Discourse / Editorials / October 9, 2008

Thoughts from the Embers: Racism, revisited

If we could, we would go back and unpublish the offensive sports column that upset the Knox campus so deeply last year. Old misconceptions and hurtful assumptions that had bubbled under the surface for a long time came to light. That issue of TKS sparked a painful few weeks for the community and picked at a wound that still hasn’t healed.

Still, since we can’t, we must remember that every cloud has a silver lining. The shower of letters we received after that issue came out proved that we needed to sit down together and talk about the race issues we largely ignore at Knox. While the letters expressing anger and disgust at the editors were upsetting, we were more distressed by the letters sent in by people who didn’t understand why people were upset in the first place: letters declaring that the views expressed in that column weren’t racist, they were compliments.

While everyone can probably agree that this variety of racism is easier to tolerate than the sort experienced by the students at Jena High School during the Jena 6 incident or at Bob Jones University, where interracial dating is prohibited, bigotry that is less obvious is that much harder to stamp out. Comments like the ones made by the parent referenced in Joey Firman’s column, that the idea that black people are naturally better at sports than others is “interesting” rather than harmful, are not made in malice, but in ignorance.

This is why we should all attend Professor Louis Harrison, Jr.’s lecture today, either at 4 p.m. in the Round Room or 7 p.m. in the Memorial Gym. The letter Stuart Allison sent to the paper explaining that the attitudes expressed in the column were not supported by science began the work of reeducating Knox students. The forum held in the Gizmo started to let people vent their frustrations and learn from each other. Hopefully, Harrison’s talk will do some of each.

TKS wishes we hadn’t started this conversation in such a distressing way, but we did, and there’s no going back. Now that the issue is out in the open, we hope to help keep the lines of campus communication open. Our website will have comments soon: hopefully that will provide a place for people to share ideas in a constructive way. If any of you have ideas about how the newspaper can help this process along, we’d love to hear them.

We’re happy the campus didn’t forget about this over summer break. The campus went through a lot last term, and we can be grateful that the things that didn’t kill us will get the chance to make us stronger.

TKS Staff

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