So, how would you respond?
Say you’re a black elected official, and you get racist e-mail, complete with racial slurs and references to body parts. Do you reply? If so, how?
Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board member George Dunlap sent the following to a number of people he knows, including a member of the Observer’s editorial board. (No, I wasn’t one.)
Here’s the original, racist message to Dunlap. (I’ve edited some offensive language, and deleted the sender’s e-mail address.) It comes from “Online Feedback from CMS Website”:
“Comments: Sir, I remember fondly my elementary school days at Cotswold in the ’60’s. Most of us were generally good boys and girls. We had 2 negro children in the whole school, and nobody mistreated them. They were good boys, so far as I know. None of our parents would have allowed us to use disparaging language against negroes, or colored people. This was the way things were. Then came Randolph Jr. High, then forced busing. The negroes were n-----s, and they damn well acted every bit of it. Disruptive to the extreme, pulling out their p-----s and beating them on the desk in class. Beating white children, rioting, full of slavery-blaming. Just generally ALL a bunch of god-damn n-----s. All day, every day. Whatever white Liberal speaks their PC baloney in the public forum, is just that – a turncoat liberal. And “African Americans” are just a dreadful species of naughty children. I can't change that, no matter how much you Libs tax me.”
Here’s what Dunlap asks, in an e-mail this morning (Dec. 29):
“This is a test. Each time I respond to folks like --------, they seem to not like my response and run to the media to tell them what a nasty person I am and why I should not have responded the way I did. As the new year approaches, I plan to try something new. This is the plan. When I get email that I want to respond to, like this one. I plan to send it to a number of people. If you are receiving this, it's because I want to respond to this email. Your job is to tell me in 100 words or less why I should not respond or to suggest a response for me.”
One final thought: If you think this sort of racist talk has vanished, think again. It’s not uncommon for black people in prominent jobs – or even white newspaper columnists – to get similar letters and e-mails. Charlotte – like most places in America – hides plenty of racial tension under the surface. I generally ignore them. Most of the letters arrive without a name and return address, anyway -- as though the writers were ashamed. Fancy that!
What would you tell Dunlap? Or the e-mailer? I’ll try to reach Dunlap later today and ask if he’ll share some of the advice he gets.
Thursday, December 29, 2005
So, how would you respond?