“More perspectives would have made for a better column.”

[Trigger warning: discussion of sexual assault, re: Sandusky and Penn State]

On Wednesday, one of my favorite minds and writers, Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote an op-ed for the New York Times explaining why he thinks the Paterno statue at Penn State’s football stadium should remain standing despite what we know about Paterno enabling Sandusky to continue preying on and raping children.

I had some problems with Coates’ op-ed, mainly that it did not consider the perspective of Sandusky’s victims or victims of sexual assault more generally. I wrote a piece for Shakesville saying so and it also went up on Wednesday (edited brilliantly by Melissa McEwan, who runs the blog, and influenced greatly by a piece my friend Garland Grey wrote for Shakesville earlier in the week).

My friend, T. F. Charlton, posted my piece in the comments of TNC’s blog and TNC replied, acknowledging that, while he did not agree with everything in my piece, he did fail to take on the perspectives of victims.

Then today, after PSU announced that the statue would be removed today, TNC wrote another post about all of this. In it, he very nicely quotes my piece and then says:

I continue to be concerned about public historiography, but that all feels really abstract when you’re talking about a victim of child rape. To carry forth my original analogy, whatever my thoughts on Ben Tillman, it would take a cold heart to make academic points to the families of lynching victims from the confines of the writer’s comfy offices.

As for my part, I try to see as much as I can. But I miss things. More perspectives would have made for a better column.

It’s always nice whenever someone acknowledges that your writing has altered their thinking. For that person today to be TNC, wow.

More than anything, though, I am VERY pleased that PSU took the statue down. It was the right decision.


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