In an obvious display of one-upmanship during Black History Month, the New York Times erased the notable achievement of African-American icon Craig Jones from the movie Friday, who was famously fired on his day off, when the heralded newspaper abruptly fired white opinion writer Quinn Norton on the same day it hired her after tweets of Norton using the n-word and homophobic slurs surfaced on Twitter.
Around 3 p.m. Tuesday, the Times announced that it had hired Norton to a position on the paper’s editorial board. Known for her coverage of hacker culture, gamers and the Anonymous movement, Norton has written for some of the most popular news outlets, including The Guardian and Wired magazine.
Savvy Twitter users immediately noticed a history of problematic tweets by the Times’ new hire, including her boasting about how she was friends with neo-Nazis, calling people “fags,” and repeatedly using the n-word (with the hard “r”).
Norton, who considers herself a “queer activist,” defended herself by explaining that she only uses racial and homophobic slurs when she’s talking to racists and homophobes, explaining: “ ... when I speak to communities, I used their language to do it.”
By 10 p.m. Tuesday, she was fired.
To be clear, not many people think Quinn Norton is a racist or a homophobe. She is just guilty of the omnipresent white privilege of believing that everything that exists belongs to her, including words used to denigrate marginalized minorities. She’s no different from sorority girls at the University of Alabama, Piers Morgan and people in The Root’s inbox who possess an unquenchable desire to know why they can’t say the n-word but Kanye can.
Apparently, Norton finds it impossible to discuss inequality without using the reductive language of white supremacy because ... why not? She’s using it for good. The best way to explain her predicament is to boil it down to its most basic, elemental conclusion: Quinn Norton isn’t racist ...
She’s just white.
Whiteness is a rare ailment that infects the brain and convinces sufferers that they can make themselves exempt from their racist and homophobic actions by simply stating, “I’m not like that.”
Whiteness is so overwhelmingly toxic that it can actually persuade the melaninless (try saying that three times) that they don’t have to delete the evidence of their caucasity because they are excused from criticism. Perhaps the worst part of whiteness is this:
They are usually right.
Although I hate participating in the popular game of “If They Were Black,” there is no doubt that a black person with a history of making similar statements would never have been hired by the New York Times.
To be a black writer for the New York Times would mean that that person was not only one of the top writers in his or her field, but had sidestepped every other ancillary pothole that would have sidelined their career.
But whiteness affords people like Norton the opportunity to erase their previous mistakes. That’s essentially what white privilege is: an invisible, renewable mulligan.
If you look at the pasts of our last five white presidents, you’ll find a twice-married actor, his vice president, a serial adulterer, a draft-dodging C student and a thrice-married, sexual assaulting racist. The black one? His past was so scandal-free that they had to create some bullshit about his birth certificate and his pastor. That’s it.
But Quinn Norton is the real victim here. She is so unfamiliar with being responsible for her actions that she saw no need to even try to obscure and apologize for her past. She lives in a world where she is wholly unfamiliar with accountability.
But here is the most fantastically significant thing about this entire scandal and what it reveals about the New York Times, whiteness and America in general:
Someone thought the world needed to know Quinn Norton’s opinions.