It’s been more than a year since the Fox News of child welfare – the so-called Chronicle of Social Change – published a column that bullied an impoverished Black mother by using a vile racial stereotype about sneakers.
Chronicle publisher Daniel Heimpel not only ran the column, he promoted it on his personal Twitter feed.
The Chronicle refused to publish my response, so I published it on this Blog. The Los Angeles online news site WitnessLA also published it.
Heimpel remained silent. He even let the same columnist write for him again (that column did not contain any racial stereotypes).
Now, more than a year later, Heimpel finally admits there was a problem with the column that dredged up the racial stereotype. In a tweet, he declares that the column “was unfortunate. We should have corrected it and will.” (The tweet said a bit more; I’ll get to that below.)
No, Daniel. A column that bullies someone who is among society’s least powerful, and uses a crude racial stereotype to do it is shameful. It is repugnant. It is reprehensible. It is far worse than merely “unfortunate.”
And why has it taken you more than a year even to label it "unfortunate"?
A “correction” is not enough
A “correction” was good enough when that same columnist, again writing about race, falsely claimed that the Alliance for Racial Equity in Child Welfare had “quietly suspended its work.” (Even then, the Chronicle didn’t check the false claim before publishing it, and knew the claim was false for weeks before finally correcting it.)
In contrast, the column that used the stereotype needs more than a “correction” -- whatever that means. (Does it mean only a small edit to the column which was fully public for weeks but now is behind a paywall?) It demands a full-throated, unqualified prominent public apology, in front of the paywall on your home page. Not one of those “Yes, but…” non apology-apologies; the real thing.
Now, about that “whataboutism”?
In his tweet, right after conceding that the vile column was “unfortunate,” Heimpel offers up a classic example of a rhetorical tactic known as “whataboutism” – defined here, perfectly, by John Oliver.
So Heimpel follows his way-too-little way-too-late comment about the column he published and promoted with this: “But you Richard distort the truth habitually. What a lot for you to have chosen.”
Fortunately, we live in the age of hyperlinks. Assuming there is at least agreement that the underlying documents are genuine, it’s easy for readers to decide for themselves if an argument is truthful.
So, when I say that Heimpel has dismissed the idea that there is a serious racial bias problem in child welfare as a “panic” – readers can click this link to the article where he said it, do a word search for “panic” and decide for themselves.
When I say Heimpel has analogized the spread of family preservation to cancer, readers can click on the same link and search for the word “metastasized.”
And when I say that Heimpel coauthored an op-ed attacking an approach to child welfare known as “differential response” by using a horror story case that did not involve differential response – there’s a link for that, too.
One footnote: My back-and-forth with Heimpel on Twitter actually began when I tweeted that the next time anyone at the Chronicle was tempted to publish a column like the one discussed here, they should instead call the toll-free number in a satirical New York Times opinion video. I repeated that suggestion on this blog last night.
So congratulations 1-844-WYT-FEAR. Looks like you’re already getting results!