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Did I Do the Right Thing?

Discussion in 'Off Topic' started by Micky, May 9, 2012.

  1. Hey guys, I really want to ask you about a certain problem (it's not really a problem anymore, it's resolved) but I'm wondering if in your opinion I did the right thing in the circumstances that were given to me. Long story short, here are some background information: Er , not really short, but if you have time to digest this situation, please go on ahead!
    origins virtual pet site origins kickstarter
    In regards to one of the articles published in our school magazine which I run, someone voiced her concerns that the story was racist and that she (and others, she did specify, but didn't list any names), felt offended by the article. She wanted a full apology by the team and the author, but it was interesting because the article was a short story; it was a fictional story.

    So I met with my team and sponsor teachers, and we sent back a reply stating that we didn't understand why it was racist (we didn't, it was an honest answer), and if the reader would like to explain her reasons. We said that due to the definition of racism, we didn't find anything that was racist, but would take another look if she helped us out to identify what, to her, was racist.

    She replied, a bit smart-ass (but I didn't care about how she replied, because emotions/words can be easily mistaken, so I stuck to deciphering her words and her reasons, unbiased), but found that her reasons were very much her own opinion. She claimed the story was racist, but in the same letter, stated that the author shouldn't write the story because he was not of the race that his character was written in. Was I correct in thinking that she's being racist towards the author too? Or hypocritical? She also believes that because she was of one of the races mentioned (and she's clearly mistaken, because in the story there was no mention directly of a race; everything was inferred), she knows everything to do with the conflicts the author described, and that her own opinions and experiences prove that the author is wrong, and that based on her experiences, hers is right.

    In the middle she called out on intentional spelling errors (names) which were made intentionally by the author, and slammed our editing team and department heads for not being able to "keep the magazine quality", and stated that our team have not taken a look at these. I wouldn't mind her to point out these errors, but in the letter, she made it to sound like she was nit-picking, and assuming that we unintentionally made errors -- when she could have just suggested to us that there _might_ be errors with the names, that we should look into them.

    After meeting with our department heads and teachers, we ended up replying to her saying that we will not be apologizing for the short story, since it is a work of fiction and the opinion of the author (it was not libel nor slander). I wrote that I acknowledged sincerely of her understanding of her own culture and race, and that if she ever wanted to, she could submit her own story or article from her point of view, and we will publish that without a problem. We also suggested her joining the editing team, because having a sharp mind like hers really could help our team do better, as we understood she was implying. We also wrote that she picked out flaws that were _not_ flaws in the first place, and that rather having solid facts (i.e. statistics, news reports) she based her reasons on her own opinions.. which means that she can be right, but at the same time, could be wrong, just like the author's story could be right AND wrong, because opinions are neither right nor wrong.

    However, she replied quite heatedly and agressively a few days later and called us out for being disrespectful, ignorant, and biased. She also said that we weren't open-minded nor considerate, and that we didn't take her concern seriously and treated it like a joke (where in fact it was not, and I, at least, treated it as a very serious matter like it actually is). She says an apology wasn't enough anymore, and in her reply she twisted our words into some really far-off meaning/sentences. She also denied joining the club saying that she "knew who we are now, ignorant, et cetera." And that she wouldn't join a club like ours. She also denied to writing a story or article from her point of view, too.

    And yet, she says she wishes she can meet with the team to further talk about her opinions and all in a meeting... yet I don't know why we really need to, because as a team we have agreed on a response already. We gave her options but she shot them down.

    TL;DR, we have so far concluded this complaint, and still stand by our words that if she wanted ever to join, we'll let her join and welcome her. That if she wanted to write something from her own opinion and experiences, we'll definitely let her and have it published.

    Do you guys think I solved this alright?
    Or what can I still do?
    Did our team do the right thing?
    Or was there a way we could handle this situation better?

    And in these circumstances, how do you know how far you should go to appeal to a complaint when the person who complained starts bashing and calling the club names and being irresponsible and hypocritical?

    Thanks guys, I hope to keep learning from these obstacles/confrontations. <3

    - Neon
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  2. This is like telling me I can't write a story about gay robots because I'm not a gay robot.

    ... wait *whirr*

    AHEM anyway, in all seriousness, I think you did do the right thing. Some people get blinders put on them and refuse to see anything other than what they've already conceived in their own minds. Now, mind you, I don't know of this story or anything but I believe that anything written in a work of fiction, racist or not, has merit because it is just that, fiction, and does not have to conform to the walls of true life. Besides that, an author does not necessarily have to live the life of the characters that they create, that is why it is fiction and not nonfiction. There is nothing wrong with a white person writing a story about a black person, an asian person, a hispanic person, just because they are white. Can you disagree with their writing or their standpoint? Of course... but it doesn't mean that what they're writing doesn't have meaning of some kind.

