The Daily Illini

Editorial | Response to The News-Gazette’s Dennis Toeppen redemption article

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Editorial | Response to The News-Gazette’s Dennis Toeppen redemption article

By The Daily Illini Editorial Board

The News-Gazette gave Dennis Toeppen his redemption narrative on Thursday, less than a week after the Suburban Express owner made “controversial” statements.

It’s all there in the headline, “Jim Dey: Controversial Suburban Express owner: ‘I want every passenger I can get’.” Shameless self-promotion, clickbait and protection for the historically xenophobic and racist Toeppen.

Dey starts with a brief introduction describing the aftermath and subsequent apologies as a result of Suburban Express’ holiday email. “His sin? He sent an email message to potential customers that listed reasons to use his Suburban Express bus service,” Dey writes.

Well, that’s one way to describe the email that started it all; the Suburban Express Christmas email that stated, “You won’t feel like you’re in China when you’re on our buses.”

It is relevant to note that Toeppen’s “sin” also included both sending two mock apologies and dismissing the countless accusations of racism and discrimination the company received in response to its initial email. The article also claims the racist remarks were simply an “unflattering reference” to the 6,000 Chinese students enrolled at the University. Unflattering? Discrimination is many things — hurtful, wrong, and backward thinking come to mind. But unflattering? That’s naivety.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has launched an investigation into Suburban Express on the company’s potential violation of the Human Rights Act, which Dey notes in his article. But that surely doesn’t matter because Toeppen is simply, “a fish out of water, a bird who flies into the wind, socially awkward.”

The last time we checked, being eccentric does not equate to, or excuse, being racist. Toeppen may be socially awkward, but, first and foremost, he is a racist.

Dey also takes the opportunity to describe Toeppen’s history of bigotry and xenophobia as a “case of foot-in-mouth disease.” Decades of inappropriate, racist behavior does not strike us as accidental, or a couple of isolated unfortunate blunders. Decades of discriminatory actions should not be excused, especially not on the basis of a quirky personality.

In his obviously biased news story, Dey frames Toeppen as a harmless, bumbling, socially awkward owner of a successful bus company. The article is a slap in the face to those negatively affected by Toeppen’s overtly xenophobic emails.

Sure, perhaps Toeppen has the right to share his side of the story, but he did nothing to deserve this redemption article. Perhaps because he is a moderately successful white male, people, including Jim Dey, are willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Regardless, Toeppen remains a morally corrupt business man in our eyes, and in the eyes of those his remarks affected.

Jim Dey, and editors at The News-Gazette, should be ashamed.