Letter from the Editor: Black lives matter, and we must show that they do.

Egregious isn’t a strong enough word

Letter from the Editor: Black lives matter, and we must show that they do.

Black lives matter. 

The first time I spoke with Tamir Harper was in 2018 for an interview for The Eagle. I was writing a story about him and the work he’s done to advocate for improving public education through the Philadelphia-based nonprofit he co-founded, UrbEd.

He is kind, smart and talented. Harper, the editor-in-chief of The Blackprint, demonstrated that kindness when he agreed to have the publication collaborate with The Eagle on a feature story about Black artists at American University. In 2019, the two publications teamed up on a project about Black student-athletes.

The misnaming of Harper in The Eagle’s newsletter was not a misspelling. There was no extra letter placed where it did not belong. The last name was entirely wrong, and it was the last name of Tamir Rice, a Black 12-year-old who was killed in 2014 by a police officer in Cleveland. 

When Black lives are lost, it is not only devastating because of the years the person had ahead of them. It’s also devastating because there are people who cared for and loved that person. Family members and friends must learn to cope, even though their loved one was suddenly taken away from them.

News reports and video footage of Rice being killed also have a traumatizing impact on Black people. 

The killings of Black people do not just stay with us as names. To hear of them, read about them and view them hurts, and that hurt compounds.

The Eagle should have prevented this from happening. It was a careless error. Beyond egregious. The message the error sent was that Black lives don’t matter; that all Black people look alike; that Black men don’t have their own distinct experiences, talents and ambitions.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve been mistaken for one of my Black peers. Black people are misnamed all the time, and it is unacceptable. I am so sorry for my carelessness.

What The Eagle can do now is work to prevent mistakes like this from happening again. We are adjusting the deadlines for completing drafts of newsletters, so that there is more time to edit them. We are also adding more sets of eyes to edit the newsletter before it is sent out.

Rod Wilson, the Student Media Board adviser, is reaching out to find someone to conduct mandatory implicit bias training for The Eagle’s staff.

We will continue and build upon the work we have already done to improve our coverage of underrepresented students. That includes reaching out to organizations representing students of color to listen to their perspectives and concerns. It also includes being thoughtful about the language that we use to report on the complex array of experiences of Black students. 

Fariha Rahman, The Eagle’s community engagement editor, will continue to pitch stories for our news department about the experiences of students from underrepresented groups. While that is the focus of that position, which The Eagle launched last academic year, the department’s other section editors are also responsible for ensuring we cover the stories of underrepresented students.

This fall, we’re seeking to hire a community outreach director, who will head our retention and recruitment efforts, with a focus on diversifying our staff and making this organization more equitable and inclusive. This student will also write bimonthly Diversity, Equity and Inclusion group updates for our website. The idea for the position was birthed over the summer. 

The Eagle respects The Blackprint’s decision to end our collaboration. We hope to earn their trust, and we realize that process can’t happen overnight.

saustin@theeagleonline.com

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