The “Barometer” Needs Fixin’: Analysis of a World Herald Editorial On Race by MATTHEW C. STELLY
December 14, 2004
When a newspaper historically known as racist publishes an editorial on race relations, their motives are automatically racist. But in the case of the recent editorial, “Interracial Barometer: A Horrendous Assault Brings Reminder of Decline in One Type of Racial Bigotry,” (December 13th) more was displayed that the newspaper probably intended. Following are my views on this article, an article crammed with lies, historical distortions and the World Herald’s misinformed manifestations of social reality.
This short analysis of that article should serve as the basis of serious study and discussion regarding media credibility (or lack thereof), the role that race plays in analyzing social issues and, as I taught Tom Shaw several months back, the impact that bias has on editorial boards, most of which are lily-white as is the World Herald’s.
The article will also be used as but one more indicator to tourism entities that Omaha is not yet ready to deal with racial diversity.
THE ARTICLE: RACISM AND RELEVANT RESPONSE
Because the Omaha World Herald lacks racial diversity and indeed, uses white women to cover stories in the black community, its journalistic credibility should already be called into question. The fact that they see nothing wrong with this state of affairs is also an indicator of their collective ignorance of race and more importantly, of how the world is changing around them as they apparently opt to stand in place.
The article begins with the following description:
The windows of Joseph Parks’ Massachusetts house were smashed. He then was hit in the head, beaten, dragged to an apartment and stabbed in the chest with a knife. Burning cigarettes were placed on him. Racial slurs were written on his back. He was called a disgrace to his race, thrown out of a vehicle and dragged to the railroad tracks. Why? Park is a white man who once dated a black woman.
What was just described has happened to hundreds of thousands of black men over the years. When it happened in the South, the news media avoided printing these stories for the most part. When it happened in Omaha, the news media, led by the World Herald, did the same thing. In other words, the very institution that was supposed to be committed to providing news to the people was selective in what it chose to print. Why? Because of white racism, that’s why.
Now we have a white man who has been degraded because of his association with a black woman. But the World Herald doesn’t provide context. Was the man killed? Or was this one of those “warnings” that white folks gave their fellow race members for what they called “mongrelizing”? Without informing us of these facts, the World Herald is again showing how piecemeal and partial its reporting and even its editorializing truly is. It makes a big difference if the white man was killed or just beaten badly; it makes a difference how far back the “dating” went and what kind of relationship the two had. Was she his long-time companion? A concubine? A prostitute? What?
With this fundamental truth and contextual set of questions out of the way, journalistic rubrics that even the most defensive and ignorant individual can understand, we can proceed to the following passage:
An appalling story, from which society can take two things. The first is encouragement. Despite the hateful, disgusting display of racism inflicted upon Parks, it’s a story that thankfully has become a rare one told over the years.
First of all, the World Herald is in no position to inform “society” about how many things they can extract from a given story. This is ethnocentrism in its purest form: because these white males say there are two points, that is what every reader is supposed to believe? How about readers who have learned to read critically and can therefore think for themselves? It is not their role to tell the reader how many points a story contains: it is their job to present the story for the reader to glean. They could have wrote, “An appalling story, from which society can gather AT LEAST two points.” But that would have been too much like real journalism, wouldn’t it?
Secondly, the first thing we can take from the story is encouragement. Though Parks was beaten (and we still don’t know how severely), we are supposed to be thankful that this story “has become a rare one told over the years.”
This is called conjecture. Conjecture is, “Reasoning that involves the formation of conclusions from incomplete evidence.” I have already informed the reader of this paper that white newspapers covered up, completely hid or otherwise circumvented stories regarding interracial relationships. So then, how can these nimrods conclude that the race hatred has declined just because the stories have?
