Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Viewpoint: Accusations were made without investigating complete story

First Published: The Stanford Daily, Volume 197, Issue 67, 30 May 1990.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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ALL THEY HAD TO DO was ask. If The Daily, in writing the article “League has played little-known role in campus politics,” had simply bothered to ask a few basic questions, it could have avoided causing extensive confusion, controversy and pain.

I find myself today in the unenviable position of being publicly accused of associating with a secretive, nationwide Marxist-Leninist organization which harbors a hidden agenda and has supposedly exerted great influence on Stanford politics.

Although this is not an unusual charge against those who advocate social change, I find it ironic that I am facing accusations of covert activity when I have worked so hard in the public eye to shape Stanford’s agenda.

I have written 32 columns and articles, given dozens of speeches, written a book on my interpretation of the Black Student Union’s history, participated in numerous dorm programs and been featured in Newsweek magazine and the San Jose Mercury News. It’s news to me that my agenda is somehow “secret.”

I could have cleared all this up if The Daily had simply asked me to explain the particular charges made against me. If I had been asked if I had ever participated in “study groups,” I would have willingly explained that, yes, I have indeed spoken at dinner discussions sponsored by Student Unity Network – a student group registered with Student Organization Services. (I fail to understand why the authorized representative of SUN was not interviewed during the 100-person investigation.)

My role in SUN’s discussions is no different from my participation in dorm programs or events sponsored by other student groups and institutions such as the Doffelmyer Lecture Series. Everywhere I am asked to speak, I try to oblige because I think it is important to contribute to the marketplace of ideas. In the past, when reporters from the Mercury News, Newsweek and other responsible journalistic institutions have interviewed me, they’ve asked a wide range of questions designed to get a complete picture of reality. The Daily failed to live up to this standard.

The Daily simply wanted to know, “What do you know about the LRS?” They appeared obsessed with “the LRS” instead of trying to get a fair and balanced understanding of the nature and purpose of my political activities. Although I told The Daily what I did know about the League of Revolutionary Struggle, my actions and intentions were still misinterpreted and mischaracterized.

This journalistic lapse has had a human toll. The stigma resulting from the inaccurate coverage will follow me for the rest of my life. People I consider dear and close friends have begun to look at me with suspicion and distrust, and those kinds of personal wounds will be a long time in healing.

What I most resent is the insinuation that some outside organization tells me what to think and do. My politics are intensely personal and have more to do with Ray Cochran, my deceased uncle, than Karl Marx. Although my uncle was selected as Ohio’s best college journalist and graduated from the prestigious Columbia school of journalism in the 19505, he died penniless and unemployed.

Despite the fact that he was a talented young reporter on the White House beat, the white journalists at The Washington Star shunned and ridiculed him. When he tried to start his own newspaper, that aspiring black journalist could not find anyone to invest in his dream, so the paper folded, his dream died, and his spirit was broken. Twenty years later, unable to obtain adequate medical care, he died of cancer at the age of 56 – a casualty of the American Dream.

When I stood over his casket looking down into the lifeless face of the man who I loved and who had helped to raise me, I didn’t need any Central Committee to tell me to fight for justice. I resolved to do everything in my power to change this country so that no other human being would have to suffer the pain that destroyed my uncle.

That commitment led me to stop out of school to devote all of my energy to changing the Stanford curriculum, working on Jesse Jackson’s presidential campaign and, yes, speaking at study groups about possible paths to social change. As long as I have breath to speak, I am going to continue to share what I have learned about why things are the way they are with anybody who cares to listen. All you have to do is ask.

Relatively, my personal difficulties are insignificant. As Nelson Mandela observed, “the indignities are a diversion.” The fundamental issue is that, intentional or not, The Daily’s articles represent an attack on the progress made at Stanford in the ’80s. To attack those of us named in the articles is to attack that progress.

I, for one, have been proud to play a small role in strengthening the BSU, forging a coalition with students of color and progressive whites, producing Stanford’s first divestment in history, creating Cultures, Ideas and Values, establishing the Universiy Committee on Minority Issues, hiring faculty of color, opening up the ASSU to people of color, diversifying the staff of The Daily and placing multicultural change high on the University’s agenda. To imply that those developments are part of a communist conspiracy is ludicrous, insulting and diversionary. Whatever names they call us, we must keep our eyes on the real prize of justice and equality, and the struggle must continue.

The Daily has done serious damage to the cause of multiculturalism on this campus, and I am disappointed in my colleagues. Inadequately informed about the dynamics of multicultural change, some of those who hold the most power at The Daily seem to fear the growing empowerment of people of color. I am concerned that those fears may be partially responsible for the recent coverage and the exclusion of staff of color from the decision-making process. I hope that the cries of betrayal from the writers of color will help The Daily demonstrate greater understanding, maturity and competence in the future.

If I can shed any more light on this confusing and highly charged controversy, please don’t hesitate to give me a call at The Revolutionary Hotel. I’d be happy to answer your questions. All you have to do is ask.

Steve Phillips is a multicultural editor at The Daily.