You can’t always tell on our office phones when readers leave messages.
And anonymous calls, often left in the dark of night, are like online story comments used to be before we went to Facebook and required names. (I remember our online editor telling me one time how his folks had to step away from their screens every so often as they checked the website. It would wear them down.)
But I never had a caller tell me to grow a pair until this week. I got that gem Thursday morning after my story about the Civil War flag-waving Instagram post.
Two overnight callers and several online commenters said we gave too much attention to the press conference denouncing the post and calling for disciplinary action against those involved. The “grow a pair” caller said the newspaper needed to stand up to the NAACP and not write a story each time they demonstrate.
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Another said we were part of the problem:
“You know there wouldn’t such a problem with race if people would quit talking about it,” he said.
The Instgram response generated a lot of commentary on my Facebook page. Here is what some of you said:
Jackie Helvey: When you see institutions like Duke allow students to hang nooses from trees on campus with little consequence, it’s not surprising other kids think this sort of behavior is OK.
Michael Czeiszperger: High school students do stupid things; luckily those of us who grew up before the Internet age didn’t have the opportunity to screw up so publicly. According to the article the student has taken down the image and apologized. The school can use this as an opportunity to ensure that, as the superintendent said, “an understanding of race and discrimination, and their still-existing impact, is integrated into our curriculum and not taught as isolated topics.” The Duke case was more nuanced, as it appears the student did not intend to make a racist statement.
Bronwyn Merritt: Over reaction.
Jackie Helvey: I respectfully disagree. My kids are only half black, but I take serious offense to all of this, and believe incidents such as this continue to happen because people don't react, not that they overreact. Racism is alive and living, all around us. Only when people speak up and try to educate do we end this sort of thinking.
Terri Buckner: “I take serious offense to all of this.” All of what? Students recreating a real battle as an instructional exercise? The Instagram post about buying slaves is definitely over-the-top and deserves discussion, but the regimental flag waving shouldn’t be considered part of “this.” My fear is that the reaction to this and to the Duke incident go too far and create fear in young people about talking openly about race relations. We didn’t talk about race when I was growing up, but the past year of taking classes with undergrads has illustrated for me a much more open dialogue among young people.
Rob Crook: I think it is a moment of discussion and education. Not a time for punishment. People need to look for redemption more these days.
Raleigh Mann: As a kid in Baltimore, I went on field trips from school to Gettysburg battlefield and proudly identified with the Confederate side. Others, including the despicable Klan, have turned the stars and bars into a symbol of racism. It’s possible that these kids did what they did in the spirit of simply having fun at a Civil War historic site with no thought of any racist ramifications. I agree with Rob. This is an opportunity for education and discussion.
Mark Schultz is the editor of the Chapel Hill News. Send him a Friend request to join this and future Facebook conversations.