As black people, we know about how the white man covers up stories. One white politician who was found dead a few years back was praised about what all he did. What wasn’t mentioned was that he was found in an empty North Omaha house dressed in women’s clothes. The World-Herald decided they didn’t want the public to know. The World Herald itself went out and bought in a polygraph examiner during Hal Daub’s mayoral campaign against Brenda Council and they HID the truth but printed what they wanted the public to know. When a black child was used for a Goodfellows campaign a while back, the World Herald changed the gender and race of the child – because THEY felt it was the right thing to do.
So I am making two points here: first, the World Herald’s track record disqualifies it from making any believable points regarding interracial relationships when they cover up the ones taking place right here in their back yard and secondly, that their conclusion that such incidents are diminishing is “jive-time journalism” and nothing more than an attempt to appease white suburbanites by convincing them that race relations are “getting better.” Racism is alive and, as such, interracial hatred is never going to be “rare.” As Fanon taught, “a racist in a culture of racism is therefore, normal.”
The article continues:
Gone are the days when a black man was lynched for dating, or even speaking to, a white woman. Gone are the days when interracial couples had to go to court to challenge the legality of their marriages. Gone are the days when the majority of people in this country considered the union of people from differing races as wrong.
The World-Herald’s definition of “lynching” is not appropriate and therefore, their conclusion about the diminishing of lynchings is inaccurate. According to the late, great sociologist Oliver C. Cox, in his magnus opus, Caste, Class and Race, a lynching takes place any time a group of white men use their numbers and race to attack a single black man. Is this behavior on the decline?
What about crowds of white boys throwing soda on black men at a basketball game? What about the white judicial system ganging up on young black men and giving them time away from their families? What about white cops who single out black men and ram plungers up their asses (Abner Louima case) or gun them down “by accident” as they did Amadou Diallo? In fact, every cop killing is a lynching because it involves a system (white cop is sanctioned) against a lone black person.
It stands to reason that the World Herald would consider such actions on the decline. The newspaper has historically looked the other way when such “lynchings” occur. They did it when Vivian Strong was killed, did it people like Kellin, Ammons, Bibins were all killed by racist cops. None of them had guns. That was a lynching. So when these white editorial writers talk about “declines” they cannot even make that stick here in Omaha, let alone on the national level!
As for the white woman, perhaps the editors should read my 180-plus page response to a recent article that appeared in Newsweek. The Newsweek article was titled, “The Secret Lives of Wives,” but it missed so many points I had to respond. In like manner what the World Herald doesn’t understand is that the white man has conceded his woman to men of color. He knows what she’s about and she’s sick of him for the most part. True enough, television and movies don’t reflect this reality – yet. But they soon will.
With that understanding, there is no need to lynch a black man for dating or marrying a white woman. That is the white system’s way of getting to “Slaves” for the price of one. In many cases she’s isolated and shunned and forced to live with black folks. In most cases they both work so the system wins. It’s about the money, not about a black man taking one of their blondes away. The fact is, Malcolm X wrote that the act he was most often asked to perform as a pimp was to have sex with a white woman while her husband watched. And this is still going on, right here in Omaha, today. And the World Herald’s editors know it all too well.
The issue of interracial couples having to go to court to challenge the legality of their marriages – this was never a major issue or concern. There were widely publicized cases when it happened (again, the media making sure that these cases were publicized, complete with the addresses of the couple involved), but these people knew who was in charge of the courts: the same white boy who is in charge today. The World Herald is grasping at straws in order to buttress its lies. And they should be ashamed.
But the final lie, the deathblow, is where this team of white men claims that the days are gone when the majority of people in this country “considered the union of people from differing races as wrong.”
Say what? On what planet are these fuddy-duddies residing? Later, in their own essay, these same men write that, “Even today, mixed couples are still subjected to disapproving looks, rude comments and silent, yet noticeable, signals of rejection.” If this is the case, then aren’t those looks a physical manifestation that the person doing the looking considers those relationships “wrong”?
