The happy hour/dinner was in honor of the "retirement" of renowned political science professor Dr. Michael W. Suleiman after 41 years at K-State. Dr. Sulieman is one of the foremost academic experts on Arab American studies. He has written numerous books and consulted with dignitaries and heads of state from around the world. He has a remarkable personal story as well.
That's not really germane to this post. I just like dropping names. Actually, you can imagine what it must have been like spending an evening with mostly gray-haired academics. It was all I thought it would be.
But there was an anecdote that did stick in my mind, and I want to share it with you here.
During the long parade of speakers that came to the podium to sing Dr. Suleiman's praises, came former student and current professor Fadi Aramouni. I'll present his comments here, to the best of my memory:
"When I first came to K-State I saw an article feature Dr. Suleiman on the front page of the student newspaper. I immediately called him and he agreed to meet with me the next day.So what does this mean? Does it mean that there is no racism in Kansas? No. There is racism everywhere (although I think much of it is in the eye of the beholder).
"We started a conversation and eventually came to the topic of racism and prejudice. He told me "Because you are an Arab American, you will encounter racism. But, you will never encounter racism or prejudice here at KSU."
"And he was right. I never have."
Does it mean that KSU is a special place, better than others, because this person hasn't experienced racism there? No. KSU is special, and much better than some other places, but not for this reason.
So what's the point? I don't know really. Just that it made me feel good that someone has had a great experience.
And perhaps, hopefully, in the end we'll all be judged by the better angels of our nature.
tagged: racism, prejudice, KSU, Kansas, K-State, Suleiman, academics, angels