Monday, May 19, 2003
More on the Blair Affair: The New York Times continues to insist that the Jayson Blair affair had nothing to do with the fact that Blair is black. In today's Times, columnist Bob Herbert has some wise, true words and some that are demonstrably false.
Mr. Blair was a first-class head case who was given a golden opportunity and responded by spreading seeds of betrayal every place he went. He betrayed his readers. He betrayed his profession. He betrayed the editors who hired and promoted him. But there was no racial component to that betrayal, any more than there was a racial component to the many betrayals of Mike Barnicle, a columnist who was forced to resign from The Boston Globe in 1998 after years of complaints about his work.
I think everyone can agree that Blair is a "first-class head case" and that there was no "racial component to his betrayal." Blacks are not intrinsically less trustworthy because of the color of their skin.
Where the issue of Blair, race and his betrayal intersect is at what Herbert describes as a "golden opportunity" -- an opportunity afforded Blair largely because of his race. In fact, several days before Herbert's column was written, Times executive editor Howell Raines acknowledged as much.
"Our paper has a commitment to diversity and by all accounts he appeared to be a promising young minority reporter," Mr. Raines said. "I believe in aggressively providing hiring and career opportunities for minorities."
"Does that mean I personally favored Jayson?" he added, a moment later. "Not consciously. But you have a right to ask if I, as a white man from Alabama, with those convictions, gave him one chance too many by not stopping his appointment to the sniper team. When I look into my heart for the truth of that, the answer is yes."
As to Raines' "white man from Alabama" guilt -- the man needs to get over it. Racism is treating someone differently because of the color of their skin. Raines has revealed himself to be a racist -- because he couldn't see past Blair's skin color to determine the type of person that he was.
The simple fact, once again, is Blair got the opportunities he did because he was talented and black. Any attempt to separate the two doesn't pass the smell test.
I hope that by the time I retire from the journalism business that people are judged solely by their abilities -- not their race or gender. Right now, we have much too far to go before we accomplish that goal.