When a disgusting racist diatribe appeared in one of Charlottesville’s arts and entertainment papers, Cville Weekly, many were not surprised. The weekly feature known as The Rant allows callers to leave anonymous messages on a voicemail line. The editors then select a few of these messages to print. It had long been known for sexist, racist and homophobic content and has included rants that mocked a rape survivor and a family with six children evicted from public housing. This particular rant marked a new low in the blatancy of it’s hate speech, even for such a dubious venue as The Rant. The full text is pictured below. Trigger Warning – dehumanizing racist hate speech.
Organizers with Wayside and PHAR, the Charlottesville Public Housing Association of Residents came together to respond. Knowing they had the best chance of success within a single news cycle of the weekly paper, they mounted an intensive four day campaign to get the paper to retract the diatribe, apologize to the community and adopt an editorial policy against printing hate speech. An online petition quickly garnered almost 200 signatures and several dozen descended on the offices of Cville Weekly in a spirited protest. Giles Morris, the paper’s editor, came out to read an apology to the group (which appeared in print in the next day’s issue of Cville Weekly), but refused to answer questions about where the breakdown was in the editorial process that allowed this to be printed and how they could be assured that it would not happen again. He also defended the paper’s policy of printing racist, sexist and homophobic rants.
Sympathetic TV news coverage on channel 19 and channel 29 featured voices of those directly affected and helped to build pressure as did an Associated Press article that was printed in the Washington Post and many other outlets including an English language newspaper in Taiwan. The very next day, this TV news report broke the story that Cville Weekly had conceded the last demand and agreed to adopt an editorial policy against printing hate speech. Organizers will meet this weekend to discuss how to monitor and hold them accountable to this promise as well as next steps in fighting against racism and hate speech in Charlottesville. If you’d like to get involved contact info(at)waysidecenter(dot)org.
See our news releases here. Thanks George Lilly for the photos.