Photo by Courtesy Flickr/Carissa_GoodNCrazy
Yesterday, while we worked to get the newspaper to the printer, the following voicemail appeared on one of our white reporter's voicemails. The caller identified a black woman by name who recently wrote a column for the paper, and then said the following:
"… I want to offer her a plane ticket back to Africa if she thinks America is so bad. Um, I would love to pay for her ticket. Also tell her she’s got to leave her iPhone here, her computer, her closet full of clothes, her high-heel shoes and her lovely, lovely hair. She’s got to leave all that here because it is American, but I’ll be glad to buy her a plane ticket. I’ll give you a call back to see if she’ll take me up on it. Thank you.”
The woman then tried to reach the same reporter again today, but hung up without leaving a message. She then got my assistant on the phone and gave her an earful about the "racist" writer. As her number shows up on all calls, and she was clearly eager to talk to someone here, I've tried to reach her three times to talk to her further about her message and her offer, but she has not answered the phone.
If I could get her on the phone, I would like to ask her the following questions.
- What do you mean by going “back to Africa”? I don’t understand.
- How can someone go “back” somewhere they’ve never been?
- Are you aware that scientists say that all humanity originated in what is now called Africa?
- Explain to me why she would need to leave her iPhone. Do you know what a coltan mine is, and where much of that material used in iPhones comes from?
- Why did you mention her “lovely, lovely hair”? Wouldn’t her hair be a product of her ancestry, which you seem to presume is not "American"? If you assumed she came from Africa, wouldn’t that mean that her hair descended from there as well? Logically, anyway.
- Do you know that people in Africa wear clothes, and even high-heel shoes?
- How do you know that this writer has a “closet full of clothes”? Have you broken into her home and looked?
- Do you know the history of high-heeled shoes? That they predated America by centuries and probably date back to 9th-century Persia—and that that is not in present-day America?
- Can you send us the airline regulation that doesn’t allow people traveling to Africa to take iPhones, shoes, clothing or their own hair? That’s breaking news to us.
- Can I have your credit-card number? Do you mind if we charge several tickets on it? The whole staff would like to visit Africa. It’s on our shared bucket list. We are, however, coming on back to the country where most of us were born as we have just as much right to live here, and express ourselves, as you do.
- I anxiously await your return call. Please direct it to me, however, and not my various staff members.