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Editorial Board of Ohio University's The Post Thinks Racism Is Funny

Photo of Chris Yonker
(Image source)

On 7 September 2007, The Post, a student newspaper funded by Ohio University, published an editorial by Chris Yonker titled "Broad Stripes and Bright Stars" which features, among other things, a photograph of Yonker striking a mock-supercilious pose which in the end amounts to genuine superciliousness, or arrogance to use another word.

In that editorial, Yonkers never bestows the dignity of the name Mexican to the immigrant population he writes about. Instead, he refers to them as "party crashers" and "scum" who "are clogging up the corners asking for handouts," one of whom Americans might "employ cheaply" as "a Mariachi-playing maestro."

The rhetoric Yonker uses to advance his meaning would be worthy of as much serious consideration as the photograph which accompanies it, except for the fact of Yonker's persistent racist undertones. The Athens and Ohio University communities have condemned Yonker's racism in the form of editorials by The Latino Student Union at Ohio University and a number of concerned faculty.

Some people are calling for Yonker's resignation. As a proponent of free speech, I do not go this far, but I do think Ohio University and the editorial board of The Post should condemn the racist sentiment driving Yonker's piece, one that is poorly written, ill-conceived, and institutionally embarrassing. Instead, Matt Zapotosky, editor in chief of The Post, offers the weak suggestion that "readers are missing the point of a humor column that [i]s not anti-immigrant." I agree the article intends to be humorous, but its humor is targeted directly against immigrants, which means Zapotosky has bad reading comprehension, is lying, or both.

I have received permission from my friend and colleague George Hartley to post a version of his response to Yonker's editorial, published in The Athens News on 17 September 2007.

The Post, Racism, and Genocide

George Hartley, Department of English

This is a sad time indeed. Just as I was sitting down to respond to the racist ignorance behind Post staffer Chris Yonker’s reference to what he calls the “Mariachi” scum trying to crash the party of honest, hard-working Americans invited over by their partying Native cousins, I saw that his name calling and xenophobia pale in comparison to his companion in violence, Post staffer Joe Vance, who is calling for our government to muster the determination to carry out his genocidal vision for the Middle East.

Vance longs for a return to the days when—unlike today under the weak-willed George Bush, held back by his “Christian” morality and “democratic” sentimentalism—the United States ruled the world with an “iron fist.” He sees the situation in Iraq as hopeless, given that, for him, the “Iraqis are a primitive people who have no genuine desire for liberty” and must be “carpet bombed” in order to save Western civilization from “Islamofascism.” Then we must move on to Iran, Syria, and Pakistan, at the same time giving Israel “permission” to “eliminate the Palestinian terror regime.” Vance is correct when he writes that “All of humanity’s finest achievements—moral, intellectual, technological and otherwise—are threatened by a bloodlusting barbarism determined to extend its shadow across the globe.” The problem is that he doesn’t recognize the greater force of barbaric bloodlust in our own culture.

And that lack of recognition is not accidental. They have been taught all too well. Both Yonker and Vance are products of the unrelenting campaign of intolerance and hate that has characterized our national discourse since colonial days, with its recent virulent form claiming its legitimacy as a response to the September 11 attacks. That day provided just the “New Pearl Harbor” that the neoconservatives had been calling for for a decade, giving rightwing militarists all the steam they needed to roll over both the oil fields of the Middle East and the rights of citizens here at home.

Yonker’s racism is clothed in humor, Vance’s in “reason.” They have learned these strategies from public figures such as Christopher Hitchens, Rush Limbaugh, and George W. Bush. They see the politics of hate taking physical form as the wall that is to separate Mexico from the U.S.—keeping the victims of U.S. colonialism in both countries from joining together against their common enemy, the global capitalist forces that use racism and hate as a divide-and-conquer strategy. The poor of the U.S., Mexico, Iraq, and elsewhere have much more in common with one another than with the likes of George Bush or his good friend Osama bin Laden, both oil billionaires exploiting the masses of two cultures whose poor youth kill each other in order to keep the rich in power. Both exploit the religious needs of people in pain in order to keep the oil flowing.

We must ask ourselves why a college newspaper wants to model itself on Fox News and rightwing talk shows. But then again, the mainstream liberal press has always provided a similar model, propagating the vision of the world that best suits the board members of their media giants. In 1967 Martin Luther King, Jr. marveled at the mainstream press’s ability to champion him when he called for nonviolence towards racist whites, only then to be so quick to attack him when he called for nonviolence against brown Vietnamese babies. It is no surprise that he was shot down exactly one year later.

Yonker and Vance are students at our own university, but more importantly they are students of our culture of hate and intolerance—an education that allows their “voices of reason” to call for racist immigration laws and genocidal wars of aggression in the name of freedom and democracy. They are our national legacy. When will our muted culture of peace, understanding, compassion, and love speak up?

end of article
Claussen, Nick. "Post Editor Says Paper Will Back Up Staffer Accused of Racist Column." 17 September 2007. The Athens News. 18 September 2007. <http://athensnews.com/index.php?action=viewarticle&section=news&story_id=29275>. (Archival PDF.)
Grant, Judith. "America's Party Has an Exclusive Guest List." Letter to the Editor. 13 September 2007. The Post. 18 September 2007. <http://thepost.baker.ohiou.edu/Articles/Opinion/Your%20Turn/2007/09/13/21165/>. (Archival PDF.)
Hartley, George. "The Post, Racism, and Genocide." 17 September 2007. The Athens News. 18 September 2007. <http://athensnews.com/index.php?action=viewarticle&section=opinion&story_id=29283>. (Archival PDF.)
Lopez, Velma K. (on behalf of the Latino Student Union at OU) "Column in OU's Student Paper Insensitive to Latinos, Native Americans." 17 September 2007. The Athens News. 18 September 2007. <http://athensnews.com/index.php?action=viewarticle&section=opinion&story_id=29282>. (Archival PDF.)
Yonker, Chris. "Amreica's Party Being Crashed Since the First Settlers Left England." 7 September 2007. The Post. 18 September 2007. <http://thepost.baker.ohiou.edu/Articles/Opinion/2007/09/07/21054/>. (Archival PDF.)