by James A. Bacon
Last week an unidentified White man draped a noose from the statue of Homer at the University of Virginia. Without any evidence of the perpetrator’s motive, University Police and President Jim Ryan promptly proclaimed the incident a hate crime. Yesterday, a group of 60 or so students gathered near the statue of the ancient Greek poet to protest racism and White supremacy, and The Daily Progress, Charlottesville’s newspaper, was there!
In the resulting 19-paragraph story, the newspaper gave full voice to the protesters’ rhetoric without a single dissenting view.
“For Black men and Black women here on this campus and in this country, our life is always threatened. There’s always a noose around our neck,” said one Black UVa student organizer. “This is nothing new for us. I was hurting, especially when it first happened.”
“It is critical that Black students feel both safe at the University of Virginia, but also feel empowered to claim this university as our university,” said a statement of the UVa Black Student Alliance read to the group.
Continued The Daily Progress: “UVa professor and community activist Dr. Jalane Schmidt spoke to the group about the racist history and imagery of the noose, which was once a key tool in violence against Black Americans. The noose remains a threatening symbol of racially charged violence.”
No word on how the other 25,000 or so students and grad students at UVa reacted to the incident.
Apparently, the reporter did not see fit to ask an obvious question: how is it racist to hang a noose on the statue of an old dead White man?
Nor did the reporter delve into why a Black person attending UVa might feel that his life is “always threatened.”
For context, it might be useful to know how many Black UVa students have been assaulted or killed by racists recently. It might be informative to know how long ago the last altercation between a Black student and city police occurred. But, no, the heated rhetoric went unchallenged. The Daily Progress article treated it as self-evidently true.
If the individual who placed the noose on Homer is ever caught, it could turn out that he did have racist motives. But if the history of many other supposedly racist incidents is any guide, his motive might have been to stir up agitation over racial injustice. Both explanations are plausible. And, based on the evidence available to the public, there is no way to know which one might be right.
But you can count on the campus radicals — following the lead of the Ryan administration — to act on the presumption of racism. And you can count on the local journalists to do the same. Once upon a time, journalists were trained to be skeptical, to ask questions, to solicit different sides of a story. That kind of journalism appears to be dead at The Daily Progress, and it is increasingly rare elsewhere.