The Alchemy of Race and Riots

             In The Alchemy of Race and Riots an argument takes place between a Jewish student and a black student at Stanford University. They argue about the identity of Beethoven, the black student stating that Beethoven had black heritage while the white student found that idea to be preposterous. Clearly this upset the black student, who is given the name "Q.C.” Q.C. is angered by the fact that the white student is unwilling to believe that such a highly distinguished and honored composer such as Beethoven could have black roots. .

             To anger the black student even more, the white student, "Fred,” colored a picture of Beethoven black and wrote the word "nigger” on the black fraternity poster. Fred defended his actions by saying he was "upset by all this emphasis on race, on blackness. Why can't we just all be human - I think it denies one's humanity to be racial” (111). .

             Fred further defended his actions by saying that what he did was meant to be humorous. As a German Jew Fred received teasing from his schoolmates about his being Jewish. Fred said that he learned to tolerate his classmate's behavior and his defacing of the poster was in the spirit of what he had learned. He wondered "why the black students couldn't respond to it in the spirit in which it was meant: nothing serious, just humor as a release” (111). He said that the message behind it was to stop "all this divisive black stuff and just be human” (111). In response to his actions the university took no disciplinary action towards Fred. They felt that this would victimize him and strip him away off his right to freedom of speech.

             Patricia Williams, the author, takes a different response to Fred's actions. She felt that this incident raised several issues: the privatization of remedy to Q.C., the invisibility of injury to anyone, and the pitting of the first amendment against speaking about other forms of injury (112).

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