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Okapi! Lessons from the savanna

By Michael Sitzman

Section: Opinions

October 7, 2005

Sorry I didnt get an installment of Horseradish to you last week, but classes have my head spinning. And then there are the clubs: Monday is Voices of Praise Gospel Choir;

Tuesday is Jewish-Arab Dialogue;

Wednesday is AHORA! and Thursday is Salseros. Then theres The Hoot and Positive Foundations… Vey iz mir;

now I know why God created Shabbes

So heres another week gone by, and Ive just got this to say: Chill, Brandeis! It seems that controversy is in the air instead of the cooler days of fall I had been waiting for. Lately, the campus press has been abuzz with much fuss about allegedly stereotypical and pejorative statements. Insults are met with bigger insults;

anger begets anger. Must be the humidity. Well, if we cant bring on cooler weather, maybe its time for cooler heads;

well need the energy for the midterms.

In the Justice this week, the latest declaration of grievance faulted Okapi! magazine and its white editors, apparently for having skin the wrong color, and thus earning their publication the unflattering status of newsletter. Even the beautiful animal for which it is named was deemed a derogatory symbol.

I see nothing more noble than having a deep respect for Africas wildlife, for in its survival rests the future of its people. My friends, if animals are insulting, then out with the American eagle and the Brandeis owl. God knows what well call this paper… As for an okapi? Well, at least it beats the warthog.

Say, I happen to be planning to write for the upcoming edition of the above-named journal on African and African-American affairs. I hope readers will judge it by the message, not the messenger. Trite, yes, but true as ever.

I hate being called white or Caucasian. Blah! Those awful words. If you like them for yourself, thats all good, but to me they seem so, like, low-carb and flavorless;

they make me feel like Im being put on an identity diet Jewish suits me just fine, and indeed a person of color as well. Like the author of the above-mentioned piece, I like to write my own label. His identity of New African sounds dignified. Thats how I think it should be for us all.

Friends, did you notice more than a bit of cultural crossover in my lineup of clubs? I hope not. If you didnt catch it, then its probably, well, no big thing to you. Thats good. So herewith a challenge:

Write for The Hoot. The Justice. Okapi! Monsoon. Be a regular columnist or a one-timer. Write about Africa, whatever your color;

youre qualified. Dance salsa. Enjoy Hispanic Heritage Month, as well as Mela later this year.

You see, its not just about tasting the samosas and calling it an exotic experience;

its about savoring them and then washing the sweet tamarind off your hands and getting to work with your fellow students on some wonderful cultural project. Its about being amazed at what you did together. Its gazing in the mirror and finding that the unfamiliar and exotic face is your own.

Hungry? Get off your identity diet. Savor each other. Cross over. Youll never get a better chance than you have now.

An okapi has the head of a zebra, the body of an antelope, and the face of a giraffe.* We might be wise to take a lesson from that humble beast.

From Horseradish with love: Gut Shabbes, Brandeis.

*The Justice, 20 September, 2005.

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