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4 minutes reading time (820 words)

I am sorry for my error: It wasn't racist

UPDATED, Aug. 3: I am apologizing fully for a mistake in editorial judgment I made last May.

bob90 2017

I am doing so because one of the many signers of a letter has asked me numerous times to apologize even after I did so at the time and clarified the matter more recently. I want to make sure the letter signers fully understand what happened.

My decision has suggested to some that I am racist. I am not.

Here's what happened. A debate in April on ACMi included School Committee incumbent Paul Schlichtman and challenger Lynette Martyn. The flash point of the exchange involved how each sees the gap in school data regarding white students as compared to those of minority groups as well as those with disabilities.

Dueling views

Read Schlichtman's April 26 column >> Three days later, Martyn countered in a letter >>

After that, a series of letters supporting Martyn hit my inbox. I published six backing Martyn's view of this issue. Five focused on Schlichtman.

A sixth letter targeting the incumbent arrived Saturday, May 16, and I decided that too many were making similar points. I wrote to the three authors: "I decline to publish further letters about this subject, unless someone can provide a wholly new angle about the issue .... I am doing so to be fair to all sides."

On May 19, I followed up with the authors to see whether they had a revision. No response. Instead, they had the letter published in on online publication DigBoston. The lead-in refers to an investigation of Lt. Rick Pedrini by Arlington journalist Laura Kiesel. She is among the signers of the letter to YourArlington.

My initial thought: "The Pedrini matter has nothing to do with the letter." Second, I reviewed further the letter parents sent me. After seeing that it expanded the discussion without revision, I decided I should not have held it.

Published one week later

On May 23, I published the letter, and I let DigBoston's editor know. I also told him that the Pedrini issue is irrelevant to my decision about the letter.

At the time, I added a note to the top of the letter and apologized on social media for the error. On July 26, I updated the note with a clearer apology after discussions on the AntiRacism Arlington MA Facebook group

That did not satisfy some, so I have written what you are reading here. I also asked those with concerns to reach me directly at sprague.bob at gmail.com, not on Facebook.

For making that appeal, an administrator of that group put me on one week's moderation.

In general, I prefer not to discuss the management of YourArlington on Facebook. Why? Facebook provides a variety of voices and ways to connect (the sunny side of Zuckerberg's platform). More darkly, such groups can also become echo chambers for like-minded responses. Worse, such groups can encourage comments that can appear to be bullying -- something the town Human Rights Commission warned about in an appeal this week

[NOTE: This sentence originally referred to a "peanut gallery," but I have deleted that because the phrase has a racist history. See www.lensshift.org/library/is-peanut-gallery-a-racial-term.]

Publication link deleted

I can handle a weeklong moderation, but this Facebook group faces more serious issues. For one, an admin deleted a link to this news summary, "Arlington's unheard residents let us hear their voices."  This was a summary of a town Community Conversation reporting how the voices of minority-group members have been ignored. I would think that is a wholly appropriate subject for a site that purports to seek ways to address racism.

Further, a respected resident was recently tossed off the site for asking questions. 

Discussion there about my lack of full apology has led me to think I may have become subject to a "Pedrini dynamic" -- that is, no one can quite apologize enough for errors perceived to be racist.

Let me be clear that I look forward to the officer's full public apology to all he harmed, but don't tar me with the brush that includes his harmful words published in October 2018.

I am a lifelong supporter of marginalized voices. I have long supported civil- and human-rights efforts where I have lived. The letter I did not publish right away was from parents of children of color. Ironically, my own family includes adopted daughters from Paraguay and Guatemala.

I erred in failing to publish for one week a heartfelt letter from parents of color. It was an oversight in the crush of a long town election campaign. It was not racist.


This viewpoint was published Sunday, Aug. 2, 2020. Note: The letter in question was also offered to The Arlington Advocate, which declined to publish it. It was updated Aug. 3, to add a note.

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Comments

Guest - Jack Swenson on Monday, 10 August 2020 03:21
Stop seeing racism where there is none!

The peanut gallery became associated with children through the popular children's television program The Howdy Doody Show, which included the Peanut Gallery, bleachers full of children who sang along with the cowboy puppet's songs throughout the show. And fun fact: The name of the Charles Schulz comic strip Peanuts was inspired by the Howdy Doody Peanut Gallery

The peanut gallery became associated with children through the popular children's television program The Howdy Doody Show, which included the Peanut Gallery, bleachers full of children who sang along with the cowboy puppet's songs throughout the show. And fun fact: The name of the Charles Schulz comic strip Peanuts was inspired by the Howdy Doody Peanut Gallery
Guest - Sarah McKinnon on Monday, 03 August 2020 13:04
Language

Please research and reconsider the term “peanut gallery” - it stems from a racist point of view.
Sincerely,
Sarah M

Please research and reconsider the term “peanut gallery” - it stems from a racist point of view. Sincerely, Sarah M
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