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October 3, 2005

Of Activism and Apathy

Quang Nguyen

      I took the elevator on the ground floor up to McElroy dinning hall, all the while debating between the red Ferrari and the white Hummer for my upcoming birthday in two months. Ding! I decided on the Hummer. The crowd was unbearable large at 2 o'clock, this afternoon. I glanced at the uninviting lunch exhibition on the table in front of the cashiers and reminded myself to order cuisine from south Boston when I get back to my room. I returned to the elevator.

      Ding! Finally, doors of the excruciatingly slow elevator opened to the ground floor. Walking past the newspaper stand towards the doors, I saw an unusual crowd of intellectuals conversing at the stand, blocking my passage. There must be something interesting in the papers; maybe a new bar has opened or Paris Hilton is going to speak at BC? My curiosity stirred, I picked up a copy of the Heights for later perusal.

      "Hey! JP, what's up dude"? I've known George since high school. His whole name was George J.P. Radik, but everyone calls him by his middle name: JP.

      "Chir Bons! How's life"?

      "Boring man, I can't wait for spring break. What have you been up to"?

      "I've been pretty busy. I am running twenty campaigns now—social justice, civil equality, racial equality—you named it." He sighed. "Yesterday, I wore black and bang pots and pans for three hours outside of ole man Leahy's house, and he wouldn't even open the door."

      "Hey, let's take a seat on that sofa over there," I said. Standing up for too long hurts my legs, and I wanted to talk to JP.

      We walked over to the sofas. JP was always a weird dude in my eyes, but that was why I liked him. His stories are the best. He got shot at in Palestine, got arrested for protesting on numerous occasions, five of those times for using lewd language, broke some windows of a pet house and got arrested for that as well. So, I stayed in touch with him every once in a while to hear his hilarious tales."

      "So, what's new," I asked?

      "Man, take a look at these pictures in The Heights? See the heading? Drug bust? I AM PISSED!!!!"

      His eyes narrowed. His cheeks puffed out, and he seemed on the verge of apoplexy. See what I mean about JP being weird? I looked at the pictures; oh! It was just another black related crime, nothing unusual. They got caught using marijuana, so they resigned. Big deal!

      "What's the big deal man" I asked? "You see these articles all the time in newspapers and these photos on TV. Hey, did you know I just brought a 36" plasma. Two thousand bucks baby!"

      "The deal? THE DEAL!" The color of his face reminded me of my vintage wine stored in the cellar of my summer house. "Man, can't you see its perpetuating racism? It's portraying Black into stereotypes, so when a person reads this, that person will think: oh, just another black related crime, nothing unusual." His voice became sarcastic.

      "Now wait a minute," I said. "These people were caught red-handed, they deserved what they got."

      "Duh!" he exclaimed. "But what PISSED me off is how the paper portrayed it. They are stereotyping black people. You DON'T use words like "drug bust" and you DON'T put an article like this on the front page."

      He was completely red, by now, and had started perspiring. He wiped his face with his Che Guevara shirt, and tied a red bandana around his forehead.

      "But they did DO something wrong, they have to resigned," I replied.

      "It's the way they were portrayed. If the article was been journalistic, it would have been fine. But it made these students look like thugs, PERPETUATING that image of urban violence. AND these pictures looked like prison mug shots. Whoever put them there should clearly SEE that it is degrading!"

      His knuckle was white with anger! See, this guy is mad weird. He is just not looking at the whole picture.

      I tried once more. "But these students were WRONG. They were caught red-handed."

      He gave me a long look. "It's the way they are PORTRAYED Hcir!"

      "So, what are you gonna do about it"? I asked. Obviously, he is NOT getting the point.

      "First, I am thinking of dressing up in black and lay outside of The Hieght's office. Or else, I am going to lead a protest of drums and fireworks right in front of McElroy. WE NEED TO RAISE THE PEOPLE'S CONCIOUSNESS! WE NEED TO MAGNIFY THE PROBLEM" His eyes burned and the muscle on his throat tighten,

      "Damn, you are hardcore man." This is what I love most about JP; he's such a weirdo.

      "So, you wanna join," he asked?

      "Naw, man. I gotta go bar-hopping with my dudes, they told me they got some fine girls to come. Why don't you come with us"?

      "You better not be drinking any product from Coca-Cola," he warned.

      Oh brother! Here he goes again. "Naw, of course not," I said. "Listen man, I gotta go, it was nice meeting you."

      "Yep, and remember KILLER COKE!"

      Geez, meeting with JP is always a roller coaster ride. You enjoyed it, but sometimes he can be too much. As I walked out of McElroy to my outdated 2004 BMW, out of the corner of my eyes, I saw, lying on the floor, a page of the New York Times, a picture of a black person arrested for drug bust. Outside, a group of students, dressed in black, carrying drums, red flags, pots and pans, and signs and posters of dead Iraqis soldiers marched by, like a line of ants. Geez, I thought, will nothing change? As for me, I am going to look into the new lines of Hummer and enjoyed an evening of debauchery and carnal pleasure. Hopefully, we won't have to drive by Dorchester.

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