My Turn: A JDHS senior's perspective on mass hysteria, racism and newspaper bias

Posted: Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Recently, there has been a lot of discussion about racism - in the newspaper, in class, on the announcements and on the Juneau-Douglas High School walls even. And you know what? It's making it worse than it really is. Give all this attention to the delinquents who wrote "KAN" on the sign and school wall is only making the racism problem worse by creating mass hysteria.

I'm not saying that racism isn't a problem at our school - it is. But it isn't about some subversive conspiracy or code of silence to cover up and keep everyone else from knowing about it; it's about a group of high school losers who'll grow up to be criminals and beggars that find it funny to make jokes and comments at the expense of others. Basically, those signs on the wall claiming that "If you don't see the racism in this school, you're turning your head" are lying. I don't see the racism - never have, and I'm a senior. And my head is not turned.

But I'm not the only one. I don't know a single person who has seen any of this racism. I even have Native Alaskan friends. The kind of people who see this sort of thing are the people who hang around the people who do it or are the victims of it.

What needs to be done about the racism problem is not being done. Tearful propaganda on the front page of the newspaper, posters on the wall appealing to the common student to "speak up," and presentations showing why racism is bad are all very ineffective methods of beating racism. Telling kids who don't see racism to speak up, creating a hysterical mass of people and showing presentations aimed at the kind of kids who skip such events are not effective methods of integration. In fact, the very means in which most of this town gets its information from on these matters isn't even doing it in a very informative way.

The fact is, this newspaper has a bias - a bias that makes reporters only interview Natives, a bias that keeps the comments from people who don't see this racism outside of what the Empire reports, a bias that ultimately helps the newspaper sell more copies and seem more altruistic. It's called shock tactics. The newspaper doesn't want to seem bad by presenting both sides of the issue; so they present only one side in hopes that instead of noticing this and getting angry, subscribers will think there really is only one side - that there is rampant racism in our school and everyone is keeping silent because either a) they are racist too, or b) they're cowards. This really only hurts the situation by blowing it out of proportion. If the newspaper really wanted to help, its reporters would ask the children what they think should be done about it. And they wouldn't just ask Natives who have sad stories to share.

What we need to do is find the children responsible for the racist acts and punish them. I don't mean by suspending them, either. Those kind of kids enjoy getting a free vacation from school. I mean we should ostracize and show utter intolerance of them - like they do to Natives (and other denominations of people). Show them how it feels.

Basically, I just don't want this city to be consumed with a mob mentality that causes its denizens to blindly follow what one group says while completely ignoring the other. I also don't want the people of this town to focus on racism against Natives; if you want to crack down on racism, you need to crack down on it in all its forms, not just against one group of people. If that happens, it becomes counterproductive and just leads to even more hatred of Natives.

Take things you hear with a grain of salt; don't just follow it blindly. There are always two sides to an issue, regardless of whether the newspaper states it or not.

• Joshua Carter is a senior at Juneau-Douglas High School.

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