Racist letters: to run or not to run?
EDITOR'S NOTE Editor's Note (foaled in 1993 in Kentucky) is an American thoroughbred Stallion racehorse. He was sired by 1992 U.S. Champion 2 YO Colt Forty Niner, who in turn was a son of Champion sire Mr. Prospector and out of the mare, Beware Of The Cat.
Trained by D. : The following is from an exchange that took place on NCEW's online mailing list An automated e-mail system on the Internet, which is maintained by subject matter. There are thousands of such lists that reach millions of individuals and businesses. New users generally subscribe by sending an e-mail with the word "subscribe" in it and subsequently receive all new .
Three weeks ago, the following letter was submitted to us:
"I read in the Phoenix on Friday that a group of about 10 people burned several American flags in protest of the treatment of blacks in the United States United States, officially United States of America, republic (2005 est. pop. 295,734,000), 3,539,227 sq mi (9,166,598 sq km), North America. The United States is the world's third largest country in population and the fourth largest country in area. . Wouldn't it be nice if all these highly paid baseball and football players would help the rest of us raise enough money to rent troop ships to move the blacks back to Africa so everybody would be happy?"
My boss didn't want to run the letter on the grounds it was racist and its publication wouldn't be constructive. The managing editor and I argued that if the letters section was to be a true public forum it couldn't bar opinions we found distasteful. Eventually the decision was made to publish the letter.
We have received several in response condemning the views expressed, which we also published.
In the wake of this, the executive editor wanted to know how other papers handle letters of this type. I thought a discussion on letter guidelines might be interesting. Thank you for your assistance.
- Derek Melot, opinion page editor, Muskogee Phoenix The Muskogee Phoenix is a seven-day morning daily newspaper published in Muskogee, Oklahoma, USA, covering several counties of Northeastern Oklahoma. It is owned by Community Newspaper Holdings Inc. in Oklahoma
An interesting dilemma. We would not have published such a letter and for the following reasons:
* We do not publish letters, and also refrain in our columns, from taking gratuitous cheap shots at individuals or identifiable groups in society. Our columnists, guest writers, and all readers are entitled to their views in full, but must be attempting to make, or respond WITH SUBSTANCE to, arguments articulated in our news and editorial comments.
* In other words Adv. 1. in other words - otherwise stated; "in other words, we are broke"
put differently , we avoid statements such as "The Prime Minister is an idiot" when the same point can be made by saying "The Prime Minister's actions, in this instance, can only be termed idiotic." There is a huge difference in this definition between attacking the actions, policies, or statements of an individual or group and attacking the individual him (or her)self.
* We believe this policy in no way restricts free speech but instead helps to elevate arguments. It is not designed to eliminate racist or sexist commentary, but there are few instances in which those holding uninformed views can meet the criteria briefly outlined above.
Also, just FYI "For your information." See digispeak.
FYI - For Your Information , it is a crime in Canada Crime in Canada has occurred throughout its history, and has experienced wide swings in its prevalence. Much study has been done of the comparative experience and policies of Canada with its southern neighbour the United States, and this is a topic of intense debate within Canada. to promote hatred against an identifiable group in our society. Convictions have been extremely difficult to come by, and the judiciary has been strict in its interpretation of the law. Nevertheless, I suspect that someone in Canada who used a public forum, whether it was via the Internet or a newspaper's pages, on a regular basis in calling for the ethnic or racial cleansing of society would be at the very least subject to an investigation.
- Peter Menzies, editorial page editor, Calgary Herald The Calgary Herald is a daily newspaper published in the Canadian city of Calgary, Alberta . Its major competitor is The Calgary Sun. History
It was first published on August 31 1883 by Andrew Armour and Thomas Braden as in Alberta, Canada
I am one of the "people" who is always mentioned in the "people's right to know" and I can state that as repulsive as I find this kind of sentiment, I would much rather know a man or woman's politics from their own mouths than guess at them.
