A New York Moment of Well Deserved Ridicule – Part 1

One of the New York Post’s cherished editorial traditions, denigrating and mocking African Americans, finally earned that publication the ignominy that it most rightfully deserved, though I wish the comeuppance had resulted from an undeniable slander rather than the one seized by the organizers of the demonstration in front of 1211 Avenue of the Americas.

Shortly after Rupert Murdoch bought the Post, its Australian and British and American editors and reporters relished its “news stories” spiting African Americans. I recall one vile tongue-in-cheek about Stepin Fetchit who was dead at the time but none the less was described in a Post article as a gifted African American actor whom the black community should be proud.

This picture of Stepin Fetchit groveling in a degenerate manner was not the one used by the Post but matches the essence of that missing picture.

This picture of Stepin Fetchit groveling in a typically degenerate manner was not the one used by the Post but matches the essence of that missing picture.

The Post, its villainy and malice veiled in a smug editorial impunity allowed by the First Amendment, published racist invective, though no reader ever once saw on its pages the word nigger that could be heard on certain shifts in the newsroom. The Post’s contempt for people of color was well known in the bars frequented by journalists. It was well known throughout the city. Its writers and editors and supporters made sure of that.

In one period in the early 1980s, it also had published stories bashing gays. However, hundreds of gays showed up one evening at 210 South Street, where it use to reside, threatening a ransacking, and they returned for several days as a menacing horde.

The upshot? The Post stopped bashing though no one would ever say its homophobia was on the back burner.

Blacks never showed up in mass threatening to sack the place though there were calls for boycotts, and the paper was denounced in churches and barbershops and restaurants and all makes and manner of collectives in New York’s black communities. In the middle of a plenary discussion of community activists and journalists of color, at a New York City conference organized by the National Alliance of Third World Journalists, I stood and identified myself as a Post reporter when discussion about racism in mainstream New York news media included comments about the Post. I believe I was hearing a call to action and said I was ready to be an undercover agent for any planned action by NATWJ.

Quote Marks for Effect: “We have so much to deal with that we have to deal with them later, brother, so just hold on to your job and try not to do any harm,” a community activist said. Nevertheless, there were heated moments in communities where I identified myself as a Post reporter there to get “news.” And I often defused the situations with, Quote Marks for Effect, “I don’t write those kind of stories” or “You’ve never seen my name on any of those stories.”

I was working part-time at the Post while I was trying to finish my first book, The Kids Next Door: Sons and Daughters Who Killed Their Parents (William Morrow & Company, and out of print), while trying to help a youth who had been wrongly convicted; while suing a weekly national news magazine in a federal discrimination suit (written up in the Columba Journalism Review) and trying to figure out how to purse a journalism career. Jimmy Breslin, at the New York Daily News then, wrote two columns about the racism of the Post.

His News had been sued in a federal discrimination lawsuit that it would eventually lose, the only big city daily ever to lose a suit like that, and Breslin’s pieces, in essence, rhetorically questioned how the News could be sued despite its employment of several black reporters and editors and copy editors, yet, the Post didn’t have one full-time black journalist (although it had two full-time Asian Americans, one an editor, another a reporter).

[ I wonder if anyone recalls the brouhaha at New York Newsday, when it was alive, over Breslin’s newsroom racial rant about Asian Americans but that’s another story. ]

Breslin’s first piece shocked the Post editors. I was there the day of the jaw-dropping surprise. I was not in the newsroom when Breslin followed with a second column that week jolting them into action. After ignoring all manner of subtle and direct entrées by Post editors, I was “pressured” to apply for a full-time position, though, after I was hired, I refused for many weeks to allow my byline on stories I had written – that was my ad hoc strategy for dealing with newsroom racism and I milked it for as long as I could.

I was riding on a Post elevator one day with members of the editorial page when two portly Australians (I say Australian because of the accents, and portly because they were portly, but they could have been British) were discussing the appropriateness of using “spear chuckers” as a reference to African American community activists whom the Post detested. Quote Marks for Effect: “They don’t like being called spear chuckers,” one, who was looking directly at me as I glared, said to the other.

In the newsroom, Post editors and reporters denounced other New York mainstream and broadcast news media as hypocrites that pretended that they weren’t racist when they shared the same opinions as the Post but were too chicken to let it all hang out as the Post did.

Post-ers said white liberals were as racist as they were. As far as they were concerned, there was no grey, only black and white.

This has to be stated: Well after I left to teach at the Rutgers University campus in New Brunswick, New Jersey, the surly racist content was gradually being replaced by what the Post considered nuances and subtleties in its news stories, though the race sleaze was left to columnists. That occurred about the time the New York Times started citing and crediting Murdoch’s newspaper in NYT stories, something it had refused to do for years.

Nevertheless, the Post’s reputation for being a vile racist is written in stone, as far as many people of color are concerned, no matter its subtleties and nuance.

End, Part I of III.

In Part II: Should one be concerned about the fairness of a wronged community’s leaders and activists who take on an assassin that has been maliciously abusing its people?

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