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October 27, 2005
Another view of Ward Churchill at DePaul
I returned a few hours ago from Ward Churchill event in DePaul University. I'm reeling still. The event was secured by several police cars parked near by the entrance of DePaul Student Center. A crowd of approximately 50 students and some older activists (probably non—students) with banners, and handouts, were debating whether it was right to allow Prof. Churchill to be there. The opponents were primarily members of DePaul Student Republicans. Even two hours later, when I left the building after the event, students and activists were still debating this issue under the watching eyes of the police.
Upstairs, there was a tense scene. The room where the event was held had a capacity of about 150 people. Outside in the hallway, there was a long line of students wishing to enter the room. However, due to the limited capacity, only those who had registered were allowed in. I showed my Daily Herald press I.D., but was told that press was not allowed in this event. I then took off my jacket, and changed my appearance slightly, and tried to mix in with the students standing in the long line. A professor sponsoring the event invited students to put down their names on a waiting list if VIPs didn't show up. I ran up quickly and put down my name first.
We were waiting in line for a while, and some students were getting frustrated. Some people were literally begging the sponsors to let them in. Some students tried to push in, but were stopped by the three guards at the door: a policeman, a university security guard, and a university official. As a last resort, I went up to the sponsoring professor who knew me vaguely from a prior event and talked him into letting me in.
I was already inside, but then the lady who saw my press card sent Dr. Doyle (DePaul University Vice President) to remove me. I acted indignant: "What are you hiding?" Why can't I be here?" He was visibly embarrassed: "It's nothing personal, it's an event for DePaul students only."
I was outside the door again in utter despair, when all of a sudden I heard my name being called out loud from the waiting list ... It was like a miracle. I had to show my I.D., I broke into a sweat, my hands were trembling, but soon I was inside, this time for real, seated at an aisle seat, trying not to upset Dr. Doyle who watched me with amazement.
I didn't dare taking notes in order not to give him an excuse to expel me again.
It started with two women chanting Indian prayer for love and peace, while the rest of us were asked to keep our eyes shut. Harvette Grey, the director of DePaul Cultural Center followed. She spoke about "McCarthyism," and how things haven't changed. In the past they blamed innocent people for "Communism," they now call it new names: "Unpatriotic." She called on students to resist attempts of others to define their patriotism, to tell them what to hear, and whom to invite to speak to them. She expressed her disappointment and shame in those in the university and outside, groups and individuals, who spent the last three weeks trying to stop Churchill's visit. She then introduced him.
And then Churchill appeared. Dressed in tight jeans and a tight T—shirt underneath a sport jacket, sporting long hair parted in the center, he stood there with a cocky smile, exposing a set of uneven teeth. After a few minutes, he took off his jacket: "enough with this professor's jacket," and dropped the garment on the floor.
He said he may not speak directly on the topic ("Human rights for people of color") but then again his talk may be relevant after all to this subject.
He spoke about 9/11. He watched it on that day on three channels, and heard them all calling it repeatedly a "senseless" killing. But he knew right away that it was not senseless, there were reasons. Perhaps he wouldn't agree with the reasons, but it certainly had reasons, it wasn't "senseless." The next day, bin Laden listed the reasons: (1) USA killed 500,000 Iraqi children. (2) The Israelis shooting stone—throwing children in Palestine. (3) The presence of Americans in Saudi Arabia. He personally thinks that the third reason is not equal to the first two, although he also doesn't see any reason why the US should be in Saudi Arabia, still it's not as good a reason as the first two. So 9/11 wasn't "senseless."
The second word we heard repeatedly after 9/11, was "innocent Americans"... Innocent Americans?! The US created the problem, and then blames others for the problem, and pretends to fix it by making the problem even worse. All for economic greed. So those who were killed in the Trade Center were the operators of the US economic power machine. And this is why he called them "3,000 Eichmans." Not because he tried to compare them to Nazis, but because like Eichman, they haven't actually killed, but they have operated a killing system. Eichman too never killed a single Jew, he just operated a train schedule to the death camps.... There hasn't been any problem in the Middle East until Americans interfered and forced the creation of Arab states. All for greed.
Since he made his statement about 9/11, he has been attacked relentlessly. He dominated O'Reilly's program for 41 days, the Pope died, Katrina hit, and yet in Colorado, the headlines were still about him. They researched every corner of his life, spread lies and tried to destroy him in every way: His academic writing, his military record, and most painful, the denial of his identity.
He is 1/16 Native American, but they say he is not Native American, he is white. Who are they to determine what he is? In the nineteenth century, a woman in Louisiana, white—skinned, blue eyed, and fair—haired sued the State for designating her black. She was 1/256 black. One drop of black blood, and they called her "black." The case went all the way to the US Supreme Court, and she was ruled "Black." Yet, they question his (Churchill's) Native American identity.
You may wonder why in the case of African Americans, 1/256 is enough to be called "black," while in the case of a Native Americans 1/16 is not enough. The answer is obvious: Economics, greed. For whites, Blacks are not people, they are chattels, they don't own property, therefore, whites want as many of them as they can. Native Americans own the land, they had been in America before the whites, they have rights to property, so whites want to get rid of them, to deny them, to eliminate them, so if they are not 100%, they are not Native Americans.
Churchill concluded by calling his audience to rise against "invisibility," resist anybody trying to dictate to them who they are, and to stand up tall and strong for what they are, and what is right. He also stated that he was the real Republican and conservative because of what he was defending, not those who go by these names!
During Q&A, there were two questions that Churchill didn't like. The first was whether Churchill thought that the capitalist system exporting jobs to the third world resulted in bringing development to the third world through investment. Churchill got increasingly indignant about the suggestion that this investment did anything more than make a few capitalists rich at the expense of the people who got the jobs.
The second question to which he was hostile was "what would he do about illegal immigration". To this he answered, illegal immigration started in 1607, apparently implying that his and other Native Americans' land was stolen beginning with the first colony in America. He then said he would like to take all the wealthy and ship them out and bring all the "illegals" in.
Prof. Doyle (DePaul V.P.) concluded the event: He apologized for the embarrassing battle "by Jews and Christians" trying to stop Churchill's visit in the last three weeks. He went on about being glad people had shown interest and come to the meeting and even said the arguing outside the student center was a good thing. He said that debate was good as long as people respected everyone's right to an opinion. He said that he had been observing the body language of the people in the audience, and that it was obvious that some people approved of what Churchill was saying and others did not.
He said whether we agree or disagree with Churchill's opinions, we all should stop and think where we are standing on the subject of human rights. Especially those who opposed Prof. Churchill's visit needed to think seriously about the many real issues brought up by Prof. Churchill tonight.
Clarification: Ward Churchill has claimed that he was quoting an emailer when he said the words "Hitler killed the wrong people." Thanks to a careful review of a bootleg recording of the speech, we were able to verify that this is true, and that the context changes the meaning of his words. Our reporters did not have access to a recording at the time this article was written and published We regret the mistake. Details can be found here.
Chaya Gil is a Chicago attorney 10 27 05