Printing the N-word: Letter from the Editors

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At the MARK and Chronicle, we take our responsibility very seriously to ensure that everything we publish is newsworthy and informative. We have no desire to shock unnecessarily. In our recent article, Menlo-Atherton’s Race Riots, we documented the violence between black and white students in the 1960s. This was a tense time where riots broke out regularly. Over the course of researching our article, we came across numerous primary sources, including a poster made and circulated by white students in 1967. The poster threatened racial violence, specifically with the use of the N-word.  Coming across so many disturbing comments and images was eye opening to us, and we were hoping it would do the same for others.

After careful deliberation and consultation with members of the community including the Black Student Union (BSU), we chose to publish the poster in its entirety. In fact, no one we consulted discouraged us from doing so. Multiple community members told us that they believed that this was an ugly truth that needed to be seen. Sherinda Bryant, BSU advisor, told us, “I stand on the side of the unaltered truth… and we know it can be ugly. I also stand on the side of shock value that leads to needed conversation.” We are disappointed that so many in the community have misunderstood our intent.  We were overly optimistic about our readers’ reactions, and mistaken to not make more immediately obvious the image’s context.

There is no doubt that the poster is a blatant display of racism—that is why we chose to highlight it. It is important to acknowledge that this was the reality of M-A’s racial tensions in the sixties. We encourage readers to read the article, as it provides context for the poster; we cited old newspaper articles, people who experienced the race riots, and a book that detailed M-A’s race riots. We believe we should confront reality and work to ensure that history does not repeat itself. Multiple students have already told us that they had no idea how fraught our history is. We at the MARK feel it is our responsibility to bring this history to the public conscience.

Bryant continued, “I can also see some awesome opportunities for campus dialogue and learning resulting from this.”

We understand that there will be many opinions about our decision to publish this poster —both positive and negative. We encourage members of the M-A community to respectfully comment below in the hope that we will take this opportunity to have a responsible and meaningful discussion about M-A’s history of racial violence. 

The Editorial Board is made up of Editors-in-Chief Sonia Freedman, Natalie Fishman, Sarah Weintraut, Cleo Rehkopf, and Dylan Lanier. It represents the general consensus of the staff.

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