However, having said that, I also want to state that the tendency of "controversializing" media to get attention is beginning to backfire. editorials used to exhort people to a higher level to finding the greatness within themselves. . .now they seem to, in many cases, have descended to a level of pettiness that dignifies no one and does little to actually promote educated dialogue.
On that basis, I think that if a letter like this is printed, it should be accompanied by a discussion of the kind of things that cause any person to hate this much.
- Gina deMiranda, freelance writer, Irvine, California Irvine is an incorporated city in Orange County, California, United States. It is a planned city, mainly developed by the Irvine Company since the 1960s. Formally incorporated on December 28 1971, the 69.7 square mile (180.5 km²) city has a population of 202,079 (as of 2007).
Personally, my response probably would have been to throw the letter in the trash. If someone wants to write in and agree with The Bell Curve or rant about black crime or some other "issue," then I'm willing to print racist comments. But the old "put-them-back-on-the-boat-to-Africa" schtick schtick
Variant of shtick.
Noun 1. schtick - (Yiddish) a little; a piece; "give him a shtik cake"; "he's a shtik crazy"; "he played a shtik Beethoven"
schtik, shtick, shtik isn't, in my opinion, worth the ink.
Along those lines, though, how would you have handled the letter if instead of "blacks" the writer had said "niggers"? Do you change the offensive word, and thus make the writer look more reasonable and less bigoted big·ot·ed
Being or characteristic of a bigot: a bigoted person; an outrageously bigoted viewpoint.
big , or do you dash it out (n-----)? Or, do you use the offensive word in full?
Once, not long after I started on editorial pages, I received a letter trashing Representative Barney Frank Barnett "Barney" Frank (born March 31, 1940) is an American politician and a member of the United States House of Representatives. He is a Democrat and has represented Massachusetts's At-large congressional district since 1981. . It was full of remarks about limp wrists and sissies and other such nonsense. I removed all of that language, and as a result the writer appeared much more intelligent and reasonable than he actually was. I view that now as a mistake. But where do you draw the line?
- Dan Radmacher, editorial page editor, The Charleston Gazette in West Virginia West Virginia, E central state of the United States. It is bordered by Pennsylvania and Maryland (N), Virginia (E and S), and Kentucky and, across the Ohio R., Ohio (W). Facts and Figures
Area, 24,181 sq mi (62,629 sq km). Pop.
We have a fairly vague and amorphous prohibition against incivility in·ci·vil·i·ty
n. pl. in·ci·vil·i·ties
1. The quality or condition of being uncivil.
2. An uncivil or discourteous act. in the letters we publish. "Nigger" certainly crosses the line and would not be printed.
The blatant racism of the other letter though is another matter. At our paper, I would argue to print it, but I suspect I would lose.
Of course, our volume is low enough that we pretty much print everything we get, barring incomprehensible gibberish, and let the writers respond to each other.
At a larger paper, I am certain, the bar is higher and such vapid argumentation would never appear to begin with.
- John Meunier, editorial page editor, Messenger-Inquirer in Owensboro, Kentucky Owensboro is the third largest city in Kentucky and the county seat of Daviess County.GR6 It is located on U.S. Highway 60 about 32 miles southeast of Evansville, Indiana and is the principal city of the Owensboro, Kentucky Metropolitan Statistical Area. .
I doubt we'd use the letter at Newsday. But then, we get perhaps ten times more letters than we have space for, so we're always looking for Looking for
In the context of general equities, this describing a buy interest in which a dealer is asked to offer stock, often involving a capital commitment. Antithesis of in touch with. the most relevant, interesting, thoughtful, timely, on-topic stuff That means (to me) leaving out those that are simply an expression of unsupported sentiment, or patently unreasonable In Canadian law, patently unreasonable or the patent unreasonableness test is a standard of review used by a court when performing judicial review of administrative decisions. , or misinformed, or just out in left field somewhere. A "send them back to Africa" letter would fail on several levels before we even got to the racism question.
