Racy Words Spark Race Debate
By: Lauren Keith
Cape Girardeau, MO - A journalism student at Southeast Missouri State University learned the "hard way" what happens when you write an opinion column, especially when it's an opinion not too many are willing to put into words. Right after, Martin Luther King JR's son visited the SEMO campus, student journalist Lisa Smith decided she'd write about "reverse racism" in her opinion column. It was a few choice remarks, however, that really sparked the debate. It even forced a special campus meeting for students to air this all out.
"Some of the feedback I got was very violent. I had two girls come to my room. I had threats of violence messaged to me. People stopped me on my way to class. I was told my self-worth in about 20 words or less," said Smith.
It was Lisa Smith's own words that ignited those actions by her peers. Smith began her column in the Capaha Arrow, with this quote: "Black history month has always been a month I wouldn't mind sleeping through." Not long after that, fliers began popping up all across campus urging students to read her column. Meanwhile, Smith stands by her words-- calling Black History Month "hypocritical."
"I don't believe we can we say we want to be treated as regular people, then have a whole month dedicated to them, their race and what they did-- it should just be history," said Smith.
Still, so many students had their own opinions about smith's column; a campus organization even held a special forum for students to talk about it--- constructively.
"A lot of students were saying at least we're talking-- coming together as a student body," said Tamara Zellers Buck, a journalism professor and moderator at the forum.
Smith says her message was lost in her own words. She wanted her readers to agree with her that "Black History Month in itself is segregation."
"Racism is not going to go away if we have this eparatism--that' s the source of racism," said Smith.
Now, she and her fellow student journalists have learned quite a lesson in public feedback.
"The lesson we need to understand is freedom of the press and that this isn't news, it's an opinion," says journalism professor Dr. Roy Keller.
And you can bet, February is a month Lisa Smith will now not sleep through, regardless if that's right or wrong.
"i understood the intensity of my words could jeopardize my safety. I also had people come up to me and say, "You put into words what I can't," said Smith.
Lisa also says she's not sure right now, if she'll continue pursuing journalism. She says writing news can be quote "boring." She may continue a career in writing opinions and commentaries. Meanwhile, newspaper staff at the Capaha Arrow say Lisa Smith was recruited to give a conservative view for a liberal paper.
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