But more profoundly, where is the data that supports this incredible fabrication of reality? How does the World Herald know? On what do they base this contention? Because surely, if those days are gone, then gone too would be the days of white people viewing RACISM as wrong! If white people could stop viewing interracial relationships as wrong, this would mean that they would see nothing wrong with the gradual browning of their race. This would mean that they accept people of color. And this would mean that white racism is on the decline.
Anyone who believes that white people are less racist than they were 400 years ago is either naïve about race relations or a total idiot. These crackers are just more afraid now because black people are not as controlled as we were back then. Their fear fuels their racism as much as their hatred did back then. But the effects are still the same: look at the murders of blacks by white cops, look a the prisons and take a long look atthe black unemployment rate. Racism has not subsided or decreased; it has merely changed (but not in its intensity).
When those days are “gone,” so too will be white folks (as they define themselves today, at least).
But once you have a distorted view of social reality (as evidenced in the World-Herald’s stories on “black progress” that have permeated its pages this year), any conclusion you arrive at is going to be warped. For example note the following excerpt:
The lack of stories like Parks’ is a sign that society has come a long way in its acceptance of interracial unions. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t more to be done. An impetus for growth also can be taken from this story.
The World Herald again errs, much akin to their earlier perceptual mistake: it is not “the lack of stories like Parks’ that is a sign that society has supposedly “come a long way,” it is the lack of reporting and media coverage of these stories that is the flaw. The media wants to “play nice” and not report issues of race against interracial couples because it has to take into consideration the city’s image, the impact on tourism, the politics of the discrimination, the status of the couple being harassed and so on. The World-Herald knows this: they didn’t report those beatings that Daub used to administer to his Asian wife, Cindy, did they?
But even if the World-Herald was correct and the incidents themselves were on the decline, how is this a sign of society coming a long way? This goes back to that white man’s thinking that Gunnar Myrdal helped to create in his study, An American Dilemma. All the time the white man felt that what black people wanted was sex with them when, in reality, interracial sex ranked last among the things blacks wanted. The white man’s fears of interracial sex have always been rooted in the way that his mind works: because he raped black women for centuries, he felt the black man wanted to do the same thing to the white woman. This is how the myth got started and the myth, in turn, fanned the hatred that white men had for black people, in general.
Interracial dating and marriage. This was the first thing that those white boys in South Africa “allowed” when apartheid was crumbling. Not more jobs, not better housing, not more liberal policies toward economic development. No. The first thing they said was, “you may now screw our women.” Look it up. This contention in itself is racist and a definite put-down of black woman, an issue I will address more thoroughly in a few minutes.
Because the newspaper knows it is lying, it has to qualify its claims that America has come a long way. So they add in the worn cliché, “But that doesn’t mean there isn’t more to be done.” The first thing that should be done is that the World-Herald – along with the rest of the American media – should stop lying. White boys in England still refer to white women who date or marry black men as “slags.” College campuses are filled with white women dating black athletes who have to hear the names they are called in doing so. The campus newspaper doesn’t cover these things. The local newspaper, because they need advertisements from the university, don’t address it. But just look at who is used to recruit black athletes: white girls. Black people have known this for years. The white man knew, but he was making money prostituting those coeds, so he kept quiet.
These are but a few facts that should show you, the reader, “there is a great deal to be done.” There is as much to be done today as there was to be done back in the 1950s, a time the white man dubs, “the golden years.” Why were they golden? No black people to worry about. Their sports teams didn’t have to compete against us, and white women knew their “place” so the white man had it all to himself. He could act “cool” because there were no brothers to compete against.
But after the Black Power Movement and the Civil Rights Movement loosened things up, white records in sports fell one by one. The white man’s control began to falter, and his manipulated “domination” of popular culture disappeared. The “golden years” of the Cleavers of “Leave It to Beaver” and “Donna Reed” were gone. He’s tried to relive those times in his movies and TV shows (“Happy Days”), but he knows his time is past. So he pretends as if interracial relationships are more accepted, but offers on evidence to prove it. This is a racist approach in itself: these writers are saying, in essence, “it is true because we say it is so.”
