Dan O’Donnell uses The New York Times’ own editorials to illustrate the hypocrisy of The Times’ editorial board in hiring and defending Sarah Jeong
August 8, 2018
Special Guest Perspective By Dan O’Donnell
“I find nothing more useless than debating the existence of racism, particularly when you are surrounded by evidence of its existence,” Charles M. Blow opined on the editorial page of The New York Times this past January. “It feels to me like a way to keep you fighting against the water until you drown.”
Amen, brother. It is indeed rather useless to debate the existence of racism when there is just so much evidence of it—years and years of tweets even.
Yet The New York Times has spent the better part of a week claiming that the obvious racism of the newest member of its editorial board, technology writer Sarah Jeong, isn’t actually racism at all.
“Racism,” Blow explained in The Times, “is simply the belief that race is an inherent and determining factor in a person’s or a people’s character and capabilities, rendering some inferior and others superior. These beliefs are racial prejudices.”
Would, one wonders, beliefs such as “#CancelWhitePeople,” “White men are bulls***,” and “dumbaa** f***ing white people marking up the internet with their opinions like dogs pissing on fire hydrants” qualify as racial prejudices?
Not according to Mr. Blow’s employer, which dismissed Jeong’s rather obvious hatred of white people (particularly white men) as a response to…the awfulness of white people (particularly white men).
“Her journalism and the fact that she is a young Asian woman have made her a subject of frequent online harassment,” The Times said in a statement. “For a period of time she responded to that harassment by imitating the rhetoric of her harassers.”
Jeong’s anti-white racism, you see, was just a response to the white racism she faced and, well, two wrongs apparently now make a right.
This is dishonest on its face, as investigative journalist Nick Monroe uncovered more than five years’ worth of tweets in which Jeong spewed anti-white bile that was obviously not in response to any racist trolling.
Moreover, years’ worth of New York Times editorial writing about the nature of racism illustrates just how disingenuous and hypocritical the editorial board’s acceptance of Jeong’s racism really is.
“[M]any have been under the grand illusion that America is a ‘post-racial’ nation, a beautiful melting pot where racism is only sporadic, infrequent and expressed by those on the margins of an otherwise mainstream and ‘decent’ America,” wrote George Yancy. “That’s a lie; a blatant one at that. We must face a very horrible truth. And America is so cowardly when it comes to facing awful truths about itself.”
How right he is: The horrible truth about America is that its ultra-mainstream “newspaper of record” now has an open racist on its editorial board. It denies this, of course, but that denial is rather predictable for racists.
“When our reality is too ugly, we deny reality,” Ibrahim X. Kendi noted on The Times’ opinion page. “It is too painful to look at. Reality is too hard to accept. This denial of racism is the heartbeat of racism.”
Yes it is, and the Times’ denial of its new tech editor’s racism, according The Times’ own opinion page, forms the very essence of its inherent racism. And to make matters worse, exposure to racism in media is quite literally making us sick.
Last November, Harvard Medical resident Douglas Jacobs wrote in The Times that even “perceptions of discrimination consistently predicted slower declines in cortisol level throughout the day, which is associated with obesity, depression, decreased immune function, cancer and death.”
“We shouldn’t need the specter of disease to denounce hatred in all its forms,” he continued. “Racism, bigotry, sexism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, homophobia, xenophobia, should have no place in our society. But the illness associated with discrimination adds injury to insult and magnifies the suffering of these times.”
It sure does, which would explain why The Times’ defense of Jeong is making so many people nauseous. Are the paper’s editors, managers, and writers there so insulated in their self-affirming bubble that they can’t see that defending a racist makes them racist, too?
After all, contributing editorial writer Margaret Renkl wrote just last week that over-reliance on one source of news can in fact make one a racist.
“Maybe this is what happens when a person’s only ‘news’ source is the alternative universe of ‘Fox & Friends,’” she sneered. “Or maybe they’re all just racists. O.K., they’re definitely all racists.”
This, she argued, is because they see people of different races as “the other,” heightening their primitive tribal instincts.
“Prejudice is endemic to humanity itself,” she explained. “Human beings are tribal creatures — we trust the familiar and are drawn to it; we distrust the unfamiliar and keep our distance.”
Is this why Jeong tweeted “oh man it’s kind of sick how much joy I get out of being cruel to old white men?” And is this feedback loop at The New York Times why her new bosses don’t view this rather blatant prejudice as a problem?
Maybe they’re just indifferent to it, but as George Yancy lamented on The Times’ editorial page in April, “that indifference is itself a cruel reality, a reality that often makes me want to scream at the top of my lungs until I fall flat on my face from exhaustion. That indifference makes me sick to my stomach.”
Maybe, despite rational people screaming at the top of their lungs that prejudicial and hateful opinions about any group of people (including white people) is in fact bigotry, The New York Times is perfectly fine with it. Maybe bigotry against the right group of people is perfectly acceptable. Maybe, despite editorial after editorial decrying the tolerance for racism in America, racism in America’s most venerated newspaper will actually be tolerated by that paper’s publisher and editors.
Or maybe, to quote one of Sarah Jeong’s new colleagues, they’re all just racists.