Racist Readers Need Not Apply


Reprinted from Houstonia magazine

RECENTLY, we heard about a doctor in Tomball who, like many of his ilk, has a waiting room in his office. In that waiting room, just as in the waiting rooms of many, many physicians in our area, you can often find an issue of Houstonia. And if you can’t find one, there’s a good chance that someone has slipped it into a purse or pocket, this being the sort of magazine whose qualities have often enough seduced upstanding, law-abiding citizens into lives of crime.

Still, the remarkable thing about the disappearance of our June issue from Dr. Tomball’s waiting room is not that it was snatched improperly, but that Dr. Tomball himself was behind the improper snatching. This he did, by all accounts, not for the usual reason, i.e., to selfishly reserve its literary glories for himself. Nor was he motivated by a desire to protect his patients from said glories, an impulse we see on occasion, however rarely.

No, Dr. Tomball’s action was apparently provoked by something he saw on the very first page of our June issue, in an advertisement by the Ashton Martini Group, a residential real estate agency. The ad, you may recall, featured a family of five Houstonians—a husband and wife, and the couple’s three children—relaxing in the living room of their home. To the lion’s share of our readership, one imagines, such a tableau must have looked almost aggressively typical. Perhaps they observed that the husband is black, the wife is white, and the couple’s three adorable children biracial, but that’s all it was for most, an observation.

Not so Dr. Tomball, who on May 26 sent an email to the Ashton Martini Group registering his disapproval. The note, which I have seen, carries the subject “Disgusting Ad,” and explains: “Your ad in the June Houstonia magazine is DISGUSTING! I will not put this magazine in my reception area! If you care to discuss this,” the note concluded, “I am available.”

As it happens, we did care to discuss this with Dr. Tomball, who oddly was not available when we attempted to make contact.

Exactly one week later, we heard from a second man, this time a resident of the Memorial area, who called to say that although he usually likes Houstonia, he “just can’t go for racial mixing.” The caller—identifying himself only as Fred—voiced his concern that children might see the ad and “get it into their heads that this is okay.” To ensure that that did not happen, the man informed us that he’d taken our June issue straight from the mailbox to the trash can, although he declined our invitation to cancel his subscription altogether. He counts himself among this magazine’s fans, he told us.

Well, we are not fans of him. Indeed, if Memorial Fred ever finds the courage to call and give us his full name, we will remove him from our subscription rolls immediately. I’m not sure if Dr. Tomball is a fan of this publication or not. I do know that if so, he will have to go get it himself, as we will no longer be sending copies to his office. Houstonia’s championing of diversity does not extend to bigots, and while we are by definition dedicated to discovering the best things about this city, we’ll never ignore the worst. On the contrary, our magazine’s mission is to maintain standards of quality always and everywhere, in burgers, in bike trails and in readers, Dr. Tomball included.

And if he cares to discuss this, I am available.

Scott Vogel


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