with such a moral commitment.

    Maggie Brooks can do whatever she finds politically expedient, and the reality is that some people will love her for it and others will hate her. That’s her prerogative. However, it is the University’s duty to ensure that her political expediency does not directly contradict the moral standards that UR seeks to uphold.

    Ultimately, the University has egg on its face because someone didn’t do their homework. Speaking of which, don’t you have finals or something to study for?

    • Adam Ondo

      Actually, I don’t have any finals that I really have to study for. And I did my term papers in February and March, so I really have nothing better to do than comment on here. I do my homework way ahead of time because I have a good work ethic. Yes, I’m an overachiever.



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