Village Voice Media Owner Offends with Racial Slur | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Village Voice Media Owner Offends with Racial Slur

OK, so this was not the best moment for the alternative-news industry. The owner of the alternative newspaper industry's most corporate chain, Mike Lacey, accepted an award from the Phoenix Society of Professional Journalists on the anniversary of Martin Luther King's death. At the podium, he referred to his deceased (white) friend, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Tom Fitzpatrick, as "my n*gger." In the audience were black journalists, as well as an 82-year-old mother of a deceased black sports journalist there to accept a special award on his behalf.

This is what Gawker has to say about Lacey's oh-so-hip usage of a racial slur in such an offensive manner:

So how much contrition has Lacey shown for his remark—the classic fatal mistake of white men who mistakenly believe they're down enough to say whatever they want—delivered to an audience including grandmothers? He's sorry that his "comments about a dead colleague rankled listeners."

"My words, meant to honor a friend, were inappropriate," Lacey said. "All present have my sincere apology. It is regrettable that any phrase of mine offended those attending a First Amendment awards banquet."

He's sorry the sticks in the mud in the audience are oversensitive enough to get offended. They probably didn't realize he was down.

My feelings about this stunt are obvious to anyone who knows me. However, I do want to say this: Not only is this offensive to individual people of color (not to mention whites who take racial slurs seriously), it is not the right message for a leader of the alternative-newspaper industry to send. Nobody is questioning his First Amendment right to say something stupid and offensive; respondents are challenging Mr. Lacey and other white men who see nothing wrong with this to think again about their actions.

As the diversity chair of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies, of which Village Voice papers are members, I know well that the alternative-newspaper industry, like much media throughout America, is working to increase our diversity, in content, staffing and attitudes to better reflect and serve our readership. Mike Lacey's comment certainly does not speak for other alt editors and publishers. I, for one, am appalled.

Hopefully, though, this episode can serve as a way to increase dialogue on race, racial healing and ongoing distrust and disparities in America. We can only hope and pray that it will.

Here's the video of Lacey's remarks, by the way.

Previous Comments

ID
117963
Comment

The truly remarkable part is that he used the word to tell drinking stories. And then that some people in the crowd clapped. The comments under the Gawker piece about white guys using the n-word to try to look cool are so apropos. Uh, they don't.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-04-10T11:08:51-06:00
ID
117964
Comment

And I guess it bears saying again: The First Amendment is about protecting against government censorship; criticizing offensive speech is *not* a violation of someone's "free speech" rights. It is the exercise of more "free speech." It rankles my civil libertarian side when someone tries to squelch criticism of (or defend) offensive speech by saying it is their First Amendment right. No sh*t. It is also the First Amendment right of people to respond to it in whatever way they find appropriate (unless they're the government). This kind of excuse-making always reminds me of that yuck John Stossel who got upset because college women tried to shout down one of his speeches after he criticized their anti-date rape efforts. Uh, scream louder, Stossel.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-04-10T11:33:25-06:00
ID
117965
Comment

Well, I guess racial slurs don't just happen in Arizona: N-Word Spray-Painted On Madison Woman's Walls (And before you Arizona folks chime in, that was just a little sarcasm from the heart of the state always assumed to be the most racist.)

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-04-10T15:37:07-06:00
ID
117966
Comment

Paul Curci, the publisher of the Philadelphia (Pa.) City Paper responded to Lacey's incident today on the AAN site, calling him out for "hiding behind the first amendment": Anyone with half a brain, and even the slightest bit of credibility knows how painfully inappropriate it is to use that word; to even think about using that word. I'm embarrassed for you, Mike, and I don't even know you. I do, however, publish an alt-weekly. So I'm doubly embarrassed, because your remarks reflect on me, Mike. They taint our whole association. And that's why I'm calling you on it. You see, Mike, ignorance really pisses people off. But, ignorance from someone who's presumably educated, and a supposed "leader" of a media company, is inexcusable. In one speech, you've managed to diminish our entire industry. You've made it infinitely harder for your staff to do its job. They deserve better. We deserve better.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-04-10T15:43:32-06:00
ID
117967
Comment

The excuse that seems to be emerging around the Internet in response to this is that some white guys call each other some variation of the n-word because, it seems, black people do. Therefore, white people should get to do it, too, seemingly without anyone being offended or outraged about it. Equal time. Response?

