Racial tensions caused by individuals

To the editor:

For the past three weeks there has been an ongoing debate about race relations in the Record, and personally I think race relations can be improved. However, if our end is to improve race relations at Williams, we must be careful in how we go about doing this.

We can not misinterpret situations.

The current debate was sparked by Timothy Karpoff’s article “Lessons Learned from C-League.” The article was about how a basketball game signified a problem with race relations on this campus. I was the referee of that basketball game, and Timothy wrote, “Anyway the game began and as things progressed it seemed that they were getting almost every call. Our guy would miss a lay up in traffic and there would be no call. Their guy would miss a put back and the whistle would blow. I looked over and the referee was also a black guy. He had refereed an earlier game of mine and I thought he had done an excellent job and was quite capable. This game seemed quite out of character for him.”

Timothy is basically calling me a racist. He claims that I am only capable of refereeing games between white teams and that I change character when refereeing a game between a white team a black team. This is false.

Timothy misinterpreted the situation. Timothy’s team lost a basketball game because they did not play well enough to win. However, he thought he lost because the other team and I were black. His thought process created a racial conflict that did not exist. This reveals how problems with race relations can develop. The problem is the way people can think. His whiteness gave him access to an excuse for losing a basketball game; that excuse was the blackness of myself and the other team. His notion is false. However, his notion is true to him, and this causes racial tension between me and him. If we want to improve race relations, we can not misinterpret these situations.

We can not misrepresent individuals.

In the March 2nd edition of the Record Timothy wrote another article about race relations. In “Race Relations on Campus” he wrote, “Before the first article was printed, I had a conversation with Junior Reid, the referee, in the weight room. I told him what I had written and what it said about him. He agreed with me the game was disturbing and said that it was fine to print the article. Whether or not he was actually biased in officiating the game is not the point.”

Yes, I had a conversation with Timothy; he told me he was writing an article about the basketball game. However, he did not tell me he was going to make me out to be a racist. I did agree with him that the basketball game was disturbing, but I found the game disturbing because of the nature of competition. When I referee basketball games the competition gets so intense that at times people are on the verge of fighting other players, and sometimes even me. I thought Timothy’s article would speak about the competitive nature of this college.

Now, if you combine statements Timothy made in this article with the statements he made, regarding the basketball game, in “Lessons from C-League,” it depicts a picture that I agreed with everything he said in “Lessons from C-League.” This is false. I do not agree with almost all of the statements he makes in the article but people may have read that article and thought that I did.

This is the problem we risk when we speak for individuals. We sometimes misrepresent them. Race relations at Williams can be improved. Race relations should be improved. However, we can not achieve this goal if we misinterpret situations and misrepresent individuals, because such actions can only damage race relations.

Ralston A. Reid, Jr. ’00