Saturday, July 25, 2009

Awful NYT article on race (whodathunkit)

A couple of quotes from this NYT article, written on the occasion of the arrest of Professor Gates. The basis of the article: "interviews", "Web postings" and "television talk shows", with "blacks and others", all of whom are for some reason white collar professionals.

“No matter how much education you have as a person of color, you still can’t escape institutional racism,” said H., a sports and entertainment lawyer in Chicago who is black. “That’s what the issue is to me.”
Institutional racism aimed at poorly educated blacks? Not much of an issue for him. Well, hey, the NYT tells me that this guy is black. Who am I to question his reflections on race relations?

The second quote comes from:
C., 37, a white cardiologist who lives in Hyde Park, is married to a black man and said that she could not count how many times people had interrupted the two over the years to ask her, quietly, “Is this man bothering you?”
Given a description like that, you just know that we're dealing with a white liberal with enlightened views on race. Let's see what she has for us:
“Even here in this diverse area I’ve heard people say, ‘Look at those black guys coming toward us.’ I say, ‘Yes, but they’re wearing lacrosse shorts and Calvin Klein jeans. They’re probably the kids of the professor down the street.’ ”

“You have to be able to discern differences between people,” she said, criticizing the practice of racial profiling. “It’s very frustrating.”
Seriously: "lacrosse" and "Calvin Klein". The moral of the story: look deeper than the colour of a kid's skin, and check whether he's a walking parody of bourgeois whiteness. Or: before you go around judging black people, make sure you internalize the fact that Carlton Banks is not a gangster.

I've omitted the names of the interviewees, because this isn't really about them. While their statements are dripping with classist ugliness, they're just random schmucks and I have no reason to expect better from them.

On the other hand, I would like to be able to expect better content from the NYT. I would like an article like this to be written by reporters who realize that they might want to do more than just pick up some random comments from black (or married-to-black) members of the professional class. But I guess maybe this is what passes as insightful journalism in mainstream American news nowadays.

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