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-04-10T15:44:55-06:00
ID
117968
Comment

The broader trend I've been noticing is for white "liberals" to trash certain blacks, then excuse themselves by saying they're not racists, that they have liberal credentials that let them off the hook. There was an article by a John Walsh in yesterday's edition of the online progressive journal "Counterpunch" trashing Massachusetts' black Governor, Deval Patrick. When I called him on it he emailed me back that he was a friend of a black Boston City Councilor named Chuck Turner as if that made ot okay. The supposedly progressive writer Joe Bageant has links to extremely racist written views of a cohort of his. Hillary has been going at Obama with some pretty heavy lies, more than any criticism she has of McCain or Bush. Watch for a new improved version of racism coming from white males who use their "liberal" and "progressive" credentials as a justification for saying things only conservative racists have felt entitled to say in the past.

Author
willdufauve
Date
2008-04-10T17:08:36-06:00
ID
117969
Comment

When I called him on it he emailed me back that he was a friend of a black Boston City Councilor named Chuck Turner as if that made ot okay. Right, some of his best friends are black. Regardless of your discussion, it's remarkable that someone would think that it works in the 21st century to respond to accusations of racism or bigotry with a remark that they have black friends. I heard that plenty growing up in Neshoba County. Everytime someone says something like that, I want to launch into a diatribe about the difference between bigotry and racISM, and how you can do all sorts of nice things for people of color and still support racist practices. But the issue here is more basic, as my assistant editor and I were just discussing. How is that so many white men, especially, don't know what is so offensive about the use of this word in a flippant way—and by a white man? (Hint: It has something to do with who perfected the use of it as a tool of hate and terrorism.) What has missed in our education, and our dialogues? And what can we do about it? I love what one alternative newspaper editor (who is black, for the record) said to me today about the Lacey incident: Racism is a complex issue, but the use of the "N" word is pretty simple: if you don't use it, you won't start a shit storm. I should post a link to this long thread here about racial dialogue. Warning: It is long with nearly 300 comments so far.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-04-10T18:39:09-06:00
ID
117970
Comment

My babysitting duties have increased, so I just got around to reading this. In a nutshell, that was lame. Right, some of his best friends are black. Regardless of your discussion, it's remarkable that someone would think that it works in the 21st century to respond to accusations of racism or bigotry with a remark that they have black friends. Ooooh, that really irritates me!

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2008-04-10T22:39:54-06:00
ID
117971
Comment

Didn't we bury this word?

Author
Ironghost
Date
2008-04-11T13:05:18-06:00
ID
117972
Comment

It was buried, but like Kenny in every South Park episode, it keeps coming back alive.

Author
golden eagle
Date
2008-04-11T13:06:53-06:00
ID
117973
Comment

What I'm concerned about isn't the occasional tactless incident. I'm noticing a new white male backlash that's more vehement than anyhting I've seen in 30 years. it's coming from people who feel entitle dto it beause maybe they we're for civil rights, in theory, but now gas is $3.40, jobs are down, foreclosures up, everybody's squeezed, and scapegoats are needed. It's coming another day where we'll have to decide who we are and stand together, or feel the jackboot on your throat. The tighter the economy gets, think about that word "scapegoat" and who are the likely scapegoats.

Author
willdufauve
Date
2008-04-11T14:04:47-06:00
ID
117974
Comment

I feel you, will. I'm a bit uncomfortable myself in a world that pounces more strongly on someone calling for sensitivity, or using the world "bigot," than it does on someone who uses a racial slur. I'm also really concerned about a perceived hipness to using slurs as slang—the whole black guys do it; why can't we approach. Now, admittedly, I don't think black guys should do it, either, but I at least can comprehend the excuse that they soften the word's power by "taking it back" (I don't agree, by the way). But the fact that white guys are jumping on that bandwagon is really weird and disturbing. Here's the most recent response, by the way, on the AAN site. This one seems to argue that it makes a big difference that the target of Lacey's slur was his white friend. Thoughts?

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-04-11T14:46:45-06:00
ID
117975
Comment

Here's the most recent response, by the way, on the AAN site. This one seems to argue that it makes a big difference that the target of Lacey's slur was his white friend. I don't care if the target was his dog. He still shouldn't have said it.

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2008-04-11T15:48:08-06:00
ID
117976
Comment

"But the fact that white guys are jumping on that bandwagon is really weird and disturbing." laddie Race in America, slavery, the genocide of native peoples, is a stain that doesn't wash out, like the original sin. It's made everyone a little crazy so we have a perverse culture where suburban white kids rap or dress and act ghetto, young black men join gangs and kill each other off, people say stupid things. It's all very dysfunctional, and unexamined until it leaks out from the national subconscious.

