The Daily Tar Heel
Printing news. Raising hell. Since 1893.
Monday, May 20, 2024 Newsletters Latest print issue

We keep you informed.

Help us keep going. Donate Today.
The Daily Tar Heel

Think of the Reasons We Publish

The First Amendment dispute is irrelevant because no one tried to stop this paper from publishing the piece. No censors, no oppressors, not even protesters demonstrated against its publishing. No one, to be sure, questioned this paper's right to publish controversial material.

The question was, on the other hand, why this paper would publish the op-ed. As an editor, I would have recommended Horowitz's "Assault on America" to a publication of similar content, not to a mainstream daily newspaper.

But I don't edit this paper.

Publishing the "Assault" doesn't evidence a willingness to stand against censors in the fight for free speech. It concerns the conscious decision of a newspaper to print an essentially racist diatribe, ignore its duty to fetter the newsworthy from the plain, then defend its decision by deflecting readers to a useless free speech dispute.

Editor Matt Dees writes that we shouldn't call a "campus newspaper racist for publishing something controversial." But he misses the point. The question is, can we call a campus newspaper racist after it publishes something that is racist?

The "Assault" manifests a voice that has been speaking down to minorities in America for hundreds of years. Yet below and beside a chancellor and editor heroically defend the right of that voice to speak, though they find it "shameful."

The only dissent, of Tyra Moore and Doug Taylor, is squashed between the words of these would-be advocates. The page typifies the larger dispute: It's three articles against one.

This paper made the decision, essentially, to ignore all of the usual standards of journalistic good taste and publish a work filled with ideas lacking any profundity at all and bordering on the crude. The observation, for example, that post-slavery immigrants should not be held to pay reparations for slavery is more an obvious precursor to a discussion of the issue than an actual point.

The question is raised of how reparations would be paid. Tracing those who deserve reparations would be difficult but not impossible. Then again, we did put a man on the moon ...

There is also the question of amount. How do we put a price tag on oppression?

To me, this is all conjecture. Horowitz attempts to destroy the machinery of the argument by picking at its nuts and bolts. What he fails to see is reparations aren't necessarily about money. The issue concerns a mere recognition of the fact that ancestors of whites in this country oppressed the ancestors of blacks, realize now that it was wrong to do so and, most importantly, have an understanding of what it is to be on the other side.

It's about respect. All the "Assault" proves is an old compulsion to oppress is still with us but has been funneled into quasi-historical theories whose reasoning seeks to temper the loose-ended nature of social relationships.

Samuel Chatman, a law student responding to the ad published in Duke's Chronicle, suggests that Horowitz is historically inaccurate: "Horowitz writes that 350,000 Union troops died to free slaves. This is incorrect. They died to save the Union. The end of slavery came as an inadvertent result of the Civil War. Lincoln's Proclamation was merely an attack on the South, an attempt by the North to weaken the Confederation. The premise was that if the slaves were freed then there would be no one to maintain the holdings of Confederates who were fighting the war. Thus, more Confederates would be prone to desert, to return home to care for their holdings. This is evidenced by the fact that the Proclamation was conditioned to take effect after a certain time, unless the Southerners surrendered."

Chatman continues: "The author writes that slavery existed in many societies for thousands of years. Slavery in cultures before the Atlantic Slave Trade, however, was simply a form of servitude. It did not encompass the doctrine of chattel slavery that robbed people of their humanity, identity, and culture, which earned the name "The Peculiar Institution." Further, even though other cultures practiced slavery, none practiced it on as large a scale as colonial Europeans. Therefore, slavery extant before the Atlantic Slave Trade and practiced in many cultures must be distinguished from the Atlantic Slave Trade."

Chatman concludes with a question about the white abolitionist movement: "Should one be praised for trying to resolve a problem one is responsible for creating in the first place? (Horowitz) implies that America has done Black people a favor by robbing us of our identity. I beg to differ."

So do I. I similarly question the decision of this paper to publish the "Assault." We may assure ourselves that an issue has been placed before us, a dialogue commenced. We may expound upon the virtues of our rights. The reformation of the "Assault" into an op-ed piece, however, has failed to deflect this reader from its essentially racist underpinnings.

The next time this paper chooses to publish such a work, I think, it should approach its readers with more honesty.

Paul Tharp is a first-year law student. Reach him with any questions or comments at ptharp@email.unc.edu.

To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.

Special Print Edition
The Daily Tar Heel's 2024 Graduation Guide