A senior at South Western High School named Kennedy Barba sent me an email recently taking issue with a quote in a story about the five teenagers killed last month in a car crash near New Oxford.
Barba thought references to the ethnicity of the victims in the story were inappropriate.
“I understand that the statement I was just referring to is a direct quote from Father Charles Persing, but honestly, to write a complete article on how the death of five teenagers broke race barriers should not have been front-page news,” Barba wrote. “Five children died. There was no need to point out the color of their skin. We live in the 21st century; printing this article was not fitting to the time.” For the original letter, click here.
In a perfect world, I wrote back, I would be inclined to agree the references to race would be unnecessary. But I can’t help but feel we aren’t there yet and it was remarkable how the community pulled together to mourn the dead.
The day after the accident I got an email from a Mexican friend asking that we keep an extra vigilant eye on online comments. Last time a Hispanic teen had been involved in a serious accident, the comments had gotten pretty ugly, he reminded me.
So when that didn’t happen, we thought it was worthy of comment, celebration even. It’s an uncomfortable topic, but I think we have a lot more talking to do about race before it is time to talk less. There’s still too much ugly talk to be heard from some people when they think nobody’s listening.
I asked Barba if her letter was intended for publication, and if not, if I might use its comments anonymously to engender discussion. I appreciate that Barba wrote back that her letter was meant to be public, and that all that she wanted was for readers to give her views due consideration.
If thoughtful students like Kennedy Barba are any indication, maybe that more perfect world isn’t so far off after all. It all starts with a little honest dialogue.
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