Why Is NBC News Afraid of the Word Racist? Why Does CNN Want Us to Give Bigots a Pass? [Update: NBC—Never Mind]

Illustration for article titled Why Is NBC News Afraid of the Word Racist? Why Does CNN Want Us to Give Bigots a Pass? [Update: NBC—Never Mind]
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Why is it that in the year 2019, we still have legacy media outlets that are afraid to call a thing what it is? Why is it that we have legacy media outlets bending over backward and concerning themselves with the feelings and sensitivities of racists and bigots? What is the problem, NBC? What are you doing, CNN?


Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) made headlines (again) recently for racist remarks he made during an interview with the New York Times.

“White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization—how did that language become offensive?” King asked. “Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?”

After the interview went public, King went on to clarify that he is neither a white nationalist nor a white supremacist; he is “simply a nationalist.”

OK, sir.

Never mind that this isn’t the first time King has been caught on the record saying racist things. This is the man who once compared immigrants to dirt, after all.


Regardless, NBC News thinks its staffers should be careful when reporting on King’s remarks.

Two NBC News staffers shared an internal email with the Huffington Post from their standards department in which Susan Sullivan—an NBC standards department senior employee—cautioned them to not refer directly to King’s comments as “racist.”


“Be careful to avoid characterizing [King’s] remarks as racist,” Sullivan wrote. “It is ok to attribute to others as in ‘what many are calling racist’ or something like that.”

In other words, NBC is telling their employees that it’s OK for them to say
“Monique Judge at The Root said Steve King is a racist,” but it is not OK for their employees to say it on their own.


The cowardice jumped out.

Why are we so afraid to call a bigot a bigot? What he said is racist, plain and simple. Why do we need to handle it with kid gloves?


John Blake recently wrote a column for CNN in which he confessed that he is a bigot, a sexist and a homophobe. Blake said he made his confession because of a “growing unease I’ve experienced over the way social media mobilizes to condemn people caught using slurs or acting in other intolerant ways. Like the New York meteorologist who was recently fired after he said ‘Martin Luther Coon’ during a broadcast.”

Blake is of the belief that “going after people” who make racist or bigoted remarks may actually reinforce racism and bigotry instead of combating them.


Shorter Blake: You’re the real racist if you even talk about racism, and it’s your fault that racism is a thing—not the people who are actually racists and bigots.

Before we drag Blake for filth, it’s worth noting that he himself is black. That makes his take even more egregious.


Blake is basically taking up the mantle of the same argument white racists and bigots make all the time when trying to silence the voices of those who call them out for their actions and rhetoric.

In his defense, Blake shares an anecdote about him choosing a white person to help him over a black one at Lowe’s one weekend.

Some people go to Lowe’s to build. I went there and had my self-image torn down.

I went to the home improvement store one Saturday morning to buy some equipment to paint my deck. I wanted to know the best paint and brushes to use but didn’t know where to start. I walked up to a counter to ask for help.

Two men stood behind the counter, a shaggy-haired white man busy on the phone and a young black man with a military bearing who was alone, not attending to any customers. I didn’t ask the black guy for help, though he was free.

It wasn’t until I got home and started staining my deck that it hit me:

“Damn,” I thought. “I just racially profiled a black man—and I’m black!”

I was totally unaware what was happening when I decided to ignore the black guy. It was unintentional. My decision was made in a millisecond. But how was my attitude any different than that of the white Canadian woman who was caught on video last year demanding to see a white doctor because she didn’t want a “brown” one?


This is an easy one, and I can answer that for you, John.

The difference is the power structure. Racism involves power—one group having the power to create systematic and institutionalized policies that discriminate against another group. In this case, that would be whites over blacks.


Blake’s wanting the white clerk to help him instead of the black one is not racism—it’s prejudice, and until people understand the fundamental difference between the two, we will never be able to create any type of change as far as both are concerned.

Blake also demonstrated implicit bias against the black man, and this is something that black people are not immune from. We all have implicit biases against someone.


So Blake’s entire premise is based on faulty logic. We don’t need to give bigots a break and we don’t need to be afraid to use the words “racist” or “racism.”

Both are very real and prevalent in our society. Shying away from calling them what they are won’t make them go away—it simply gives them even more power.


Shame on any journalism and media institution that thinks otherwise. You are part of the problem.

Updated: Jan. 15, 2019, 5:01 p.m. EST: NBC News has now doubled back on its original statement and told its staff that it is perfectly fine to call Steve King’s comments what they are—racist.


The standards department said in a new statement: “We revised our guidance on Rep. Steve King’s comments. It is fair to characterize King’s comments as ‘racist,’ and point out that he has a history of racist comments, and the context can be shared that others hold that view as well.”


Well, all right, NBC. Your turn, CNN.

News Editor for The Root. I said what I said. Period.


Nunna Yorz - American Justice Is A Joke

Too bad NBC chose to go this route but not surprising in the least. I think another reason they are walking on verbal egg shells is fear of offending their white viewership. 

Slightly related, but I wonder if this fear of offending viewers is the same reason people in the media don’t call Trump’s lies lies. They want to appear neutral, but sometimes something’s just wrong and should be labeled as such.