Mr. Tony Lawson
General Manager/Program Director
P.O. Box 27568
Knoxville TN 37927
Dear Mr. Lawson,
I have been listening to WDVX regularly for several years and have consistently supported the station’s fund drives. Last week I purchased a ticket for Mr. Freddy Smith’s table at the Hillbilly Ball, since he’s the DJ to whom I listen most often.
And I left early – before Sam Venable, before the Tennessee Sheiks, and before the auction was completed. Why? Because I was so disgusted by the racist conversation at the table, conversation started and maintained by Mr. Smith, and joined in by Mr. Sonny Lee and a man wearing the nametag “Mike” with no last name.
Some of the “highlights” of that conversation included:
- “Those Mexicans are taking over! I was in Dalton the other week, and do you know the signs in the WalMart there are in Spanish!” (Smith)
- “Preach it, brother; they’ve about put me out of business.” (Mike)
- “You know those mill owners go down to Mexico and bring back busloads of ’em.” (Smith)
- “They don’t pay taxes, put five or six families in a two-bedroom trailer, and have more babies so they can get on TennCare.” (Lee)
- “I’m not a racist, I got nothing against people of other races, but these Mexicans, they may work for cheap, but people are starting to learn that they don’t know nothing about quality.” (Smith)
I tried, once, to redirect the conversation. I was ignored, and the three of them talked right over me. At that point, I left the table and left the event.
Mr. Lawson, the United States of America is a country primarily made up of immigrants and their descendants. This kind of rhetoric has been used against every wave of immigrants (including involuntary ones) since the nation was founded:
- Benjamin Franklin wrote, “Why should Pennsylvania, founded by the English, become a Colony of Aliens, who will shortly be so numerous as to Germanize us instead of our Anglifying them, and [who] will never adopt our Language or Customs, any more than they can acquire our Complexion?”
- In the mid-1800s signs in public places read “No dogs or Irishmen” and “No Irish Need Apply.”
- Jim Crow laws and policies after the Civil War eventually sparked the Civil Rights movement.
- Anti-Chinese sentiment in the late 1800s led to the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882.
- Anti-Italian rhetoric flourished from the 1880s through the 1920s, and to some extent continues today with the Mafia/gangster stereotype.
- There was anti-German sentiment in the years surrounding the two World Wars
- There was even the shameful use of internment camps to imprison Americans of Japanese and Italian descent during World War II.
And yet, none of those groups seems to have caused the downfall of European-based American society (this isn’t the place to get into the destruction of Native American culture by European colonists), and most people look back on those beliefs and laws as unenlightened.
I believe in free thought and free speech. Mr. Smith is welcome to hold what opinions he pleases, but I am not obligated to listen to or support them. I am certain that you would not permit this sort of prejudice to be promulgated on the air, and I hope you would not encourage it in an on-the-job setting, even off the air.
Given Mr. Smith’s remarks in a public setting where he was effectively representing his employer, I can no longer, in good conscience, listen to his morning show.
I am currently rather less inclined to support WDVX as a whole. I hope to be able to reconsider that stance upon hearing from you that you have addressed the issue.
Janet D. Miles CPS/CAP
[address and phone]
cc: Mr. Roger Harb, Underwriting and Marketing Director
Mr. Bill Miller, Business Manager