Faculty, staff and students flooded the Gizmo Feb. 28 to discuss the controversy and implications behind the recent sports column in The Knox Student, “Racism? Nah, just some truth,” as well as the subsequent apology from the TKS Editorial Staff.
Participants in the forum entitled “Racism and ‘Truth’: A Community Conversation,” were given surveys to complete and note cards for comments on the column that were to be reviewed by TKS staff and the organizers of the forum. Organized by Risa Lopez, director of the TRIO Achievement Program, and LaCrystal Green, director of Multicultural Student Advisement, the discussion was directed at the deeper issues at Knox that led to the printing of and reactions to the controversial TKS column.
“What we have seen in the past week is part of a much bigger issue. This is a two-sided thing,” said Lopez before opening the floor to student and staff comments. “We have much deeper issues here at Knox. We don’t plan to solve anything this evening, but we want to start the conversation.”
“People think that racism has to be upfront, but it can be subtle and just as harmful,” said sophmore Vicky Daza at the beginning of the discussion.
“It’s showing when you’re sitting in a classroom, and something about black people comes up, and everyone looks at you to speak for the African-American community,” said senior Angela Bailey. “Professors who are not speaking up are part of the problem.”
The discussion diverged more than once to the topic of Knox’s Multicultural Student Orientation. While some students expressed the opinion that it is an important part of welcoming multicultural students to Knox, others said they see it as a way to further alienate these students.
There were many heated comments made at several points during the forum. Several students questioned whether the racially-charged column tarnished the image of Knox outside the community or if a lack of censoring provided a more honest portrayal. Many agreed that the column was disrespectful, even if honest expression is needed to get past negativity and racism.
“[The column] was insensitive in so many, many ways. It’s hard for me to imagine how it would be okay, even if properly cited,” said junior Joey Firman, who participated in the organization of the forum.
“It was just about giving [the students] a platform to share ideas. For me this was never about attacking TKS,” said organizer LaCrystal Green.
“I didn’t feel attacked, because it was my responsibility,” said TKS Sports Editor and junior Ryan Cash about the comments directed at him. Cash had not thoroughly read the controversial column before letting it go to print. “I didn’t do my job. It was sloppy editing. People were aware, thinking, and speaking with purpose and not just out of anger.”
“As I was moving down the article, the actual point of what was said didn’t strike me as awful,” said Cash regarding the first time he thoroughly read the column after it was printed. “It was the way it was said and the careless manner that struck me as the worst part of it. When there started to be a blatant lack of research or regard, that was very alarming.”
“I couldn’t get away from this overwhelming feeling of, ‘Oh my God, we’re the problem,’” said TKS editor-in-chief and senior Tom Fucoloro. “It seems the student body is really eager to talk about this, and we’ll continue to play a part in it.”
Many agreed further action is needed and the issue of racism on Knox campus cannot be ignored or put to rest.
“It got a lot of people talking, a lot of voices heard,” said Associate Professor of Chemistry Mary Crawford, who participated heavily in the forum discussion. “I think that any time you get people together to have a difficult conversation it can be positive. I just hope people will continue to have conversations. They can’t wait for the next big thing to happen.”
“I’m happy with the turnout,” said Lopez. “Some people leave when they don’t like what they’re hearing, and people stayed through the whole thing without interrupting or cutting each other off.”
“We have the survey info to look at to see what kind of programming we can continue with to foster this conversation,” said Green. “It’s important that we started it, as difficult as it may be; there is an issue on campus to talk about head on.”