Leo Morris likes to present himself as an independent and objective observer, but in his latest column, “News ‘philanthropy’ is a bad idea,” he reveals himself as anything but. Morris takes exception to The Indianapolis Star creating a reporting team dedicated to investigating issues of racial equity that might affect Black and Latino Hoosiers.
In his critique he is clearly echoing the Fox News and far right-wing attack on “Critical Race Theory” and “institutional racism,” a disturbing national movement that attempts to deny the unarguable existence of racism in our country, historically and today.
Morris accuses the paper of merely wanting to increase sales, pandering to readers “who have had no interest in reading newspapers and never will.” (Whom is Morris talking about here?) I think the Star should be applauded for being willing to face and explore real examples of inequity that have been ignored and misrepresented for decades. That is what journalism should be about, seeking the truth.
Racism is real. The evidence in the national news is all too abundant, but here is a local example. I learned a lesson recently that surprised me, but shouldn’t have. During a recent zoom meeting, I learned that Wabash students of color always try to remember to wear their Wabash logos when they travel around Crawfordsville and Montgomery County. It just makes them feel safer. When they do not identify themselves as Wabash connected, they are sometimes treated less respectfully. Over the years, students of color have reported many incidents of overt and subtle discrimination in our community.
Columns like Morris’s, that minimize the reality of racism, and that call journalism that seeks the truth about race relations mere “philanthropy,” make it even more difficult to face and solve this most intractable of American issues. Only honesty, openness, humility, and empathy can move us forward.