Oh dear. I’ll just simply forward this, Rutledge-style, “without any comment.”
Judith Gardner, who wrote the offensive email that Leslie Rutledge copy and pasted and passed on to co-workers, sends a statement to Jason Tolbert: “Anybody who infers that this story is racist is on shaky ground. Nowhere does it describe the individual’s ethnicity or identity. Any implication of racism comes not from the story but from the reader’s unfamiliarity with literary technique.” Here, again, is the story in question. Garner also notes that she has told stories on “Tales from the South.” Here is an example of her telling a story on that program, told in a significantly different dialect than the e-mail Rutledge forwarded.
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Here is Gardner’s full statement sent to Tolbert:
Here is a statement confirming that I am the author of the email entitled, “Prayer for Miz Judith.” I hope it helps to clear up any misunderstandings and misperceptions.
I, Judith Gardner, am the author of the email entitled “Prayer for Miz Judith,” not Leslie Rutledge.
Anybody who infers that this story is racist is on shaky ground. Nowhere does it describe the individual’s ethnicity or identity. Any implication of racism comes not from the story but from the reader’s unfamiliarity with literary technique, as I explain in the following paragraph.
In 2005, I moved to Arkansas from California and immediately fell in love with Arkansans and southerners in general. I started to write about all the people and experiences I’ve had acclimating to southern culture. I have read three of my stories on Tales from the South, the popular NPR radio show, that reflect how the southern soul imprinted itself on me and changed my life. (Google YouTube Tales from the South Judith Gardner). In each of these stories, I use the southern vernacular as a literary device to more deeply capture the nature of the characters. “Miz Judith” is a true story that was one of the most spiritually powerful, humbling experiences of my life. Never intended as a literary work, and not one of the NPR selections, I simply sent it out to all my friends to share with them God’s love, power and grace that these people brought to me.
A lifelong democrat, my first experience with civil rights came when I was four-years-old. My parents were approached one day by neighbors who were seeking signatures on a petition to prevent a Japanese family from buying the house across the street from us. These neighbors cloaked their post-war hatred of the Japanese under the guise of protecting their property values. My father told them that he wouldn’t sign it because his “principles are more important than my property values.” The prospective buyer was an American-born man of Japanese descent who was one of the soldiers in the United States Army Nisei special battalion—the most valorous and highly decorated battalion in the entire European Theater. Even if he hadn’t been a hero, he was a U.S. citizen with the same rights as any of us. The Associated Press picked up the story and it went worldwide. My parents received letters from around the globe, lauding them on their courageous stand.
My brother and I were ostracized by the entire neighborhood and although my parents could ill-afford it at the time, they put me in private nursery school to protect me from their poison.
I knew, even then, I would always fight for justice and equality.
I started working for civil rights as a teenager, participating in everything from freedom marches to demonstrations in the Delano fields with Cesar Chavez, and continued to dedicate my life to advancing the candidates and causes of the democratic party. Since that time, I contributed endless hours and dollars to democratic candidates whom I believed were aligned with the egalitarian ideals of the democratic party. I was as staffer on the 2006 Beebe campaign, an officer with Pulaski County Democratic Women, a member of the National Federation of Democratic Women, am currently an active member of Pulaski County Democratic Committee, and have hosted and contributed to countless democratic candidate fundraising campaigns.
Leslie Rutledge was one of the first people who embraced and welcomed me into a diverse circle of wonderful Arkansas friends. We have spent many hours in prayer and fellowship together. Although our political views differ on many fronts, I have always found her to be a woman of courage, loyalty, and a brilliant creative mind who can cut through deception faster and more precisely than anyone I know.
I am now calling upon God’s guidance for the same grace and justice that the people in the story of Miz Judith gave me and pray that this same spirit of healing will touch everyone who has been affected by these horrible misinterpretations of each others’ motives.