White supremacy is insidious and pervasive everywhere, including at The New York Times and other liberal media.
By Jordan Valerie
In recent months, liberal news publications like The New York Times and The Washington Post have come under increased scrutiny for their coverage of race. From refusing to describe the president as racist to an obsession with racist “white working class” voters to Nazi-sympathizing profile pieces, the liberal media outlets that proclaim to be the saviors of truth in the era of “fake news” have proven woefully unprepared to cover the normalization of open white nationalism under Donald Trump.
This glaring problem goes beyond a few poor editorial decisions; it speaks to the fundamental worldview of these liberal publications – white supremacy.
“White supremacist” isn’t a term you usually hear ascribed to the prestigious New York Times. No, white supremacy is a descriptor reserved for Breitbart, and if we’re really brave, Fox News. The liberal New York Times? The same New York Times that Donald Trump wants to sue out of existence? There’s no way they can be described as white supremacist, let alone racist, right?
Wrong. White supremacy isn’t limited to websites that feature a “Black Crime” section, like Breitbart. It’s not even limited to conservative publications whose editorial pages are littered with racist op-eds, like The Wall Street Journal and National Review. White supremacy is insidious and pervasive everywhere, including liberal media. Because white supremacy is not just neo-Nazis marching down the streets of Charlottesville, it is the belief that whiteness is supreme; that it must be treasured, cherished, defended, and centered at all times. And that ideology is absolutely reflected in liberal news media such as The New York Times and The Washington Post.
While they sometimes publish truly incredible content by authors of color, at their core, they center whiteness above all, both in their editorials and their regular reporting. That’s why they frame racist statements as “opinions” and discussions of racism as “debates,” as if the humanity of people of color should be put up for intellectual conversation. That’s why they publish racist op-eds by talentless white hacks attacking Black Lives Matter. That’s why they’ll refer to Trump and the GOP’s racism as “racially charged” and “controversial” but not simply “racist.” That’s why The New York Times casually justified the murder of Mike Brown by characterizing him as “no angel.” That’s why The Atlantic regularly devotes its pages to critiques of college students of color who are supposedly the greatest threat to free speech in the entire country because they oppose inviting racist speakers to their campuses. That’s why The Washington Post claimed that people of color are ruining conversations about race by calling too many people racist. That’s why Jonathan Chait is obsessed with being nice to white supremacists. That’s why Slate feels the need to have discussions with white men who bash “identity politics.” That’s why Mother Jones says we need to be “careful with the ‘white supremacy’ label.” That’s why The New York Times calls voting rights “racial preference policies.” I could go on forever, but you could simply spend a few minutes reading these publications and see just how much they center whiteness.
I am not saying that The New York Times, The Washington Post, and other popular liberal news publications are the same as Breitbart and Fox — they’re not — but they absolutely exist in the same vein. By arguing that it is appropriate and healthy to give a platform to racists and not show “bias” in their reporting on race — as they claim every time they receive major criticism for their coverage of race — they establish that white supremacy is an acceptable and essential part of our political discourse and that white fragility, which makes it oh so hard for white people to even read the word racist, is more important than the tangible impact racism has on people of color.
I am glad that the liberal media often gives people of color important platforms to discuss racism with audiences that may not read platforms like Wear Your Voice, which are genuinely dedicated to racial justice and liberation. But unless the liberal media genuinely de-centers whiteness and radically changes the composition of its editorial staffs, it will always be an instrument and enabler of the very white supremacy it tamely criticizes coming from the White House.
Author Bio: Jordan Valerie is a cinephile, filmmaker, journalist, political activist, and proud queer woman of color dedicated to civil rights, civic engagement, diversity, and watching at least a movie a week. She currently serves as Editor-in-Chief of Millennial Politics, National Communications Director at Run with Pride, and Chief Policy Strategist at Brand New Congress. You can find her angrily tweeting about politics and culture @jordanvalallen.