As part of a race-obsessed ideological agenda, the Washington Post recently destroyed the reputation and livelihood of a powerless woman. Yesterday, it doubled down on that agenda by announcing it will hire a new managing editor to enforce ideological conformity, by overseeing “stories that involve sensitive subjects of race, ethnicity and identity” and “final hiring and promotion decisions.” That will make The Post’s already slanted news coverage far worse: Washington Post news stories generally assume, contrary to court rulings from the Supreme Court on down, that racial disparities are proof of discrimination — even when they are not.
This follows The Post’s destruction of the reputation and livelihood of Sue Schafer over what she wore to a Halloween Party two years ago. Schafer is a private individual with no power of any kind. A progressive, she wore a costume perceived as racially-insensitive. Ironically, she did so in a clumsy attempt to lampoon racial insensitivity. She then apologized the next day for having done so. But The Post publicized what she wore, two years later, depicting her as a racist. That resulted in her PR-conscious employer firing her.
As New York Magazine notes in the story, “Why did the Washington Post get this woman fired?”:
Does Texas have a constitutional right to defy Supreme Court on protecting its border?
In 2018, Schafer attended a Halloween party at the home of Tom Toles, the Post’s Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist. The basis for Schafer’s costume was topical. NBC had recently fired Megyn Kelly after she said, on the air, that she didn’t understand why it was necessarily considered racist for people to wear blackface as part of a Halloween costume. Schafer, who is white, decided to lampoon the anchor by dressing as Megyn Kelly-in-blackface. … The day after the party, Schafer called Toles and apologized for what she had worn.
The Post has stood behind this story in the face of a backlash from readers, who left overwhelmingly hostile comments in response to its story on The Post’s website. But many reporters were horrified by it, especially older, less ideological staffers:
No one I’ve spoken with at the Post can figure out why we published this story,” said one prominent reporter at the paper. “We blew up this woman’s life for no reason.”….
“My reaction, like everybody, was, What the hell? Why is this a story?” a feature writer at the Post told New York. “My second reaction was, Why is this a 3,000-word feature?”
If reporters at The Post don’t like this story, too bad for them. There will be a lot more stories just like it, thanks to recent changes at The Post, that will make it a far more left-wing paper. The Post is hiring a new ideological commissar — the Managing Editor for Diversity and Inclusion — to make sure there are many more stories like it. As The Post announced on June 24:
The Washington Post is seeking a managing editor for diversity and inclusion who, working closely with senior editors and our entire staff, will endeavor to ensure that those principles are incorporated into all aspects of news coverage and operations.
The responsibilities will include greater diversity in our recruitment; full participation with other senior editors in final hiring and promotion decisions; acting as a convener of discussions across departments regarding coverage of race and identity;…review of stories that involve sensitive subjects of race, ethnicity and identity…This individual will join three other managing editors and the executive editor in holding the top positions in The Post’s newsroom. [Emphasis added]
So if Post reporters don’t write with the ideological slant preferred by the Managing Editor for Diversity, she can veto their articles through “review of stories that involve sensitive subjects of race.” The Managing Editor can also make editors lives’ difficult by vetoing their “final hiring and promotion decisions.” So objectivity comes with a cost. (The Post is also hiring several new reporters to focus exclusively on racial “disparities” or “race and identity”).
Objectivity is already a scarce commodity at The Post. Its coverage of an encounter between an American Indian activist and a student at Covington Catholic High School was so slanted and inaccurate that a federal judge allowed it to be sued for libel. In the course of falsely depicting the student as a racist, the Post falsely depicted the student as blocking the activist and not allowing him to retreat. Not all false statements of fact give rise to a libel claim, but intentionally or recklessly false statements sometimes can.
The Post consistently assumes that racial disparities — such as higher black incarceration rates or schools being mostly black or white — are discrimination, contrary to the Supreme Court. For example, the Washington Post’s news coverage treats school systems as racially segregated, merely because they have some schools attended mostly by blacks, and others attended mostly by whites — even if the school system has colorblind policies and lets everyone attend their neighborhood school, regardless of race.
