ASU decision reopens old wounds on race - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

ASU decision reopens old wounds on race

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Posted: Saturday, May 2, 2009 2:10 pm | Updated: 3:10 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

John Goodie: I have a friend and college buddy in Houston who's somewhat politically savvy, and from time to time we throw jabs at each other. I asked him what was up with his governor, Rick Perry, making a statement about the possibility of Texas seceding from the union.

I have a friend and college buddy in Houston who's somewhat politically savvy, and from time to time we throw jabs at each other.

He likes to brag about the Texas political climate, and I talk about the climate here in Arizona. I asked him what was up with his governor, Rick Perry, making a statement about the possibility of Texas seceding from the union. My friend tried to explain that it was more of an upcoming campaign statement looking for votes, as Perry soon will be running against popular Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas.

He tells me the governor's statements made during the TEA party at the Alamo was just a grandstand for the Fox News network and broadcasting ratings because those TEA parties were really not about spending or taxes but a protest because many people are really upset that we have a black president making decisions on our country's direction. I laughed and told him to chill out, as he still sounded like the young militant from our college days.

Then he threw a left hook, asking what's up with that racist state of mine that in past years refused to have a Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, and the profiling of brown people, and now it's Arizona State University refusing to give President Barack Obama an honorary degree, and I had no right to criticize Texas. I was shocked, tongue-tied and down for the count.

Well, my fellow Arizonans, here we go again. Prepare to take shelter, for there will be a lot of incoming flak next month as Obama makes his way to speak at ASU's commencement ceremony. I've since gone online and found remarks in support and opposition to ASU's honorary degree decision.

Personally, I think Obama couldn't care less about an honorary degree from ASU, but someone, somewhere, brought ASU's decision to prime time, and we'll have lights, camera and action.

Looking back at previous recipients of ASU's honorary degrees, they include William P. Carey, founder and chairman of a real estate banking firm who has donated a gift of $50 million for the business school and had it named after him, and Wu Qidi, vice minister of education for China.

Cesar Chavez, the Mexican-American labor and civil rights activist, was bestowed with an honorary degree. So was Rita Colwell, a microbiologist and former director for the National Science Foundation; John Christian, a lawyer and community activist; Jane Dee Hull, Arizona's first female elected governor; Alfredo Gutierrez, Arizona legislator; Kim Campbell, Canada's 19th prime minister; Lord John Browne, president of the Royal Academy of Engineering; Peterson Zah, one-time president of the Navajo Nation; Rex G. Maughan, founder, president and CEO of Forever Living Products and Terry Labs; and finally Lawrence Douglas Wilder of Virginia, the nation's first African-American governor of a state.

I'm sure each recipient was well deserving of the honor. But, for the record, I'm in the camp of those asking ASU to reverse its decision and present Obama with an honorary degree, as it's just the right and honorable thing to do. The fallout and embarrassment that lies ahead of us in the coming weeks is not worth it, and it's preventable.

I don't care how you slice, dice or even put lipstick on it, the perception across the United States of ASU for not presenting the president with an honorary degree has no gray area, only black and white. Justifiable or not, it will once again shed light on that uncomfortable topic of race that we all run from but that's somehow always under that old Arizona cloud that the national media will joyfully put front and center. We've all been there before and survived, and we'll get past this again regardless of ASU's final decision. However, we need to pull up our bootstraps and buckle our seat belts to prepare for the weeks ahead.

John Goodie of Gilbert is a Mesa park ranger.

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