It it 'racist' or indeed Racist?

Letter to the Fort Frances Daily Bulletin 

Your newspaper is doing an admirable job of providing news coverage of the despicable video depicting six local high school students mocking Native traditions, apparently while under the influence of alcohol.

But I am curious why you choose to use quotation marks in referring to the “racist” video?

This grammatical device is usually used to indicate that the writer does not agree that the term being cited is accurate?

Do you and your newspaper not agree that the students’ action could appropriately termed as racist?

Those familiar with analyzing community and institutional response to charges of racism are used to seeing predictable  responses from communities involved in such incidents:  scoffing at the accusations as being “over the top” responses to “childish” or “immature” pranks – the “boys-will-be-boys” defence;  attacking those making the accusations as being “whiners” or “complainers” – the “sticks-and-stones” defence; or minimizing actual evidence of racism – the “it’s-an-isolated-incident” defence.

Several years ago the North Bay Nugget’s official response to the most detailed examination of racist attitudes ever conducted in the city was that “you can’t base such strong accusations on only 300 interviews.” This month the National Post published an article that dismissed as statistically insignificant  the 3,000 hate crimes that have been investigated by police in Canada in the past 13 years.

Does Fort Frances have a magic number of how many racist incidents must occur before citizens decide racism is a community problem, or do you have a zero tolerance policy against racism – like you do for drivers who fail to observe stop signs or traffic lights?

What initiatives are being taken in your community to ensure that citizens of all cultures, creeds and lifestyles are entitled to respect? What is your newspaper doing to ensure Fort Frances is a community of strong moral fibre?

What would it take, Mr. Cumming, for the Times to remove the quotation marks from around the word “racist”?

Hopefully, not a tragedy.

Maurice Switzer
North Bay, Ontario

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