But then, our letters pages don't fall into the town-meeting, anyone-can-speak category. If yours do, and/or the policy is to publish essentially everything you get (for reasons other than necessity), I don't see anything wrong with publishing an offensive letter, as long as you publish responses (as you did). In fact, letters we publish that don't seem offensive to us may well be offensive to people with stronger feelings (abortion comes to mind) on an issue.
- Phineas Fiske, assistant editor of the editorial page, Newsday in Melville, New York Melville is a hamlet and census-designated place in the town of Huntington in Suffolk County on Long Island, New York, in the United States. As of the 2000 census, 14,533 people resided there.
In my more than 20 years as an editorial page editor, there was a time when I would not have accepted the "send them back to Africa" letter. Today I think I would.
Shortly after I came to Allentown in 1989, we ran a letter expressing similar sentiments. The executive editor, to whom I reported, expressed reservations after the fact. My response was that I thought it was necessary to show what sentiments there were in the community. At that time - and to some extent now - my take was that the leadership in the Lehigh Valley The Lehigh Valley or the Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton, PA-NJ metropolitan area is a metropolitan region in eastern Pennsylvania and western New Jersey, in the United States. It is the third-most populated metropolitan region in Pennsylvania, after Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. , including the newspaper, was ignoring the fact that there was a growing racial problem caused by a rapid influx of Hispanics. So we do run letters from folks who question why all the Puerto Ricans It may never be fully completed or, depending on its its nature, it may be that it can never be completed. However, new and revised entries in the list are always welcome.
This list of Puerto Ricans on our streets left their island paradise.
My short answer is that it depends on the situation and the community.
- Van A. Cavett, comment pages editor, The Morning Call in Allentown, Pennsylvania
I wouldn't have run the letter advocating shipping blacks back to Africa. I believe that a wide variety of unpopular views should be admissible. But there are a few that are so unfair, bigoted, racist, and unreasonable that they degrade the publication that presents them as serious commentary. Yes, I would run letters with racist comment. But not all of them. And not common, crude re-expressions of ancient slurs and alleged "final solutions."
I wouldn't let the n-word be used casually as a synonym. The easiest way to handle that question is to treat it as you would treat other obscenities. The context demands referring to women with the c-word, perhaps a similarly powerful context could be argued in favor of referring to African Americans with the n-word.
There are, of course, exceptions. Black writers have rights to the n-word that are different from white writers'. (We have a black activist who carefully and deliciously works in "Negro" at unexpected moments - although that is not our style, we would be horribly out of line to conform him to our style.)
We receive about 9,000 letters a year and print about 4,000. But we will go out of our way to publish fresh, with-it, provocative letters, even if they provoke and outrage.
Again, saying that everybody would be happier if all blacks
The All Blacks are New Zealand's national rugby union team. Rugby union is New Zealand's national sport. were shipped to Africa is neither fresh nor original nor accurate. Toss it in the bigotry file and spare it no regrets.
- Frank Partsch, editor, editorial pages, Omaha World-Herald The Omaha World-Herald, based in Omaha, Nebraska, is the primary daily newspaper of Nebraska as well as portions of southwest Iowa. It is the largest employee-owned newspaper company in the United States. History
The newspaper was founded in 1885 by Gilbert M. in Nebraska
I disagree completely. If the word "nigger" is offensive in our newspapers, it is offensive regardless of the source. I had a black writer try to use the term "house nigger" in a letter, and I told him that wouldn't pass. He also said that black writers had a different right to that word than whites. That's a double standard that I would not feel comfortable trying to defend the next time a Kluxer wanted to use the word and pointed to this guy's letter as justification.
- Dan Radmacher
Maybe I'm just not hip with the political correctness and tolerance and all that, but isn't an offensive word offensive no matter who uses it? Or, at least, shouldn't it be?
- Ryan J. Rusak, assistant editor and opinion editor, The Daily Skiff, Texas Christian University Texas Christian University, at Fort Worth; Christian Church (Disciples of Christ); coeducational; opened 1873 at Thorp Spring, chartered 1874 as Add Ran Male and Female College. It assumed its present name in 1902 and moved to Fort Worth in 1910.