Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Chronicle of Social Change apologizes for – and removes – column that used a crude racial stereotype

Last week, I repeated NCCPR’s longstanding call for the Chronicle of Social Change to apologize for a column that included a section that bullied an impoverished African-American mother with a vile racial stereotype about poor people wasting money on sneakers.

I said it needed to be a real apology, without reservation - not one of those “if-anyone-was-offended” non-apology apologies.  And it needed to be prominent on the Chronicle site, in front of the paywall.

On Monday, to the credit of its editor and publisher, the Chronicle issued just such an apology.  In their statement, editor John Kelly and publisher Daniel Heimpel wrote: 

[The author of the column] has told us that she doesn’t consider this allusion to be racist. And despite criticism of the column related to this section, our initial decision was to keep it on our site.
We were wrong. The fact is that the trope of a low-income mom buying children designer clothes, at the expense of spending on more critical family needs, does exist as a crude and often racial stereotype. Its inclusion in this piece may not have been intended in that way, but our editorial process should have identified this and we should have insisted on its removal from the piece. 
Once it was live on our site, we should have considered more carefully the criticism of this reference and taken it down. We mishandled this decision, and in so doing have allowed a callous dismissal of a young single mother’s very human efforts to do right by her daughter to remain in our pages. …
We regret it, we have learned from it, and today we remove this column from our website with our sincere apologies.

I believe the apology is sincere – which is why I’m not referring to the Chronicle as the – well, you know.

J. Khadijah Abdurahman, an astute observer of issues involving race and child welfare, and someone who regularly asks challenging questions of all of us, points out in a tweet that it took a long time to reach this point and “there’s no reflection on why not a single person in their office raised a red flag before publishing.”

My guess, and my hope, is that such reflection has taken place internally. 

There also are a number of other issues with how the Chronicle approaches news coverage of child welfare.  For example, an event they sponsored in Washington yesterday on the so-called shortage of foster homes does not appear to have included  anyone taking the position that the problem isn’t too few foster parents – it’s too many foster children.

But I prefer to assume that  this is reflection of the old way of doing things at the Chronicle, and now that is going to change.  So, as far as I’m concerned, as of today, the slate is clean.