Neither Congress nor the Supreme Court agrees with The Post’s definition of segregated. The Supreme Court says that it is OK for schools to be predominantly white or predominantly black because “racial balance is not to be achieved for its own sake.” (See, e.g., Freeman v. Pitts (1992)). Congress enacted the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which declares that “‘desegregation’ shall not mean the assignment of students to public schools in order to overcome racial imbalance.”
The Supreme Court has also rejected the assumption of many Washington Post writers that higher black arrest and incarceration rates reflect racism. In an 8-to-1 ruling, the Supreme Court emphasized that there is no legal “presumption that people of all races commit all types of crimes” at the same rate, since such a presumption is “contradicted by” real world data showing big differences in crime rates. Thus, racial disparities in arrest or incarceration rates don’t violate the Constitution’s ban on racial discrimination (See United States v. Armstrong (1996)).
Yet, I have read articles by blacks in The Post that treat the higher black incarceration rate as proof of racism against black people, without even discussing why. There were articles not in its op-ed section, but smack in the middle of the “A” section, the primary news section of the paper. The Post generally treats racial disparities as proof of racism, even though the Supreme Court has said many times that a disparity may prove absolutely nothing.
In a 6-to-3 ruling by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the Supreme Court said that it is “completely unrealistic” to think minorities should be represented in a field “in lockstep proportion to their representation in the local population.” (See Richmond v. J.A. Croson Co. (1989)). In an earlier ruling, Justice O’Connor noted that it is “unrealistic to assume that unlawful discrimination is the sole cause of people failing to gravitate to jobs and employers in accord with the laws of chance.” (See Watson v. Fort Worth Bank & Trust Co. (1988)).
The contemporary Washington Post never quotes these binding Supreme Court rulings. But it does regularly praise and tout the work of Ibram X. Kendi, who claims that disparity is conclusive proof of racism. “When I see racial disparities, I see racism,” says Dr. Kendi, in language trumpeted by liberal journalists.
The courts regularly reject the idea that disparities automatically constitute discrimination. A federal appeals court ruled in 2001 that a racial “disparity” in discipline rates does not “constitute discrimination.” (See Belk v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education). That ruling was issued by Judge William Traxler, a moderate Democrat appointed to the appeals court by Bill Clinton. His ruling found that a school system’s record of suspending black students at a much higher rate than whites was not evidence of discrimination or a vestige of segregation.
Researchers regularly find that racial disparities have non-discriminatory causes. For example, the higher black school suspension rate is consistent with the fact that in surveys, black students admit misbehaving at higher rates than whites or Asians do. As education expert Michael Petrilli notes, black students admit in surveys to misbehaving at higher rates. In a 2018 commentary for the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, he noted that black students admitted to “going to class late” at about twice the rate for whites, and nearly three times the rate for Asians, in 2009-10. And blacks admitted to getting into fights at over twice the rate for whites. Other surveys also show black students self-reporting higher rates of fighting or other misbehavior. (See, e.g., National Center for Education Statistics, “Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2016,” on page 87, Table 13.2)).
Because racial disparities can be non-discriminatory in origin, abolishing them can actually create, rather than solve, problems. In 1997, a federal appeals court struck down a rule that forbade a “a school district to refer a higher percentage of minority students than of white students for discipline,” calling it an unconstitutional racial quota that would require harsher treatment of white students than similarly-situated minority students. (See People Who Care v. Rockford Board of Education).
In some cases, eliminating racial disparities would harm minority students. Asians have the lowest arrest, incarceration, and school suspension rates of all races, lower than whites. For example, Asians are suspended at about one-fourth of the white rate, in California, according to the Brookings Institution. Requiring that all racial groups be suspended at the same rate as whites, would thus require innocent Asians to be suspended, to get their suspension rate up to the white rate.
So focusing on eliminating “disparities” — as The Post wants its reporters to do — could result in more, rather than less, racial injustice.