1.3.12 Last week we took a bit of a beating for running an issue about the future and featuring a number of young people, all of whom happened to be white. A couple of indignant readers pointed out that painting an all-white future of this city amounts to racism, and they demanded a response from the editor. The criticism was fair, and the response may be unsatisfactory. Sometimes process obscures message in this business. It’s the editor’s job to make sure that doesn’t happen. I screwed up.
The future of Charlottesville is not all-white and it’s not black/white either. You see the city’s emerging diversity on UVA grounds most clearly, and it’s the media’s job to reflect that our city is home to a young professional class that’s multi-ethnic and diverse, an emerging immigrant population that reflects a broad range of colors and cultures, and an African-American population with deep roots. The leaders we featured were chosen because our writers found them interesting, not because they were meant to portray a comprehensive vision of the future. The end result yielded two uncomfortable potential conclusions: that there aren’t a lot of young prominent African-American leaders in town or that we don’t know who they are. Either way, when I saw the story on the page, it looked wrong, and the criticism wasn’t unexpected.
Interestingly, this all happened a few weeks into our process of compiling responses from a widely circulated questionnaire on the city and race, the results of which we’ll publish in an upcoming issue. Taken together with those responses, the strength of the reactions to our story merely confirmed what I already felt, which is that race is still a sore topic here that needs to be aired out. UVA, like many college campuses, bears the promise of a post-racial America, but this year’s incoming freshman class was only around 6.5 percent African-American, while the state is 20 percent. This in a town with a history of Jim Crow and white flight from the city school system after integration.
Which brings us to the subject of spiritual healing, the focus of this week’s feature (p.14). How do you get over inherited pain? How do you pay for the moral wrongs of past generations? Religion? A commission? Either way you go, the path is paved by truth.––Giles Morris