Have you ever looked through your high school yearbook and noticed that through sheer coincidence, the majority of the candid photographs included members of the staff and their buddies? Maybe something similar happened recently on the campus of Vassar College.
According to The College Fix, there was some commotion regarding U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, who was scheduled to address the spring's opening ceremony but bowed out on Valentine's Day.
The Fix provided more information about an article published in February’s issue of The Miscellany News, which may have influenced Johnson’s decision to pull out. Johnson, who is black, was accused by a group of students of being guilty of “war crimes” for enforcing (lax) immigration laws at the U.S. southern border. Calling immigration a “difficult and painful issue,” Johnson, who served for two years in the Obama Administration, quit as a speaker at the opening ceremony on February 14.
The February issue of The Miscellany News contained a serious problem. The article was a bit too racist, as it quoted white people “excessively.” Thus the piece was completely removed.
On March 23, the newspaper’s editors launched an enormous mea culpa. The internet version of the article was pulled by the executive board in concert with the news editors. “We'd like to use this opportunity to talk about the rationale of our decision as well as acknowledge the feelings of displeasure and hurt that have been triggered by the publication of the article.”
The team clarified that the timing of the story was not planned in the sense that Johnson was unable to make the announcement prior to the time it went to press.
Regarding Caucasian corruption: “We tried to include several student quotes that describe the reasons for protests to the announcement that he was a speaker at all, and also the reaction of students to his departure… In prioritizing urgency over thoroughness [the publication] made misguided and insensitive oversights [about] whom [it was] representing in the article and failed to provide in-depth reporting of the issue at large.” (The “at large” part is related to melanin.) “Most of the quotes came from white students, which is why we reduced the position of students of color to a single viewpoint, a tokenized one. It is a symbol of America's racism. It's not just the editors… Our article illustrates many of the structural and institutional issues within our newspaper. Journalism, especially college journalism, has traditionally been a predominantly white and often [affluent] field, and The Miscellany News is not free of the [effects of] these institutions.”
How could they possibly have not knowingly been racist due to the history of racism in the media? It's not stated but was certainly a snare: “Its release and its subsequent removal remind us of the systemic problems our members are a part of as well as the privilege and absence of diversity that has been allowed to endure throughout our boards for generations. Our explanation for the shortcomings of a single article will solve the issue of the past coverage of issues affecting persons of color, or tackle in the fullest detail issues of diversity on our boards.”
The editors acknowledge that “consistent action must be taken in order to address the systemic problems within The Miscellany News.” To acknowledge that there could be “systemic” issues means they've found racist systems built into the media. Identifying them and then immediately eliminating them is the most appropriate response.
They will also form a group: “We will implement both immediate and gradual steps. One of these is our current method of creating an independent review board, which aims to review sources and quotes to verify their authenticity as well as the authenticity of their portrayal within the article. This review panel will function separately from editorial boards–the members of which will read articles on a rotating basis.”
The editors spent a lot of time confessing so they could “cover the gravity or complexity of the situation.” The article was retracted to “prevent further harm among the communities [they] misrepresented.”
In a hurry? Might they not have surveyed a wider group? Did one white writer just look around his or her small circle of acquaintances? If yes, then why wasn't the website article supplemented with ”less white” language? It could be because these are the days of huge apologies. Instead of addressing errors, it’s now popular to flee from town screaming, “Unclean!”
In any case, if you are to be quoted in a future Vassar article, ensure that there are a lot of non-whites interviewed along with you. If not, you might never be mentioned in the newspaper.