A few days ago, Gordon Gee, president of Ohio State University, made a comment which has the Polish American community in an uproar.
Of course, I have not heard anything about it on the news. Because it was made at the expense of a group which is allowed to be the target of bigoted jokes.
If you are interested in knowing what the (media ignored) uproar is all about, here are some links and the video capturing the comment:
- USA Today article, including his later dismissal regarding owing an apology, because essentially, he didn't actually just say "Polacks".
- A Letter from The Kosciuszko Foundation demanding reprimands
- Ron Dzwonkowski's article discussing the racial slur and the general cultural acceptance
This video was shared on The Kosciuszko Foundation's Facebook Page. Gee's comment starts at 40:20 mark.
Gee (I won't call him Mr. because I never give the title of a gentleman to someone who doesn't act like one) earns $1.6 million, making him the highest paid public university president in the United States. He is the head of a place of learning. Prejudiced comments by someone who is in charge of a place of learning is just unacceptable.
In case you are confused why this comment was unacceptable, let me explain.
His comment basically referred to the invasion of Poland during WWII by the Nazis and the Russians.
To break down his comment, it meant "those dumb Polacks lost the war and their country because they were in PT boats shooting each other and somehow that applies to my 18 departments". Which isn't what happened. The Polish Army didn't lose WWII because of this. It was torn into two fronts with no allies coming to assist. Only a few years after being the center stage of WWI. And after over a century of not being allowed to be her own country.
Gee might not get it but others do. Millions of lives were lost on Polish soil. Cities were destroyed. Families were subjected to horrors unlike anything Gee could ever imagine. And Poland fought on. Bravely. Intelligently.
Gee made fun of the misfortunes of others in order to make an incoherent analogy about departments.
To make a further point, Gee later is reported to have said:
"Now if you're going to say I was saying something bad about Poland, I'm not," he said. "I could have used some other term, I guess, then."
Those are not the words of a man who means an apology later on.
Those words essentially translate to: Well, I didn't actually use the racial slur Polack, so it's not actually racist.
It doesn't work that way. With any ethnic, religious or other groups, you don't have to use the actual racist slur against them in order to say a prejudiced comment.
Whether Gee said "dumb Polacks" or masked it behind a comment that essentially means the same thing, he said a prejudiced comment.
Right now, a petition has begun calling for Gee's resignation, if you are interested.
Please take a moment out of your day to express your outrage at this racial slur and write an e-mail:
Gee’s boss, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Leslie Wexner
Or call him: (614) 292-6359
Please spread the word.