Community Strange Fruit

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The fallout continues from Halloween, when University of Louisville President James Ramsey and his staff posed for a photograph at a U of L party wearing stereotypical “Mexican” costumes. The photo went viral, and a few written apologies were issued, but they’ve been lacking.

This week, an open letter was sent to Ramsey and the school’s board of trustees calling for a more robust response from the university president. It was signed by 78 faculty members and co-authored by one of our guests this week, David Owen, chair of the philosophy department. (Our co-host, Kaila Story, also signed the letter.)

Meanwhile, a group of students spent 30 hours coming up with a plan of action and a list of demands to present to Ramsey and the school. This week, Ramsey granted them a meeting, but he would only allow eight students in (and none of their faculty advisers) and only gave them half an hour, according to student accounts.

Tania Avalos was one of those eight students, and she joins us to talk about what happened at the meeting. She says Ramsey dominated the meeting and didn’t seem to want to listen to them. When they interrupted and asked him to hear them out, she says, Ramsey questioned their level of education and the way their mothers raised them. “He just insulted us,” Avalos says, “and he didn’t allow us to talk.”

“We were trying to explain to him from the beginning how Mexicans have been oppressed in this country,” Avalos says, “and he interrupted and said, ‘You know what? You think you know everything.'”

“He actually said, ‘If my god forgave me, I’m sure that you guys can, too,'” she says.

We’ll keep you posted on this story as it continues to develop. The board of trustees has yet to publicly comment on the letter from faculty.

Also this week, Kentucky Public Radio’s Capitol Bureau Chief Ryland Barton joins us to help interpret the results of this week’s general election. Governor-elect Matt Bevin has promised to repeal the expansion of Medicaid in Kentucky, causing 400,000 low-income Kentuckians a disruption in health insurance. But it’s not yet clear whether he can do that through executive order or will be forced to go through the legislature.

And in our feature interview this week, we speak to Carol Anderson. She’s an associate professor of African-American Studies and history at Emory University, and was in town to deliver the 9th Annual Anne Braden Memorial Lecture.

Anderson’s speech focused on what she calls “white rage” and was built from an essay she wrote for the Washington Post during the height of the unrest in Ferguson, Mo. We talk about the different manifestations of racism in our society, including one of the most incisive takedowns of voter ID laws we’ve ever heard.

Laura oversees WFPL's podcast strategy and produces Curious Louisville, where listeners submit questions and our reporters find out the answers.