Wrong to print bigoted letters
I read, with dismay, the racist letters that readers submitted in response to your article about a fight in Brewerytown (“Bitterness Brewing,” June 20) and I read your defense of publishing them (“Brewerytown letters explained,” Wednesday). You are simply wrong. Your goal was to promote conversation, but racist messages aren’t about opening a conversation; they’re about shutting down the voices of the oppressed.
You write that you have an obligation to publish opinions “so long as the comments are civil, based on fact, and neither slanderous nor libelous,” but the letters you published violate all of those standards. Comments such as “I guarantee [whites] won’t be terrorizing or preying on the elderly to rob them” and “blacks have been [moving into] white neighborhoods for years and, for the most part, ruining those areas” are not civil or factual and are slanderous. When will you stand up as an organization and say that bigoted ideas aren’t worthy of debate, and that the humanity of black people is not up for discussion?
— Jarrod Green, Philadelphia
Respect black neighborhoods
Publishing racist letters does not make good journalism, nor does it relay information and goodwill at a time when black citizens are targets for crime and often killed by whites.
White people bring gentrification to black neighborhoods by driving up taxes and driving out businesses by not supporting the community businesses that have operated for generations. It seems the goal of white residents is to play like they’re the saviors of a community that doesn’t need saving.
Black neighborhoods in Philadelphia need investment, respect, and autonomy. If you want to move into a predominantly black neighborhood as a white person, respect the neighborhood as it is.
Also, black people don’t drive down property values. Racist white people who move en masse drive down property values.
— Kelly Vincent, Philadelphia, email@example.com
Good to provide broad views
Thanks for editorial page editor Harold Jackson’s explanation of the policy of not censoring letters on grounds of racism. My first act of civil disobedience was in the civil rights struggle against racial discrimination. I support the Inquirer policy of airing even views that I find repugnant. Most of us already live too much in a bubble of agreement reinforced by social media; I count on newspapers to be broader than that.
— George Lakey, Philadelphia
Building community together
Brewerytown has the potential to represent the best of Philadelphia. That is why we decided to move to the neighborhood from our home in the Northwest last summer. Easy access to Center City, beautiful murals, a bustling commercial corridor, and a growing vibrant restaurant scene that includes new restaurants and neighborhood staples added to the neighborhood’s charm.
Brewerytown’s real potential, however, lies in its ability to attract newcomers while maintaining the sense of community that has existed for decades. Some of our favorite experiences in the neighborhood have been spent at our favorite local restaurant, 2637 Brew, where old and new residents gather for good food, drinks and conversation.
The neighborhood is far from perfect, and there is an undercurrent of tension between some of the old and new residents, which is not necessarily drawn on racial lines. But that is not the only story that needs to be told about Brewerytown.
As we look to the neighborhood’s future, we need to ensure that all parties not only have a seat at the table but also have an equal opportunity to be heard and participate. Real community building takes hard work, and we look forward to working alongside our neighbors.
— Kellan White and Nicole Allen White, Philadelphia, firstname.lastname@example.org
Spurring and validating prejudice
Thank you for the timely response to the backlash on the “Whites make Brewerytown better” letters. Including “Reader response” in the headlines for letters posted online is a reasonable and effective step toward providing clarity and eliminating some negative response on social media.
Gentrification has many positive consequences, lower crime rates generally being the most talked about. This is a factual and good thing. But what are the consequences of telling people that gentrifying and whitening a neighborhood is only a positive thing. How are they likely to treat their black and brown neighbors? How much more likely are they to feel uncomfortable by the mere existence of a person of color in their neighborhood? How do people of color feel about this?
All these questions remained unaddressed in Tuesday’s letters. A less-informed, less-nuanced reader either develops a harmful and bigoted opinion because of their publication or has his or her harmful and bigoted opinions validated and reinforced. For this reason, I am disappointed with the publication of those letters. I hope you choose more insightful letters in the future.
— Michael Morris, Branchburg, N.J., email@example.com
Racist policies a bigger threat
The “Whites make Brewerytown better” letters were pants-down burlesque bigotry at its laughable extreme. It easily and rightly riles folks. But I wasn’t offended that it appeared in the Inquirer’s Dialogue section.
More troubling are letters and commentaries that, with race-neutral language, advocate for racist policies, often to make America great again. But those pieces represent positions that are rather common in the public square. They deserve exposure and responses from those of us offended. Too often, outrage is lacking. Readers get the pants-down bigotry while often letting the polite-language, systemic racism slide by.
The notion that readers of opinion pages should not be offended is a puzzlement to me. It’s part of our societal problem in this age of segmentation into silos of like-minded people. The exchanges over the Brewerytown race-baiting should be appreciated for what they are: opinionated dialogue.
— Don DeMarco, Philadelphia, firstname.lastname@example.org
Bias, stereotypes still exist
The letters are sad reminders that racism and racist stereotypes are still with us. Maybe if those writers changed their attitudes, they would see the absurdity of their outdated beliefs. The city and the suburbs have diverse populations that are different from 50 years ago. A few years from now, no one will notice the differences.
— Jean A. Kozel, Eagleville
Why the sanitizing?
I am troubled by the newspaper’s current tendency to reach out when it feels it has offended.
A few weeks ago, columnist Christine Flowers’ editor posted a disclaimer for “Cosby taking the hit for men who’ve wronged women” (Philly.com, June 13). That Flowers’ position ran counter to the more-popular narrative is what made the old Inquirer a great newspaper. Posting the disclaimer was sad and reflective of current journalism’s greater desire to be perceived on the right side of history than as fearless guardians of the public forum for the exchange of ideas.
The “Whites make Brewerytown better” letters were responses to a black reader’s letter that claimed new, white Brewerytown residents were disrespectful to longtime black residents. That letter and the responses made valid, honest, and truthful observations.
People who submit letters to the editor tend to be your average Joe, and their opinions can be raw and unpolished. We as readers need this type of input as much as that of experts. So long as they do not threaten violence or use slurs or epithets, these opinions need not be sanitized or apologized for. In doing so, the Inquirer risks losing its credibility as an impartial broker of ideas and becoming a promulgator of propaganda.
— Mary C. Phelan, Rutland, Vt.