Thursday, February 02, 2006

About the New York Times's racist silence on Coretta Scott King

I want to give a shout and a thanks to C.I. Now there's any number of reasons on any number of days for me to do that. But this is specifically regarding this:

From the war to Coretta Scott King. We have a a highlight but before we get to that . . . Does the New York Times believe that Coretta Scott King's passing didn't matter?
This week Wendy Wasserstein passed away and it was a tragedy. On the day the New York Times front paged their article on Wasserstein, they also featured a lengthy editorial (signed by Gail Collins). One would assume, with Coretta Scott King's historical significance (a level few ever reach but she did), that at the minimum she would receive the same level of coverage as a playwright. That still hasn't happened. The Times editorial board either doesn't appear to know King died or they just don't care. In addition to refusing to run an editorial on King's passing, there have been no op-eds on her passing. It's not Bob Herbert's job (as the only African-American columnist on the op-ed pages of the Times) to cover every 'Black' issue so the Times doesn't have to be bothered. Coretta Scott King is historical for every race in this country. And let's not pretend Herbert covers Coretta Scott King today. He doesn't. He opens with a quote by her and she's not mentioned again until the second to last paragraph of a 21 paragraph column. The Times can't pretend that was a column about Coretta Scott King. (Check my math and I'm including the quote that opens the column as a paragraph.)
Exactly when will the New York Times get around to noting that Coretta Scott King passed away. Was she not friends with Gail Collins? Is that the criteria for getting an editorial on your passing written? At present, they have noted her death with only one article (which they did front page) and her passing is mentioned in a column today by Herbert (a column that's not about her life or her passing -- it's a state of the world column).
Now maybe some people missed it, but they want the King Center to be turned over to the government, the paper does. No surprise there, we noted that here before the editorial made it into the paper (ahead of the editorial by many days, I believe five or six days ahead of the editorial being printed). What to do with property, on that they have something to say. With regards to Coretta Scott King, they're strangely silent.

I asked Mike about it and he said C.I. and him were talking about this yesterday and C.I. thought, "Okay, they're in love with the official talk, so day after the State of the Union, that's all their editorials will be about." So C.I. waited to see what happened the day after that day.

Still nothing. Mike said when he called C.I. today, C.I. was especially furious that the paper found the time to editorialize today on the Oscars but not on Coretta Scott King.

I've talked about this before (at my old site) and Betty and I've talked about it in roundtables at The Third Estate Sunday Review (probably Ty weighed in as well) but whether it's online or in print, African-Americans do look to see if we're included. Are our stories covered? Are our historic moments noted?

If they aren't, we know it's really not an inclusive paper or TV show or website. We can take a hint and we don't use those resources in large numbers as a result of the hints dropped.

It's 2006 and C.I. has to remind the New York Times of Coretta Scott King's historical importance. That's really shameful on the part of the paper. It'll be interesting to see if anyone else bothers to pick up the drumbeat or if they all act like, "Oh, that's not really important." You can tell who really is inclusive by what they determine is "important."

If really are all in this together, then our actions need to demonstrate that. And doing an editorial on a playwright, any playwright, dying but then ignoring the death of Coretta Scott King doesn't say much about you. The New York Times should be embarrassed and ashamed that they still haven't devoted an editorial or an op-ed to Coretta Scott King's death.

They may feel it's not racism but what is racism but ignorance?

They can editorialize about the King Center but they don't have a word for Coretta Scott King?

I was disappointed in Bob Herbert's op-ed (no link since you have to pay to read their op-eds) but just because he's African-American doesn't mean it's his job to write about Mrs. King. I know Betty's going to pick up on this topic and Mike will too but this is racist. A historical figure dies and the paper's editorials and op-eds don't bother to cover it. A playwright who was friends with Gail Collins (the editor of the paper's editorial pages) dies and she gets a lengthy editorial penned by Collins. It goes without saying that the playwright was White.

This happened with John H. Johnson's death as well. And I'm getting real tired of having to depend on The Common Ills to be the one calling out racism. Don't get me wrong, I love C.I. for it. But I really don't think this is something that only one person in the world can notice. Time and again, it falls on C.I. to speak about what no one notices or doesn't want to talk about.

On the plus side, that's why the community has such a large number of African-American members. Probably why the community has such a large number of people of color to begin with. The Common Ills never winked "Whites Only," it's always been a site that's been welcoming.

I'll give you an example. In April, C.I. asked members who spoke Spanish to find a periodical they could endorse and a committee of members was set up for that. They've yet to find a periodical they could all agree on. They've come close but so far, they're still looking. As they've looked, Democracy Now! has begun offering their headlines in Spanish. As soon as that happened, the committee decided that might be a weekly entry (and it has been). So three members of the committe (Maria, Francisco or Miguel) take responsibility for compiling headlines in Spanish and English once a week. That may be all the committee can ever come up with. A periodical should be of the left and it should represent all equally (from Honduras to Mexico, from Spain to Puerto Rico, go down the list) and they've examined a number of them but always found the suggestion lacking. (So much so that they're even floating the idea, which C.I. says is fine, of just picking a mainstream periodical that's in Spanish.) But that's the sort of thing that C.I. thinks about and doesn't wait for it to become an issue.

It's why if you send in something to highlight, C.I. always asks that if it's important to you (and not just something you found "interesting") that you say that in your e-mail. C.I. doesn't pretend to know everything, every issue or every person, and sometimes the people that the majority know the least about are the people we really should know about.

Thanks to Elaine who called me earlier this evening and advised me to save this entry before attempting to publish it. She and Mike had huge problems with Blogger and Rebecca couldn't even log in. I was able to save it, I wasn't able to publish it. Hopefully, I can publish it now. Like Rebecca, Betty's been unable to log in. I called C.I. and no problems on that end but C.I.'s immersed in the Church Committee entry and redoing whole sections on the advice of friends the entry was shown to today. Look for that at The Common Ills (hopefully tonight) because the section C.I. read me over the phone was pretty powerful.


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