Letter from the Editor: On SGA debate live-tweets

By on February 6, 2013

To the readers of the Louisville Cardinal, candidates and members of the SGA, U of L Greek organizations, and audience members:

During a live-tweet of last night’s SGA Debates, a writer from The Louisville Cardinal described an act of enthusiasm for an SGA candidate during the SGA debates. The tweet read: “There is no need to flash your sorority gang signs while candidates talk. #SGADebates #CrowdControl.” This tweet was broadcasted not on an opinion or personal account, but on our news account.

As soon as I was aware of the tweet, I logged in and immediately removed it. I asked the writer to refrain from any further participation in the discussion as a representative of The Louisville Cardinal, and said the same thing to a second writer who was responding to the event publicly.

The tweet was wrong for a number of reasons. As a news account, editorial obviously has no place in the event coverage. This is particularly significant because the news event was a political debate. The tweet specifically targets the behavior of Greek organizations in the audience and could be easily read as supportive of non-Greek candidates for this reason. That is not the position of The Louisville Cardinal, and does not square with our efforts to maintain news integrity when covering news events.

A large portion of responses to the tweet have come from students of color who were deeply offended by it. This brings us to the second reason the tweet was wrong.

While the writer has made it clear to me that the tweet described a white audience member’s response to a white candidate, and that the writer’s intentions were not to racially target audience members, the racial subtext of the statement is undeniable. For those readers who have written us defending the tweet, I need to explain why this is the case.

The writer unknowingly treaded into some very ugly stereotypes about people of color. These stereotypes exist because of how frequently organized groups of people of color are denigrated as “gangs” in both political and media spheres. This is often intertwined with the stereotype that people of color (and particularly people who are black) are aggressive or loud in public.

What is likely to be the most hurtful in this tweet may be the subtext in “#CrowdControl”. Whether the writer realized it or not, those words have a succinct meaning. “Crowd control” was, historically (and sometimes still is), a euphemism used by white police to describe violent acts against protesters of color. In the past, “crowd control” has described the use of attack dogs and water hoses against civil rights activists.

Personally, and on behalf of The Louisville Cardinal, I would like to apologize for this lapse of judgement. This remark was indefensible, and deserves every bit of criticism it has received. A remark like that gives readers the impression that The Louisville Cardinal is not an equal platform for all students. And so long as I have anything to say about it, that will never be the case.

The voices of people of color are too often shut out of conversations about race both nationally, and on campus. The Louisville Cardinal will never comply with that silence. Neither will I. We want to hear (and publish) student responses and see student engagement– about this incident and about every topic on campus. We want to hear from white students and students of color alike.

As sorry as I am to have had this happen on my watch, I can also say that I’m lucky to be in a position where I can make the kinds of changes that can prevent this from happening again. Today we get to do what we wish every organization would do when this happens: we get to be 100 percent real about it. We get to set a precedent for transparency, student engagement, and racial awareness in the media. We get to be an example of an organization that admits its mistake and, instead of dismissing or denying it, rolls up its sleeves and works to find a path toward long-term change.

With sincerity and gratitude,

Rae Hodge
The Louisville Cardinal

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