This year has already been a high-water year in the annals of American whiteness, and we’re only nine months in. Now the Canadian newspaper the Toronto Star wants you to hold its wine, cuz it’s ready to serve you the whitest thing you’ve read this month.
The paper recently came under fire for a story it ran suggesting wine pairings for various movies. Sounds cute enough, right? And it was, until someone had the unmitigated Caucasian gall to find the perfect wine to drink when watching 12 Years a Slave.
Because why not balance the complex, bold flavor of American chattel slavery with something light and crisp? Like an “understated rosé.”
The offensive section has since been taken down, but Michael Barclay, a freelance writer and former copy chief (God bless copy editors) got a photo of the paper’s weekend edition for posterity.
Here is the write-up in full because you really have to read it to believe this ever made it through a newsroom and into print.
Here’s how the original blurb ran:
Based on a horrific but true story, 12 Years a Slave tells a tale of slavery in the United States in the 1800s. And it earned three Academy Awards including Best Picture. Of course the cruelty, violence and accuracy of the events pictured makes it difficult to watch, but at the same time important. So offset the searing cinematic discomfort with this smooth, dry, understated rosé. It soothes the senses with sheer flavours that suggest citrus, stone fruit and gentle strawberry.
Ah yes, citrus really takes the edge out of a whipping scene for me too, girl. Something light and bright to wash out all that blood.
According to the Columbia Journalism Review, the story ran online Friday and was in Saturday’s print edition of the paper. The article wasn’t amended until Monday morning, after Barclay called out the article on social media Sunday.
The Star’s public editor took to Twitter to offer a mea culpa of sorts.
“All involved agree this was in bad taste,” Kathy English wrote, which is interesting, considering that no one involved seemed to have any objection to publishing the piece. “Newsroom taking steps now to remedy.”
CJR spoke to Barclay, who told the publication that he was “astounded” by the blurb, calling it a reporting and editing screwup.
From the CJR:
“I don’t know what they were thinking. 12 Years A Slave is one of the most powerful films I’ve ever seen. It’s gutting, horrific, beautiful, and a crucial film. This women wasn’t even joking. It’s just completely tone-deaf.”
The piece was originally slated to run with the Toronto International Film Festival, which was playing this past weekend. CJR also spoke to the author of the piece, Carolyn Evans-Hammond, aka the white woman who thinks you can “offset” a brutal lynching scene with “gentle strawberry.”
She, apparently, didn’t think the piece was a problem.
“What was I going to do otherwise?” she asked. “Omit that film, I think that’s less scrupulous. It’s a very important film to watch. I could have said a shot of whiskey, but I’m a wine writer.”
“I feel gutted that people would take offense, and I didn’t mean to hurt anyone,” she said. “Twitter has obviously revealed I have hurt people, which makes me sad. There’s no way I want anyone to think I’m glossing over it or diminishing these movies in any way.”
Look, there is Cauca-city and then there is Cauca-sity. Evans-Hammond, who is not a film critic but a wine writer, did not need to tell people to watch an Oscar-winning film that came out in 2012. Nor did she need to pair one of the most brutal depictions of chattel slavery in the last decade with any drink, be it brown liquor or White Girl rosé. And, to put the stone fruit on top of the white sheet cake, this wine writer is sorry that you think she’s “diminishing” the movie in any way, which is so far from the fucking point, you gotta grab a telescope.
There is not a tannin or an oak barrel in the world that can offset the taste of 400 years of human bondage, and while Evans-Hammond can possibly be forgiven for thinking so, the Toronto Star should have known better.
This paper, by the way, was the same one that let one of its few black staff writers, Desmond Cole, go for his political stances, in case you were wondering how no one spotted the problem with this piece before it went to press.
We know the Star recommended a rosé, but, ladies and gents, this is a white.
Read more about the whole debacle at the Columbia Journalism Review.