    You aren't going to be able to change the way that this person thinks, that's her own choice. Just go with it and do what you have to do.
    #2 Drea, May 9, 2012
    Last edited: May 9, 2012
  3. @DreaDrea, I definitely understand you, and that just because it's fiction doesn't mean anyone can write absolutely anything they want... (I mean, fiction is fiction, but at the same time, there still has to be research done on the subject) . But the author was just trying to raise awareness to the plight of women in the Middle East, having seen what they go through before he immigrated here. I know that topic is very controversial, especially since he also wrote about other discriminations that people (not just women) go through in the Middle East -- after reading the Bible, Koran, et cetera (he's in the school's leadership class, and it's his passion to raise awareness). So I'm pretty sure he wasn't writing this to flame / harrass / offend people; instead, it's quite the opposite. His teacher , who I consulted too, said it was his "passion project", so I do know his intentions were for the good, not for the bad.

    Like I said, if she still wants to join, I welcome her, and I wouldn't bring up the complaint up again unless she mentions it.

    As much as I'd like to post the letters to add clarification, I can't do that unless I have her permission to do so.

    Also -- I wouldn't ban all writing that relates to these controversies, especially current events/news, because as a club we actually promote people speaking up for their opinions and beliefs in a mature, professional way that means lots of prior research.. like, still allow them to write these things because they're passionate about "making a change/difference" step by step, but with the usual rounds of editing , consulting, etcetera that we do.
    #3 Micky, May 9, 2012
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 16, 2013
  4. @vplspridevplspride, thanks! I started the magazine knowing that I'm still self-concious sometimes, and that it was time for me to stand up and learn to deal with situations, and help others reach their goals. It's definitely been a long and tiring journey so far, but I'm really glad I'm learning more and more, especially about different people and different opinions -- and also handling myself in public, to not form opinions based on my personal emotions, but from a third-person point of view. It's not easy, haha, I can tell you.. it's much more different than what teachers usually say, or what parents usually tell me to do - it's easy to tell, but hard to follow through with actions.

    I agree, I also am very thankful I have a wonderful team that's mature, and teachers we can count on.
    Shame though, that the girl denied the chance to write / edit for our team - I had hopes she would join, but I guess not.
    #5 Micky, May 9, 2012
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 16, 2013
  5. in my personal belief you went above and beyond to satisfy this person. It seems fairly obvious that this person is being unreasonable. It seems that they really wanted and argument and control over the situation. Honestly, I think where you went wrong ... Well not wrong so much as possibly could have been more effective is in your long responses to this person. Sometimes even if you try very hard it is impossible to satisfy a person. When a situation like that that occurs its important to communicate clearly and concisely that you have fully considered their points and feel badly that they feel the way they do but you would not be making an apology or looking into the situation any further.

    In short when someone is unreasonable acknowledge their feelings, apologize that you are unable to give them what they are asking for or resolve the situation in a way they feel is acceptable and conclude in a way that brings finality that the magazine has fully considered their points but has decided they dont see it their way and will not be considering any further. Ending with how you hope they can understand and that they are a valued consumer of the magazine and you hope they can continue to enjoy it despite your differences.

    Whether I am able to read the article or not or agree with that person or not the important thing is that you did as a group take the steps to acknowledge their concerns and you disagree and you must do what is best for your magazine.

    I believe you did a good job but in the future may refine your communication slightly particularly to add finality to a response so that you dont flame a fire to something bigger unintentionally. Also so your teams valuable time isnt wasted on a situation that you are going to be able to satisfy a person with.

    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
  6. It sounds like you handled this situation in a mature and reasonable manner, which is certainly the right way to go about it. Without seeing the story in question though, I can't really comment as to whether your decision regarding possible racist content was correct. Would you be able to either post a copy or message me one? I would really like to have a look so I can judge for myself.

    Speaking in general terms, I think a story, even if it is a work of fiction, could be considered racist if it depicted a character (or all characters) of a particular race in a derogatory fashion, or in a manner that conformed to a particular stereotype that was considered particularly inaccurate, or in a manner which suggested it was typical of all people of that race when it wasn't. If a character was depicted in a manner that was simply inaccurate, I would consider that to just be a bad quality, poorly researched story, but not necessarily a racist one. There's no hard and fast rule though, especially if the subject matter is a particularly controversial one. Again, I would really appreciate the opportunity to have a look at the story in question, so I can give a more specific answer.
  7. Ugh, as somebody who was one of two managing editors for my high school paper, I feel you. I've had to deal with a lot of unreasonable people.

    Which is what this person is; unreasonable. I think you and your team handled the situation the best you could, but this person clearly is not willing to budge or act civilized. There's not much else you could do, to be honest.

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