23 Radical Ideas on Our Back Page 

The Back Page began with a request that readers send us their thoughts, and they did. In February 1985 one asked in an essay, "If God Isn't a Tar Heel Why Did He Make the Sky Carolina Blue?" We had no answer.

But from that first issue, the Back Page has been an important part of our mission to open windows on new and often provocative ideas. Essays have addressed problems and possibilities that need to be given a place on the public agenda, whether or not they are popular. A look back at those ideas reminds us of what we were debating through the years -- and what in many cases continues to be worth discussion.

In 1991 the late Dr. William Regelson asked eloquently why we made it so hard for the dying to get real relief from pain. This is a subject that still needs airing and continues to trouble doctors.

In 1985 John Moeser and Ed Peeples worried about resegregation. Perhaps less urgent but still interesting, in 1991 Mariane Matera related the willingness of women to wear uncomfortable shoes to their acceptance of inequality.

Here are some other Back Pages from the past that still resonate.

1. And Justice for All (March 18, 1986)

Color-coded sentencing in Virginia. In this state, as in much of the South, black defendants don't get equal justice. They are convinced by all-white juries and receive harsher sentences than whites. by Evan D. Hopkins

2. Up in Smoke (June 17, 1986)

One person's search for answers from Philip Morris. Tobacco company executives know the value of advertising. They've created a whole new bad guy: the nonsmoker. by Anne Morrow Donley

3. Handguns: Toys? (Sept. 17, 1991)

There are two major deterrents to intelligent gun control legislation in the United States. One is economic … a second is the powerful, well-financed National Rifle Association lobby. by Mary Tyler Cheek

4. Wilder Sets the Stage (Nov. 12, 1991)

L. Douglas Wilder's name has become synonymous with the ambitious politico who cares more about career advancement than the public interest. by Robert Holsworth

5. Politics of Circumcision (Aug. 4, 1992)

So can you trade a little "joyful experience" for some compassionate and hygienic health benefits for the woman you love? by Mariane Matera

6. Scenes From a Nursing Home (Oct. 13, 1992)

Are we being cruel by refusing to say goodbye? by Mariane Matera

7. Why's That Restaurant Called Hooters? (March 15, 1994)

It's a dangerous message, because at the symbolic core of those advertisements is the same kind of insidious, invisible oppression I grew up with. Women are valued mostly for their bodies. by Susan Ahern

8. Privileged Information (Oct. 15, 1994)

So if you're a white, heterosexual male, stop whining. Why not admit I have white privilege? It doesn't mean I am guilty of every atrocity committed toward people of color. by Ruth Solomon

9. As Ye Sow (Jan. 17, 1995)

Extremists who encourage violence are as guilty as those who kill. Is it just coincidence that during the rise of the Religious Right, hate crimes have skyrocketed? by Lee Carleton

10. The Proof of the Pudding (Feb. 14, 1995)

When the Valentine embarked on a politically correct course, it lost its way. Like the Smithsonian in Washington, it was Richmond's attic, and everybody sensed that its treasures had deep meaning, held precious memories. by Edwin Slipek Jr.

11. Life in Richmond: Reality vs. Popular Surburban Myth (Oct. 24, 1995)

We're all in this together. It's time we realized we are a community. by Catherine Gentry

12. Who Pays the Piper? (May 27, 1997)

The public doesn't pay for American elections. Private interests pay for American elections. So who owns American elections? by Travis Charbeneau

13. Living by Old Ideas (April 14, 1998)

Why can't we run a decent transport or health-care system? Dare we say it? Can taxes (gasp!) be a good thing? by Donella H. Meadows

14. The Gift of Life (Sept. 26, 2000)

The use of frozen human embryos for stem cell research can solve scientific and ethical problems. by William Regelson, M.D., and Dale Stoval, M.D.

15. I Told You So (Jan. 22, 2001)

The results of Gilmore's "No car tax" pledge have come home to roost We should not allow the governor to gut the state budget and necessary agency funding to keep his irresponsible car-tax proposal afloat. by James D. Watkinson

16. Why Is Richmond Underrated? (March 19, 2001)

I can think of a few reasons, most of them having to do with stupidity, incompetence or greed. Outsiders are more likely to hear about incompetence in city government. Could it be that the revitalization of our downtown is retarded by a labyrinth of rules, hurdles and taxes that have been the bane of individuals who try to improve their property in Richmond? by Lee Carleton

17. If You Think Weed Is Bad Try Cancer (June 5, 2001)

Chemo nausea isn't like any other kind of pain. It's relentless. I tried my chemo regimen without weed. Once. by Dan Shapiro

18. Change of Heart (Oct. 2, 2001)

On 9/11, cops and firefighters died while making annual salaries less than it costs to rent some houses in the Hamptons for the Fourth of July. by Michael Ryan

19. Teaching Evolution (Nov. 30, 2005)

There is no scientific evidence that contradicts the modern theory of evolution. None. by Paul Fleisher

20. Crowded and Tired (Aug. 16, 2006)

In order to make profits, the airlines are using what the Wall Street Journal called "small strategies" These include more crowded planes, less legroom for passengers, higher fares, fewer service employees and cancellation of flights. by Rozanne Epps

21. Wishing Won't Make It So (Dec. 27, 2006)

It would be nice to be able to count on the honesty of our public figures. by Rozanne Epps

22. Cut Short (Jan. 3, 2007)

Every murder has a victim, a victim with a name, a human face, a family, a life he or she wanted to live. Here are the 81 people who became murder victims within the city limits in 2006.

23. The Gang of 26 (Oct. 16. 2007)

Under the proposal, this Gang of 26 would enjoy the power to choose, appoint and otherwise install the School Board representatives themselves (with a little help from their friends at City Hall). by Don Harrison

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