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Letters to the Editor




How dare this newspaper of mass distribution print such an article and use such offensive language to describe the next leader of the largest school system in the state of Tennessee (City Beat, May 15th issue and response). We all should be appalled that such offensive language was used to describe the next leader of Memphis City Schools. While all of us are trying very desperately to make Memphis a better place to live, work, and play, your newspaper would stoop to such lows.

This is the typical reaction of those who try to keep the "status quo" in Memphis, Tennessee, and yes, I am talking in code. Matter of fact, I am "code switching" so that this message reaches the larger community. All of Memphis ought to be outraged, not just African Americans, by this and particularly those who want to see this total community progress.

I suggest the Flyer and the writer John Branston offer a written public apology at the very least or please explain to all of us what he meant and what his intentions were in writing this.

Jeffrey T. Higgs, President/CEO

Soulsville, USA

Please add my name to the list of Memphis citizens who are outraged over the recent column using the racially charged and insensitive acronym HNIC. The climate of race relations in the city is problematic enough without the media's use of such language.

This is below what I have come to expect from the Flyer. I believe it is incumbent on you to take immediate steps to retract and apologize for this lapse in judgment on your part. I hope you will agree that this commentary was unnecessary, unwise, and in no way represents the direction we hope the city is moving.

George Lord


I have been an avid reader of the Flyer since moving to Memphis in the mid-1980s and have enjoyed seeing various views on topics that you have printed. However, John Branston's column was totally lost on me. All I could see was his use of HNIC.

Why was that even remotely necessary? What was a reader to get out of his use of that phrase? Did it add to the article? I would think these are questions all journalists should ask themselves when writing an article. I don't see where that was done in this instance.

You could have easily referred to Joe Clark and the movie Lean on Me without the use of "head [N-word] in charge." Perhaps Branston was being flippant or thought he was. He was not. His use of this phrase overshadowed whatever point he sought to get across and showed insensitivity to a very important issue. Shame on you.

LaRita Bailey Mitchell


I don't understand the outrage. Does anyone really think the Flyer, the most liberal, progressive publication in Memphis, would intentionally do something racist? John Branston tried to be provocative and made an error in judgment (though that depends on your point of view, obviously). The editor went on the Flyer website immediately and offered an apology and an explanation of how the decision was made.

Nobody boycotted Lean on Me. What people are really saying is that a white writer can't reference a line from a movie that uses an offensive racist term, even if he uses the phrase "N-word" and even though Willie Herenton said Memphis needed a Joe Clark-type superintendent and school board member Kenneth Whalum said we needed a "strong black man." Branston riffed on this, using the main punchline from the movie. And he pissed off a lot of people. It happens. But beyond an apology, what more do you people want? Nobody's protesting or getting up in arms about Mike Fleming's daily racist crap.

Branston's track record is solid. He has no reason to intentionally say something racist. People need to accept the apology/explanation and move on. You can find real racists if you look for them, but I don't think the Flyer is where I'd start.

Darla Nelson



Thank you for bringing back John Griffin's Hot Properties column. Along with Bruce VanWyngarden's column, John Branston's City Beat, and Jackson Baker's politics column, the Memphis Flyer is the best read in town. Many thanks to everyone at the Flyer for delivering an excellent newspaper week after week.

Victoria Lee


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