I would like to thank Ken Trainor for both his editor’s note and his April 6 response, “A matter of respect,” to my March 31 One View “People of color deserve respectful coverage.” Admitting fault can be uncomfortable so I sincerely appreciate that Mr. Trainor has done so and that he aims to keep working to eliminate “racial insensitivity” within himself.
I cannot ignore, however, that in both responses, each time Mr. Trainor admitted fault and acknowledged that his language was disrespectful, he followed up with a justification of the disrespect. Moreover, Mr. Trainor’s responses repeat, albeit more subtly, some of the same problematic patterns in the Journal’s coverage on race that I discussed in my original One View. While I could address each of these issues point-by-point, I do not believe that doing so would be productive. Instead, I’ll just get straight to the main point.
The Journal needs more — and ongoing — equity training. Readers can identify problematic patterns in the paper’s coverage of race, but addressing those patterns in a way that brings lasting progress is a job for professionals with expertise in teaching publications how to recognize, address and excise unconscious bias from their editorial decisions. Additionally, as I stated in my original One View, the Journal needs a clear, standardized, equity-based policy for covering race — something that would make its editorial decisions on racial issues less susceptible to bias.
Unconscious bias is insidious. Without a person even being aware of its presence in their mind, such bias permeates how that person thinks, perceives and interacts with the world. In a newspaper, such bias has serious consequences. To understand this, one need only look at the recent fallout over the Journal’s decision to remove a Muslim woman’s comment describing a village trustee as a “white supremacist” on the paper’s Facebook page, only to publish a non-Muslim white man’s response implying that the woman was a terrorist. These microaggressive “slip-ups,” no matter the time between them, the intention behind them, or the remorse following them, leave a wake of tumult.
In his April 6 column, Mr. Trainor wrote, “We can do better. Mostly, I can do better.” I would say that the responsibility of doing better on racial issues does not fall mostly on Mr. Trainor’s shoulders, but that it is shared equally with publisher Dan Haley, who, as I noted in my original One View, has his own history of writing dismissively and paternalistically on race.
Mr. Trainor, Mr. Haley and the Journal as an institution not only can, but must do better. Whether or not the Journal decides to implement ongoing equity training and develop a standardized, equity-based policy for covering race is its choice. But make no mistake about it, it needs them both.
Alisa Robinson is a lifelong Oak Parker who runs the world’s only comprehensive record of Black Lives Matter demonstrations.