Skolnik lacks substance

Unless you’ve been living underneath a rock for the past 2,000 years, you’re well aware that racism exists. If you don’t believe that, I’d love to hear your evidence to support that theory, along with your thoughts on dinosaurs and the Holocaust.

Evidently, it would appear as though many Castleton students have been snuggled up quite comfortably underneath that rock for quite some time. Oblivious to the fact that racial discrimination is still an ongoing crucial problem.

Human rights activist Michael Skolnik, who you’ve probably just read about and his time at Castleton, gave an inspiring speech dealing primarily with racism in America at Soundings event on Feb. 23.

The result was an overwhelming success. Finally, someone is talking about real world issues! Students were thrilled with the idea of discussing such a sensitive topic and no one bum-rushed for door as Soundings ended.

Skolnik is smart man. He majored in theater arts while attending the University of California and after watching his performance, it was nearly impossible not to be swept away by his breathtaking stage presence. He knew exactly what to say and how to say it.

However, I wasn’t completely sold. Yes racism is an ongoing conflict in this country and yes Skolnik had done his due diligence regarding the issue, but something was missing. For the 90 minutes Skolnik was on stage, I waited. Waited to hear his ideas. His thoughts. His answer to solving what has become a nationwide epidemic. But there was nothing. Nothing at all. Nada, nil, zilch, zero. Just a big fat doughnut of answers.

When asked what he thinks can be done to put an end to inequality, Skolnik tip-toed around the question, in turn flipping the question onto the students.

For a man whose life consists of studying the problem of race and inequality, you’d think he’d at least have a few suggestions for ways to put the dispute to rest. Instead he settled into the beating a dead horse routine. Racism exists, there’s no equality, black lives matter, the sky is blue, yada, yada. All night it was story upon story, but where was the depth? The insight?  What Skolnik lacked in original thought, he made up for with a mesmerizing stage persona. Look beyond the smoke and mirrors.

Regardless, students ate it up.

“He made me understand white privilege; I was like ‘Wow I get it now,” said junior Andrew Breting, who apparently never read “To Kill A Mockingbird” growing up.

Besides not having any solutions, Skolnik also failed to acknowledge key details. He repeatedly brought up the fact that all these young black victims deaths were a result of being shot and killed. SHOT and KILLED. If Skolnik truly wanted to spread a message for human rights, he’d fight for stronger gun laws, but not once did he mention the underlying theme of gun violence throughout his stories.

As a man who claims to be putting an end to stereotypes, he oddly boasts about his. Stating that he’s white and Jewish for the umpteenth time, he felt that wasn’t enough. He proudly proclaimed his outfit cost less than $100 with a smile on his face thinking he’s ending stereotyping. Aren’t Jewish people notoriously perceived as being stingy with their money? And just how does persistently declaring you’re white and Jewish help end stereotyping?

Skolnik’s misconceptions didn’t end there, as he went on to blast the media for not covering the deaths of many black children, but having no problem showing every white child who has been shot. This is not the media’s fault. While Skolnik is correct that the death of a white child will receive more attention than the death of a black child, assuming that’s because of their personal prejudices is ignorant.

Skolnik, who works in the news business himself, should know that there are certain places the media won’t go. A murder in Compton will receive far less attention than a murder in Beverly Hills. Is this the medias fault? No! If anything it’s our fault. It’s the medias job to get the best ratings; ipso facto a murder in Compton isn’t news worthy in the ever-judging eyes of the public.

So what do we do? I’m not an expert on race nor do I claim to be, but I will at least share my thoughts. Don’t make race into an issue. Don’t let inequality bother you. Why make a mountain out of a molehill? Just be happy. Will racism every truly disappear? Probably not in this lifetime, so learn to accept each other’s flaws. In the words of the great Stephen Colbert, “I don’t see race. I’ve evolved beyond that. I just pretend everyone is white and it’s all good.”


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