Us’ and ‘them’ status draws response
Letter to the Editor | Thursday, September 18, 2008
Andrew Nesi wrote a column yesterday (“Moving beyond the ‘us’ and ‘them’,”) encouraging interaction with South Bend residents apart from just service experiences, advocating “equal footed engagement,” which, he argues, is the only way we can overcome our socioeconomic and historical differences. After all, he argues, not all South Bend residents are “NASCAR-loving mimeographs of My Name is Earl Characters.”
Thanks Nesi; how gracious of you. Saying “we’re people with disparate interests and experiences, nuanced beyond the stereotypes into which we each cleanly fit ourselves and others” sounds lofty and academic, but it doesn’t negate the patronizing language he used in his opening paragraph to describe his neighbors.
I’ll summarize his unflattering description for those who didn’t have the pleasure (I mean chagrin) of reading it yesterday: “The house with the bench press on the porch … mailbox man was shirtless … the type with a Budweiser belly … sparse, premature gray hair on his chest.” And here’s my favorite, “Jean shorts that hung low enough that I could see his … lower middle class, if you know what I mean.”
Lower middle class? Now I pose the question: How are we ever going to establish solid neighborly relationships with our South Bend residents with people like Nesi writing articles dripping with condescension in our official University Newspaper? I wonder why South Bend Police Department won’t cut Notre Dame students any slack; after all, we Notre Dame students admit that not all South Bend residents are “mimeographs of My Name is Earl characters.”
I want to offer some advice to anyone interested in alleviating tensions between Notre Dame and South Bend. Talk to your cab drivers, servers, cashiers and any other South Bend residents you interact with on a daily basis, and talk to them in the spirit of trying to understand them. In every sense of the word, they are your equals, and their labor is as dignified as your schoolwork. Put pressure on your student leaders and university officials to enact policies that make our campus a place where we can be college students, instead of policies that drive students off campus into neighborhoods where children are trying to get sleep, and show yourself worthy of these policies.
As the entire Notre Dame community, we have to make an effort to resist the temptation that comes along with great blessing – the temptation of self-aggrandizement. Instead of accentuating differences or posing solutions in hypocritical articles, let’s focus on making ourselves – individually and collectively – conduits of blessing for our local community, understanding and sympathetic neighbors and, above all, equals, in thought, deed and word.
Pasquerilla West Hall