The Tilghman Affair

January 21, 2008

It seems fitting, on this Martin Luther King Day, that we publish a few of the many letters we've received on the Kelly Tilghman affair.  To suggest that you're not in agreement on the matter is an understatement. To some of you it's just political correctness run amok. To others, a sober reminder of a vicious American past. These letters reflect that division. But before we get to the first, let me recommend a column by Michael Wilbon in the Washington Post. Michael hits it squarely on the head, as far as I'm concerned.

Many of you were sympathetic to those who applauded Tilghman's suspension and some of you to Pete McDaniel's column that demanded more. One was Robert Legg of Greensboro, Georgia:

Pete McDaniel asks us to let the word "lynch" linger in our minds and see the image it evokes. Having seen the > Without Sanctuary exhibition I can tell you that it evokes far more than a poor soul hanging from a tree: The photographs of gleeful whites, men and women, looking on as though it was mere entertainment, are sickening. How blacks can view the same photographs without experiencing something close to uncontrollable rage is beyond me. And I am left with this question: is Kelly Tilghman simply ignorant or is she stupid? As McDaniel says, there is nothing remotely humorous about the word "lynch."

Many others were not. One, Earl Faulkner, Sr., contrasted the moving Golf World cover story on Bill Spiller, with what you saw as "political correctness" in the Tilghman affair:

On the one hand I finished reading Barkow's, "The Tragedy of Bill Spiller" with tears streaming down my face and on the other hand, frowning and grimacing as I struggled through McDaniel's, "Another Painful Lesson".

Al Barkow's cover story is so very appropriate, timely, and perfectly positioned for the progress America has made relative to race relations, while Mr. McDaniel seems bitterly absorbed in the ugliness of a past from which most of us have moved on.

Rather than drag society's progress backward a hundred years by agitating about lynchings, why can't Mr. McDaniel be encouraged to assume the attitude of Tiger Woods who chose to make little out of the comment by Kelly Tilghman.  Woods no doubt realized Ms. Tilghman has probably no intrinsic understanding of the "L" word; however, the same can not be said for Mr. McDaniel; that guy sounds as though it is still 1882.

And many of you were outraged that so much was made of Tilghman's comment.