Ethnic reference inappropriate?

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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5 Responses to Ethnic reference inappropriate?

  1. T.W. Burger says:

    I agree with Marc. I’m old enough to remember when the fact that the group was “racially” mixed (scientists will tell you we misuse that term all the time) would have been the story, with strong hints that the deaths were a message from God, or some such nonsense.

  2. Melissa Seideman says:

    As one of Kennedy’s former teachers, I am proud of her efforts to voice her concerns. If only there were more Kennedy’s in the world.

  3. Charles Persing says:

    The recent tragedy and death of five New Oxford high school students solicited a letter written by Southwestern senior, Kennedy Barba. This well written letter was published January 16th but incorrectly names me, Father Charles Persing, as the source of her cited quotations.

    A reading of Tim Prudente’s article of December 10 will show that Miss Barba was actually referring to the section in which Father Bernardo Pistone, Pastor of St. Francis Xavier Church, Gettysburg, states that it often takes tragedy to see the best in people. And what did he see? He saw a community, that, which not so long ago was divided along lines of race and color, now coming together to mourn and heal. Where did he see it? In a generation of young people, like Miss Barba, who have overcome racial barriers and prejudice–a generation of young people who look beyond skin color and ethnicity into the heart and soul of their friends and neighbors. On that day many hearts were broken and in need of healing. All experienced loss. All were one.

    Despite the welcoming attitude of this young generation, Fr. Pistone pointed out that there are still people among us who believe “these people are undocumented” and, “shouldn’t be here” and should “pick apples and then go home.” Fortunately this is becoming the opinion of the minority.

    I am in agreement with the author and Fr. Pistone that in our day and age it is inappropriate and unnecessary to segregate any community or divide peoples because of race, creed or color, especially since we believe God made each of us in His own image.

    I agree with Miss Barba that this article was about the tragic death of five promising lives. But there are also many lessons learned in tragedy. I commend Miss Barba, and young people throughout our community who, like her, work tirelessly and with great zeal to end discrimination, hatred and prejudice in all forms. I hope they succeed! I hope we all learn!

    Rev. Charles L. Persing
    Immaculate Conception Church
    New Oxford

  4. Grover says:

    Saved, I enjoy your site! 🙂

  5. I’m definitely not one who should be prodded. In fact, contrary, I will be the prod.
    The truly amazing leaders are similar to the best conductors – they reach beyond the notes to reach this wonderful time in the players.