Author
willdufauve
Date
2008-04-11T16:05:34-06:00
ID
117977
Comment

I'm noticing a new white male backlash that's more vehement than anyhting I've seen in 30 years. it's coming from people who feel entitle dto it beause maybe they we're for civil rights, in theory, but now gas is $3.40, jobs are down, foreclosures up, everybody's squeezed, and scapegoats are needed. It's coming another day where we'll have to decide who we are and stand together, or feel the jackboot on your throat. The tighter the economy gets, think about that word "scapegoat" and who are the likely scapegoats. I totally get this. I often refer to this sort of sociological movement as "The day the zombies come." I use that to basically mean the day when men will eat men because things have become so bad (figuratively, not literally, ya'll) . You are right, will, in that when the economy gets tight, homes are being lost every day, jobs are harder to find...people get nasty. People need other people to blame. The idea scares me. I guess that's why I use the zombie metaphor, just so I can laugh at it. Although, the idea is very real to me. (Of course, I also use it when i haven't been on the internet all day or haven't watched the news: "The zombies could have come and WE WOULD KNOW NOTHING!" I shout this at The Man often. He takes it well and immediately locates a wireless hub.) :)

Author
Lori G
Date
2008-04-11T16:28:30-06:00
ID
117978
Comment

I don't care if the target was his dog. He still shouldn't have said it. Thank you, Latasha. I'm so tired of people missing the point. Or skipping over it. He takes it well and immediately locates a wireless hub.) :) LOL. People, reach around and hug yourselves because no one, I REPEAT NO ONE, has a readership and blogging world quite like the JFP's. No one.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-04-11T17:29:51-06:00
ID
117979
Comment

So, here is a statement I sent to AAN this afternoon reflecting my personal views, as well as my take on this as the AAN diversity chair. Due to various meetings and obligations, it took me a little while to finish it, so I don't know if it'll go up before Monday.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-04-11T17:59:41-06:00
ID
117980
Comment

Donna, I watched and listened to the video and I honestly have to wonder if the man wasn't drunk. He referred to one journalist whose name he couldn't remember as "that godda*m guy" (or something very similar). His remarks were sprinkled with other words that, in my view, were inappropriate in the presence of people that he didn't know personally, including the 80-year old lady. Drunk or sober, his use of that word was insensitive and plain stupid. Your commentary was right on target. Geez, will people ever learn?

Author
Kacy
Date
2008-04-12T20:57:19-06:00
ID
117981
Comment

Also note that the offending slur was said in context of telling drinking stories. You can't argue educational value of any kind.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-04-13T09:28:48-06:00
ID
117982
Comment

Agreed. The way he rambled, I sensed that he was searching for something to say, which is all the more reason he should have followed this age-old dictum regarding speakers affairs such as the banquet: 'be brief and be seated'. Had he done so, maybe he wouldn't have ambled into this "sh*t storm"!

Author
Kacy
Date
2008-04-13T11:14:33-06:00
ID
117983
Comment

More response by Mr. Lacey. I like this: One week before the SPJ award, we were feted by the ACLU as civil libertarians of the year because of our coverage of Arpaio and Thomas. My remarks at that dinner about the current racial climate in Phoenix were entitled: It’s Selma Time. It is stunning to realize that at my age it only took me a mere seven days to undercut the intent of ‘Selma Time’ by acting the fool.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-04-13T11:28:09-06:00
ID
117984
Comment

America is a racist country built on genocide and slavery. We're all imbued with racism. Even the kindest, most honorable and fair minded person is imbued with the racism that's pervasive in the culture. Nothing makes people act more crazy than race. It doesn't surprise me when it leaks out publicly like this. It surprises me that we all go about our business the rest of the time is if it isn't even there. This guy using th "n" word isn't the real crime; it's poor judgement. The crime is such as, that there are more black men in the criminal justice system than in the higher education system. Either we have to believe that black men are inherently criminal, or not educable, or someone has made a big mistake and something is very wrong with the system. People get worked up about cosmetics but rarely about root causes. I taught in prison and I was raised up by a black man who was both a product of the criminal justice system and the smartest, kindest person I've ever known. I still owe him so that's my rant for today.

Author
willdufauve
Date
2008-04-13T13:06:17-06:00
ID
117985
Comment

Either we have to believe that black men are inherently criminal, or not educable, or someone has made a big mistake and something is very wrong with the system. That statement is so, so important, will. People don't think through the logic of their beliefs sometimes. Considering that black men are disparately represented in the criminal justice system, logic leads to one of three conclusions: (1) The criminal-justice system is unfair (racist) toward black men, (2) there are conditions in our society that have disparately affected black men (root causes), or (3) black men are more criminal than other people. Note what's common to all of those conclusions: racism. In 1 and 2, racism is the cause; in 3, only racissts would think such a thing. So how do all the people who don't believe racism exists any longer justify the black-men-in-prison issue?

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-04-13T13:16:56-06:00

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