Words hurt

Published 9:08 am Friday, February 6, 2009

David Benton may not have come off as the most culturally sensitive man during his public interview for a position on the city’s school board Tuesday night, but that hardly makes him a racist.

The nominee’s comments about “ghetto-style” clothing and chicken dinners raised a few hackles in the black community here. Admittedly, certain connotations can be drawn from his comments, but no one interviewed dare called Benton, a well-respected member of the Franklin community, a racist.

That’s because he’s probably not. Saying anything to the contrary is a stretch.

We encourage you to check out the audio files of the interviews at www.thetidewaternews.com and decide for yourself.

Here’s where Benton went wrong: Instead of admitting that his comments may have been taken the wrong way and apologizing if they had been, he defiantly stood by his statements and labeled those who may have been hurt by them as “overly sensitive.”

Were they being overly sensitive? Maybe.

Should he have said that? No way.

Benton should have taken a moment to understand how words, however benign we think them at the time, can cut deeply and sharply, especially when it comes to an issue so sensitive such as race and stereotyping.