Opinion: Don't fuel the fire when it comes to conflicts on racism
"You know how it feels to say something you think is funny and then realize later that it hurts people? Now imagine saying something like that on the air, and hurting lots of people. What does that feel like?

Radio personalities Bob Lester and Mark Colavecchio of the Bob & Mark show on KWHL will tell you it feels terrible. It’s taken months to make it right, they said in a press conference on Wednesday.

It began in May, when Rochene Rowan-Hellén, who is Alaska Native, was listening to their show in her car and happened to catch a radio comedy skit called "Cash for Tlingits." Bob and Mark are not known for being politically correct, but the skit took it too far, she said. It was more than off color, it was cruel and degrading, tapping into a current of anti-Native feelings in the city. She fired off an e-mail to the press and Alaska Native leaders. She was tired of Alaska Natives being the butt of the joke.

At this point, something predictable could have happened, along the lines of what happened to KBFX personalities Woody and Wilcox, who made a similar on-air gaffe in 2008. That provoked rebuke statewide, from the Alaska Federation of Natives, to the mayor, to the Anchorage School District. The dee-jays were suspended and ordered to sensitivity training. And people whispered that Alaska Natives couldn’t take a joke.

Rowan-Hellén didn’t want it to go that way. Humiliating Bob and Mark wasn’t going to make them see things from her point of view, she said.

“I didn’t want to see things done in anger because I was angry,” she said."

Get the Story:
Julia O'Malley: When the conflict is race, don't feed the fire (The Anchorage Daily News 9/1)