These people claim that, “an impetus for growth also can be takenfrom this story.” And what is that? They explain:
It wasn’t along ago – 2000 – that Alabama finally removed a law banning interracial marriage (though it hadn’t been enforced in years). That same year, Bob Jones University ended its ban on interracial dating. And while society has traveled far in its ability to be open-minded, there still are some people who react negatively when a black man and a white woman, or a Latina woman and a white man, or any other combination, are dating and marrying each other.
You call this “evidence”? One of the most racist states in the union, one that still flies the Confederate flag, decides that it shouldn’t be legislating morality and you call this progress? You call it a sign of growth because Bob Jones University ended its ban on interracial dating? You know why they ended it? Because Clinton threatened to take away their Federal dollars, that’s why! So once again, the white man had to be bribed to do the right thing in regard to displaying some “humanity.”
Having shot down the two examples that the World-Herald office as evidence of “growth,” these nitwits with notebooks nevertheless have the gall to claim that society “has traveled far in its ability to be open minded.” This has not been established in a single thing that the newspaper has written down. Look at their own city: what is there to point at that shows equitable race relations? The black community is as segregated today as it was in 1950 – the only difference is that the area is larger. Look at their own newsroom: no blacks in the 1800s and only three in the newsroom today. How can these liars draw conclusions about change when they, themselves, have resisted change?
The World Herald, in a hypocritically moralizing tone, writes that “there are still some people who react negatively when a black man and a white woman, or a Latina woman and a white man, or any other combination, are dating and marrying each other.”
Few people get angry when a Latina woman and a white man are together because many Latinas have white skin. Unlike the black woman, who is stigmatized, the Latina has the stereotype of the “hot Latin” working for her. Where OWH editors got their information is beyond me. As for a black man and a white woman, this is the most hated relationship by far. Others pale (no pun intended) in comparison. The twin myths (both concocted by the white man during slavery) of the black rapist and sacred white womanhood still exist today. In another major paper, I look at movies like “The Pelican Brief,” “Drive,” “I, Robot,” “The Bone Collector,” and others where a handsome black man is not allowed to be anything to the white female lead but a “friend.” This is an extension of the anti-black taboo alluded to earlier.
Those “some people who react negatively”? Guess who most of them are? White males – like the ones sitting in that editorial room writing this bullshit for the gullible Nebraska public to take in.
The article concludes:
Even today, mixed couples are still subjected to disapproving looks, rude comments and silent, yet noticeable, signals of rejection. So take some comfort in knowing that most of those who find love outside their race aren’t subjected to the horrors that Parks faced. But remember that even one such case is one too many.
Mixed couples? Does the World Herald care enough to provide an operational definition of what they mean? Are they talking about interracial couples? Are they talking about couples from different ethnic groups or religions. Because a “mixed couple” and an “interracial couple” can be two different things.
Furthermore, the editors order the public to “take some comfort in knowing” that “most of those who find love outside their race aren’t subjected” to what Parks was subjected to. How does the lily-white editorial board of the OWH know this? Where is there evidence? Are they speaking locally, statewide or nationally? This brings us to a final point – the title.
How can one incident be a barometer of race relations on any level? How can a “horrendous assault” show a “decline in one type of bigotry”? Even if racial abuse DID decline in that one type of bigotry, would that be enough to offset the institutional manifestations that plague people of color day by day and year by year? Of course note.
When racists like these write about issues of race, they show how little they care by not providing hard data or documentation. They have a preconception about what they want to writeabout and what they want their conclusion to be. This biased approach is what I tried to tell reporter Tom Shaw about when he made the asinine statement about reporters being “objective.”
Now I see that Shaw was not alone. The interracial barometer, at least the one that the World-Herald is in possession of, is clearly broken.
And it’ll take more than a room full of old white men to fix it.
Matthew C. Stelly
Omaha World Herald (2004, December 13). Interracial barometer: A horrendous assault brings reminder of decline in one type of racial bigotry.