Letter to the Editor: Racial Insensitivity

Shelley Blundell

Dear author of Monday, Feb. 20’s “Our View,”

Within the Our View piece of Monday, Feb. 20, which discusses the atrocity of the racial slur used in the headline of an ESPN story about basketball player Jeremy Lin, you state “Who the hell doesn’t check headlines? How do you miss such a blatant innuendo? It’s not like the offensiveness was buried in rumor or in the entymology (NOT a word, by the way – the word is etymology) of a word that no one is familiar with: people know the word.”

I would like to invite you, dear author, to take a trip to the Daily Kent Stater print-copy stacks and pull out the paper for Sept. 6, 2011. When you do, you will see a well-written story about parking tickets on campus, with the unfortunate headline “Yellow Scare.” The story does a lot to maximize the fear people feel when they receive a parking ticket, along with a discussion on ‘consequences’ and ‘unavoidability.’ The person who wrote the headline at the time may not have known the ‘etymology’ of the term, so I provide a helpful link here that may help explain the term’s history and current cultural context: http://www.theauthenticvoice.org/TeachersGuide_AsianAmerican.html.

Even though the “Yellow Scare” title escaped the online version of the story (which is more appropriately titled “Selling more parking permits than spots?” and was published Monday, Sept. 5, 2011), the paper headline remained unchecked, and unapologetic. The fact that the headline was changed online makes me wonder if someone, somewhere, realized the error and unfortunate historical tie-in of “Yellow Scare” and made the executive decision to change it in the online version. Considering the increase in international student enrollment in the Fall 2011 semester, the bulk of whom come from Asian countries, I read the print headline with disbelief and embarrassment. As a Stater alum, I watch Kent State student media always with great interest, sometimes with pride, and sometimes with shame. “Yellow Scare” headline day was one of the days I watched with shame, and my shame increased when no reparations or apologies were made. The reporter behind “Chink in the Armor” has apologized. Et tu, Stater?

My point is thus: You have every right to watch the actions of national journalism agencies and comment when you believe they are acting inappropriately. But, as an oft-paraphrased religious phrase goes, ‘make sure the stone is removed from your own eye, before you would remove the pebble from mine.’ I think it’s time the Stater paid a little more attention to its own potentially incendiary headlines before ranting against the works of others at the national level.

Yours in journalistic integrity,

Shelley Blundell