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The New York Times Curiously Takes Two Positions on Race at the Same Time

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Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP

Many of the positions and outrages over race in this country have made little sense. Lines have not only been blurred but reshaped, where the “rules” and judgements have been so contorted the logic needs to be served with a side of mustard. The level of outrage in almost every case overshadows the illogic, leading those who claim to be dictating the standards to frequently contradict their own orders.


The New York Times has fallen into that very trap, as in the case of two stories where the paper has very differing approaches. You begin to understand how this happens when one of the cases involves the most ludicrous of racial charges, cultural appropriation. This is a pet cause for many of those who want to insist race is a severe problem in the country but lack sufficient evidence. Nowadays, eating the “wrong” food, decorating an office with "ethnic" trappings, or even children dressing in certain Halloween costumes can become problematic, depending on who is making the charge.

Currently many on social media are in an uproar because the spouse of a celebrity has become outed as not being the true representation of the lineage she has forwarded in public. Hilaria Baldwin, spouse of game show host Alec Baldwin, has for years presented herself as being a product of the country of Spain. However, her public image is defied by the fact she was born in Massachusetts as Hillary Heywood Thomas, and has been recognized by those in her life as Hillary until around 2009.

As her bona fides have been revealed in recent weeks many have accused her of cultural appropriation, banking off of a false ethnicity for personal gain and leveraging her ensuing marriage to a luminary into a lucrative Instagram lifestyle. Now personally I cannot see the value in caring about any of the foibles of a celebrity spouse and her false presentation of her lineage. But over the years we have been told this is a crime against society, something to hold in mind while the next story plays out.


Also making news this week was the rather overblown case of a young college coed who had her education completely derailed by a video she made where she invoked the N-word on film. Mimi Groves was attending the University of Tennessee on a cheerleading scholarship, but when this video was posted on social media she was kicked off of the cheer squad and then ultimately pressured by the university to drop out of school. What on the surface sounds like a just reaction becomes insipidly intolerable once the details emerge.

Groves made the video as a high school freshman. She cut a very brief snippet immediately after she got her driver’s permit and sent it to a close friend. Years later Jimmy Galligan, another student in the school saw the clip and he, being mixed race, took offense. However, he did not take action. He held on to the video and waited another year until there was a choice time to release the clip in order to deliver maximum impact on her life. He got his desired result; years after a white classmate made a three-second recording her life became rendered.

Both of these stories carry a high level of trivial ridiculousness and yet The New York Times takes two very different approaches. With the case of Mimi Groves there is a stern delivery of justice, as Jimmy Graves is framed in noble fashion, not shown as a petulant and vindictive sort who plotted a long game to punish someone over a very innocuous act. The headline even calls the retribution a Reckoning. It was all justified, and it is framed against the racial turmoil seen in this country this summer.


But with Hillary/Hilaria Baldwin we get no outrage. Instead, The Times delivered a lengthy character study where Baldwin is permitted to fully explain her case and detail why everyone is so incorrect in their judgement of her. It is a pure PR fluff piece to ward off controversy. What is remarkable is how very different the players are in these stories and how the Times approaches them both. Two white females are found with racial issues, and yet as they are vastly separated in social import, paradoxically they are addressed with completely flipped levels of punishment.

Groves was simply a high school freshman, and her video made at the age of 15 was meant for a friend to see. She did not use the offensive word as an epithet towards anyone, and years later she grew to actually be a person in support of Black Lives Matter. Baldwin is not a mostly anonymous teen; she is on social media, is seen in the press, and makes television appearances. Her issue is not something dredged out of the digital basement from years ago, she is presenting her persona currently and daily.

Of these two examples it is easy to see which woman has a greater outreach and, by extension, a greater chance at delivering the alleged toxicity of their racism. Yet The Times takes the conflicting approach to them. The unknown teen with a dust-covered clip of three seconds has earned her future being halted, but the Manhattan millionaire spouse who has been living a racial lie on public media and has profited off her prevarication is granted a 2,500 publicity explainer to repair any damage. The celebrity influencer is made a martyr while the teen is made an example.


This is why so much of the racial injustice talk in the press is so readily dismissed. For all of the import they claim is attached to the issue of race they are completely incapable of taking it seriously.

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