Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Letter

In retrospect, perhaps my letter was lacking in diplomacy. But I was frustrated!  I was the Residence Hall Director on call for the weekend at Georgia Southern University. I was forced to stay in my hall the entire weekend, just in case trouble arose at one of the 4 dormitories I was covering.

But there was never any trouble in Statesboro, Georgia. Alcohol was not allowed on campus. In fact, the whole damn county was dry!  The only trouble that ever arose was someone getting locked out of a room.  Pretty exciting, right?

Yep. That was the only trouble I ever encountered while on duty. Until I wrote the letter.

At the risk of dating myself, this incident happened before we had cable or satellite TV. My TV picked up only 3 (very bad)  channels out of Savannah.

I wrote the letter at midnight on a Saturday night. The previous night I had suffered through a 3-hour Miss Georgia Beauty pageant and I had been looking forward to watching Saturday Night Live all day.  I was completely deprived of good programming.  I turned on the TV at about 11:15 to catch the sports, hoping to hear the scores from the Stanley Cup semi-final games.

The weekend sportscaster on the Savannah NBC affiliate was about as exciting as a pet rock. He droned on and on and on as he covered every sport from softball to tiddly winks. But he NEVER mentioned the hockey scores. 

“And in Little League action, the Ellabell Armadillos beat the Rincon Roadkill 10-3.” 
He took a slow, deep breath before moving on to his next hard hitting story. 
“And in other action, The Keller United Baptist Church Saviors defeated Blighton Baptist Kingpins in their annual Bowling for Missions fundraiser. Hoss Henry nearly scored a perfect game.”

And my evening got worse. At 11:30, there was an announcement that Saturday Night Live was preempted by a replay of Friday night’s Miss Georgia pageant.

That’s when I wrote the letter.  (I was quite angry, as you can see by this photo taken of me that very evening.)

But I was not rude. I simply asked the Program Manager why they made the choice to show the Miss Georgia pageant (for the second night in a row) instead of S.N.L. I also asked why the sportscaster, Julian Williams, failed to mention the Stanley Cup scores in his broadcast.  And I provided some directional feedback in terms of which way Mr. Williams skewed on the boring spectrum. OK, I may have used the word comatose, or some other synonym for lethargy. And I guess I mentioned that I had recently moved to Georgia from New York.

I must have, because a few days later I got my letter back in the mail with “Yankee Go Home” scrawled across it in big thick letters.

I was appalled. And I reacted in in a very mature, professional manner: I tattled. I thought the Station Director should be made aware of how his Program Manager was responding to letters from the public.

A few days later I got a letter from the Station Director. His first paragraph was very patronizing, explaining their programming choices and how demand for shows like Saturday Night Live was much lower in Georgia than in New York. (Blah, blah, blah)

But the second paragraph stunned me. It included this sentence: “Your racist attack on sportscaster Julian Williams was reprehensible.”

What? All I said was that he was boring! It had absolutely NOTHING to do with his color!

It bothered me for days. How could I possibly respond to the guy, convincing him that I was not racist? It was impossible.

That's when I had my scathingly brilliant idea. I came up with the perfect response.

Dear Mr. X,

Thank you for your letter. I was troubled by your comment accusing me of racism. Being a Black woman, I would never denounce an individual based on his or her race. I find that truly reprehensible.


Smarty Pants Lou
(I didn't really sign it that way.)

Guess what. He never responded.  


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. All this time, and I never knew you were black!