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Disagree, Debate, but Don't Kill Messenger

I thought that by giving them the opportunity to refute Horowitz's claims the day they ran, a privilege given by no other college newspaper -- to my knowledge -- they would respect our decision to run his views in the name of free speech and open discussion. This was my impression based on several amicable conversations with Moore this week where no indication was given that I should think otherwise.

But you know what they say about assumptions.

Moore and friends apparently could not resist attacking this paper as racist, a charge that is unfair, unfounded and downright infuriating. Shame on them.

It is their opinion, and one that likely is widely held across campus, that Horowitz is a racist hatemonger. But it is just that, an opinion.

Others, myself included, think he actually makes some pretty good points, however caustically and insensitively worded. (I don't find the above column nearly as inflammatory as the ad. I think you'll agree.) That, coupled with our desire to give this campus a wide range of perspectives on what has become a national controversy, was justification for this to run. Attacking us for publishing Horowitz's views is the equivalent of killing the messenger -- futile and unnecessarily cruel.

This response is especially disheartening in light of the good faith effort we made to be sensitive to the black community's concerns.

We decided not to run the ad because we saw the knee-jerk responses to it on other campuses and thought an opinion column accompanied by varying views would foster a discussion on the merits. That apparently wasn't enough.

But aside from ridiculous shots at the DTH, Moore did address these issues and then some.

So let's talk about them.

The assertion that black Americans owe a debt to America, as Horowitz's ad claims, is nonsensical. But the justifications he uses for this claim warrant comment. Government welfare programs, begun in earnest with President Lyndon Johnson's Great Society initiatives, have benefited blacks to a large degree. The same with affirmative action policies. In my mind, it is not farfetched to say that these initiatives were efforts to level the playing field, granted with limited success.

And while the Civil War might not have been fought to eradicate slavery, emancipation was a direct byproduct of salvaging the Union via the 13th Amendment. (Note the contradiction on this point in Moore and Taylor's piece.) Had those millions - black and white - not been killed or wounded, slavery might well still exist today, and that's a fact.

Determining who should pay, who should benefit and by how much are other perplexing logistical questions that make monetary reparations a well-intentioned but unworkable idea.

Many blacks say that reparations is not the issue. They contend that Horowitz himself is hateful and closed-minded. But I just don't see it.

He is saying, just as this considerably liberal editorial board did Nov. 8, that the notion of monetary reparations is a divisive one.

The above column argues that black Americans should not ignore what is right with America and its ideals, a notion that I don't find radical in the least. The government that guarantees Horowitz the right to express himself is the same one that protects those protesting him today on campus. That's a right millions worldwide don't enjoy.

Of course there are still injustices that face black Americans, but reparations are not the answer. For that matter, neither is changing the name of Saunders Hall, though that certainly couldn't hurt.

The answer is focusing on real issues that affect blacks today, some of which are the aftershocks of slavery. That's why I applaud the efforts of the protesters to turn this controversy into a chance to be proactive.

I would urge all on this campus to fight racial injustices. This means, among other things, working to end racial profiling, to reform our justice system, to eradicate self-segregation everywhere and to raise the quality of public education across the board without harming schools that are getting it right. These are weighty tasks that leave no time for squabbling about nonconsequential issues.

I also would urge everyone to decry attempts to stifle free expression, regardless of how unpopular the views. That means taking issue with Moore and others who would call the campus newspaper racist for publishing something controversial.

The fact of the matter is that there is a double standard among many in the liberal elite. A pro-reparations ad would not generate such vitriol. But, as we have seen, one guy bucks political correctness, stands up for what he believes and crafts a rather cogent argument for it, and he must be an ignorant racist.

That's nothing but hypocrisy.

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I am not a racist for seeing Horowitz's side of things and for putting them out for public debate. I resent that implication immensely and hope people learn not to hurl that incredibly hurtful term so indifferently at others.

Because anyone who would immediately label as racist an entire newspaper for running an unpopular view is guilty of the very charge being levied against Horowitz -- closed-mindedness.

Matt Dees is a senior journalism and political science major from Fayetteville. Reach him at mbdees@email.unc.edu.

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