The Goldendale Sentinel - Headlines & History since 1879

By Lou Marzeles
Editor 

Some took issue with a single misread word

 


After two biting editorials in The Sentinel against wanton incidents of racism committed in Goldendale against a pastor of a church here, feedback continues to be overwhelmingly supportive of our stand. Calls, drop-in visits, and emails are still pouring in expressing appreciation, and it is very gratifying to see how outraged so many people are that such blatant demonstrations of racism have occurred here.

There has been some outrage reported against The Sentinel from the recent editorial, and it bears a brief comment. The outrage was not against our stand against racism. It was against our use of the word “retarded.” The reaction stems from an inexact reading of what we wrote and a knee jerk reactivity to a word without regard for the totality of how it was used.

Here’s the sentence in question from last week’s editorial: “That means the spiritually retarded people in this town who practiced that racism are vastly outnumbered.”

How dare we call anyone retarded, went the criticism against The Sentinel. Many of the comments weren’t merely chiding; they were venomous and foul-mouthed. Some announced a campaign to end The Sentinel’s existence because of their fury over our use of the word “retarded” and the cruel insensitivity it demonstrated. After all, one commenter reminded her readers, this is the same paper that compared the late Edwin Charge to Saddam Hussein.

It’s possible that some people actually thought we were calling our local racists retarded and thereby demeaning them, or perhaps the developmentally challenged who might not appreciate being painted with the same brush as racists. Just in case that’s true, let me point out the term “retarded” was not used in isolation by itself. Very pointedly, the word was used together with the word “spiritually.” The full term was “spiritually retarded.” That’s an entirely different thing than just calling someone retarded, as reason will readily make clear. More than one reader took that complete two-word term as an abundantly accurate description of anyone who abhors people because of the color of their skin; we know because they told us so. And I stand by that description—honestly, I don’t know a more cogent term for such an attitude.

Let me circle back to the comment about us comparing Edwin Charge with Saddam Hussein. We took a lot of flack from people who apparently didn’t read the story with comprehension, given that every supposed fact referenced with horror in our story about Charge was entirely inaccurate, as was this new statement. (Charge, you will recall, is the young man who accidentally lept to his death while fleeing police after being caught shoplifting at the Walmart in Hood River.) Our story never compared him with Saddam Hussein. What did we say, then? We’ll invite anyone with that question to review the story again, very carefully.

Back to Goldendale racism: it could be that our sources have been scared off, though I have no idea why that would happen. One in particular who promised to provide much more information on condition of anonymity (which we granted) has not returned. The person was so anonymous that we didn’t get contact information. Please come back. You are safe. The town is with you 99.9 percent.

 

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