Department of Unapprehended Satire | Letters | Chicago Reader

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Department of Unapprehended Satire

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To the editors:

The sweep of the white supremacy syndrome is so pervasive. Take your Hot Type column of March 30th, for example; in which you critiqued Vernon Jarrett, on Gus Savage and Mel Reynolds, and came to this arrogant, white supremacist set of questions: "Is . . . Jarrett ENTITLED (my emphasis) to such a free-swinging opinion? . . . Is he ENTITLED to such opinion in a daily newspaper even when it offends thoughtful white people? . . . Jarrett is the only columnist in either daily paper . . . writing to local black people about local black concerns. THERE'S NO PRIVILEGE WITHOUT RESPONSIBILITY" (again my emphasis).

The overbearing cheekiness of such questions as those makes one wonder if they aren't intended as satire. Jarrett writes for a newspaper in a city of 1 1/4 million or more African Americans (a majority over whites). It is estimated that more than half of the Sun-Times bought are by Blacks. Hundreds of thousands of African Americans read it (and Jarrett). The paper would go out of business were it not for the Black customer; and you talk as though it is a "privilege" for the Sun-Times to permit Jarrett to write for it (you must be satiring). Leaving alone the number of Black readers of Jarrett, and buyers and readers of the Sun-Times, and the fact that Jarrett is one of the best journalists in the country, you haughtily question whether he ". . . offends thoughtful white people. . ." (most of whom buy the Tribune).

Maybe north side whites think it is "thoughtful" to come to the conclusion that, ". . . it was easy . . . to see that young Reynolds, an up-by-his-own-bootstraps Rhodes scholar, was exactly the role model that struggling south-side black folk need. . ." But please be apprised that "thought" occurs to a significant number of African Americans, also. And it occurs to the majority of Blacks that an essence of representational government is that African Americans need not depend on whites to decide who is most qualified to represent us.

About this "Rhodes-scholar" banner that is waved by whites so conspicuously as some signification that Reynolds deserved election because of being such a "scholar": Look, very few Congresspersons are, or have been Rhodes scholars. For anybody, but African Americans, it's considered largely irrelevant, given the nature of politics and the Congress. And knowing what many Black Africans think of the way the white colonialist Cecil Rhodes ravaged Africa, and what the selecters of Rhodes scholars look for in the students they pick, and what political maneuvering goes on in the Congress, the north side "thoughtful" whites have been overestimating their intellectual attributes.

But more than that, your column just personifies the unregenerate white supremacy tradition, centuries old, that will not go away (unless, again, I misread what is really being satirical on your part). Look, Vernon Jarrett is no ". . . lone voice in the wilderness," as you quote Muwakkil saying. What Jarrett is is a very accomplished purveyor of the thinking of the majority of African Americans (apparently not "thoughtful," but in the majority in Chicago, and the majority of buyers of the Sun-Times in Chicago). And that his is the ". . . one voice in the papers . . ." speaking the issues as Black people see them, is just another testament to the arrogant white supremacy that permits the Sun-Times to hire one such as Jarrett, when the majority of their customers are African American; and the Tribune to hire none at all; and the Reader to print articles such as your one March 30th questioning, with shining brass, whether Vernon Jarrett is ENTITLED to offend "thoughtful white people."

William Simpson

Park Forest

Michael Miner replies:

When something sounds so much like satire that it is either satire or the ravings of a white supremacist, it is often the ravings of a white supremacist. Sometimes, however, it is satire.

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