I have known Dr. White in passing for several years now. I know him to be intelligent, highly personable, and obviously dedicated to a number of important activist causes. In short, he is an all around good man. I would not presume to be in a position to assess him as a scholar or teacher, but I do know that these are the qualities that the university should consider when reviewing Dr. White for tenure, not raw intellect or personal charm. And unfortunately, community involvement is but one of the factors that go into garnering tenure at a research university, such as UT.
There is one thing I do know: It is the height of ridiculousness to suggest that either Dr. Norrell or Dr. Diacon could be racist. Dr. Norrell has built a scholarly career on educating Americans about the Civil Rights Movement, and in the process has done more to overcome racism than the BFSA ever will. Dr. Diacon's own scholarship on Brazil can leave no doubt that he is quite sympathetic to the plight of oppressed peoples. Furthermore, I know Dr. Diacon rather well, and he is one of the fairest minded and most humane individuals I've ever had the pleasure to meet. To call either of these men a racist is not only preposterous, but offensive as well.
Good people should not be subject to slander simply because they make decisions or express sentiments with which others disagree.
The tenor of this debate has implications far beyond the confines of the University of Tennessee. Of course we cannot allow racism an unchallenged existence. But neither can we allow personal, political, business, and educational decisions to devolve to the level of character assassination, trivializing the charge of racism by seeing it where it does not exist. Cry racism too many times when the charge is unwarranted and the public loses patience and quits paying attention--even when faced with actual instances of this evil.
Seeing a Pattern
Renee Kesler has been forced out of her position in the city administration. She is a bright African American woman who arrived to the position of director of community development for the City of Knoxville.
George White has been refused tenure at University of Tennessee. He is a bright African American man, good professor and scholar.
What they have in common? They are African American, they are successful, they are strongly engaged in the community working for some social change, they are not afraid to speak up when something needs to be said. It is this combination of characters that makes them out of place (if not dangerous) in the Knoxville "establishment."
And this establishment, meaning the small group of people who rule Knoxville institutions (county, city, university, media and, the last but not the least, the big business community), dropped them as soon as they could: Only neutrality or open hostility came for Kesler and White. The message is: Kesler and White do not belong in here, they should stay in their place.
At the same time, we witness an indecent charade of Knox County commissioners and other officials shamelessly attached to their power, nominating family and friends in their positions, completely careless of saving appearances.
We really need to change our "leadership" in Knoxville.
Our President, the Criminal
'This Stinks': A Lament
David E. Booker
I hate to think what this crime may have started. Let's not fool ourselves. If the alleged perpetrators are guilty, then this was not only opportunity motivated, but racially also. And the random part disturbs me more. They did the unspeakable no matter what race, what background and whatever. No excuses, but I'm sure that many will fly around during the trial.
On my drive home from work, I can see part of the Knoxville skyline. It seems a little darker now. As I said, growing up around Detroit, I've had time to developed thicker skin about these things, but I hate for it to happen here. Knoxville area (Louisville) is my home now, and I never want to tolerate this type of stuff as "usual," or just another "day's news."
Natives of Knoxville, take pride in what you have here. I hate to think that I am more disturbed by this than others in the community. Law enforcement should be commended for capturing the alleged suspects quickly. Natives, take pride and please say "not here!"
Guidelines for Incoming Mail