By Tim Whyte
Raise your hand if you’ve ever been denied employment, based on:
A) Your gender
B) Your skin color
C) Your sexual orientation
D) All of the above
How many can choose D, “all of the above”? I thought so. Not many of you. I’m in a pretty exclusive club.
One example: Over 20 years ago, I was recruited to apply for a job. I aced the interviews and as far as I know, I was the most qualified candidate they talked to. (I mean that in the most humble way possible, which I guess is actually not at all humble. Whatever.)
They told me I was hired, pending a successful drug test, which would be no problem. Then, at the last minute, I got a call saying they decided to go in another direction. I had no idea what that meant, until an employee — a black woman — gave her two weeks’ notice because she’d gotten the job.
The exact same job.
I was more experienced. I had a stronger portfolio of work. I had actually hired her a few months earlier — she was right out of college. I liked her a lot. She was smart, talented and had a good sense of humor. But, by most objective measures, at that moment I was the more qualified candidate.
I couldn’t figure it out. A while later, the person who had recruited me told a colleague that one of the higher-ups had said they needed to hire someone who didn’t look like me — straight white males need not apply. The joke, they said, was, “if only Tim had come in wearing black face and a skirt.”
Everything worked out well for me, career-wise, but if I’m being honest, all these years later, yeah. I’m still a little salty about it.
No one should be discriminated against because of their gender, skin color or sexual orientation. Not even a heterosexual white male.
This is why I’m disappointed now in some elements of the journalism profession, because many journos are perpetuating the notion that straight white males are a fair target for everything from discrimination to elimination.
For example, there’s the New York Times, which is becoming as well known for its double standards as for its once lofty journalism standards.
At the same time as the Times rides its editorial high horse on issues of social justice, including race, gender and sexual orientation, it has hired Sarah Jeong to join its editorial board.
If you’re unfamiliar, Ms. Jeong has expressed hatred of white people. In particular, white men. In particular, old white men. Cripes. If I run into her in an alley, I’ll need a bodyguard.
In an angry series of tweets, mostly around 2012-14, she said, among other things:
“Oh man it’s kind of sick how much joy I get out of being cruel to old white men.”
“Are white people genetically predisposed to burn faster in the sun, thus logically being only fit to live underground like groveling goblins.”
“[email protected] White people have stopped breeding. You’ll all go extinct soon. This was my plan all along.”
She also griped about “white people marking up the internet with their opinions like dogs pissing on fire hydrants,” and compared “dumbass f—–g white people” to dogs.
Now. As a First Amendment advocate, I’ll defend Ms. Jeong’s constitutional right to be a racist jerk and to post whatever she likes. Part of the price of our freedom of speech is tolerating the speech of others, even deplorable, hateful speech like the bile that emanated from Ms. Jeong’s Twitter account.
She absolutely has that right. I’d protect it. But I wouldn’t hire her as an editorialist. And that venerable institution, the New York Times, would.
Ms. Jeong says she is misunderstood, that she had been subjected to racist and sexist trolling on social media, so she was “counter trolling.”
Because, you know. If some white racist, sexist jerks trolled her on social media, then all white people must be evil. It’s a fabulous leap of logic. Apparently dozens of wrongs make one right.
It’s also a pretty sophisticated attempt at a lame excuse. No one said she was a dummy. Next month, she leaves The Verge and joins the editorial board of the New York Times.
If Ms. Jeong’s targets had been any other group, does anyone believe the Times would have given her a pass?
Didn’t think so.
Dripping with hypocrisy, the Times defended its decision, accepting Ms. Jeong’s promise not to do it again.
“We hired Sarah Jeong because of the exceptional work she has done … her journalism and the fact that she is a young Asian woman have made her a subject of frequent online harassment. For a period of time she responded to that harassment by imitating the rhetoric of her harassers,” the Times’ statement said. “She regrets it, and The Times does not condone it.”
Well. Only to the extent that they will turn a blind eye to it. But let’s not split hairs. Imagine the Times’ reaction if you did a search-and-replace on her tweets, and substituted any other demographic group. The manure would hit the fan and she would be out of not just that job, but pretty much any journalism job.
There’s evidence, too. Earlier this year, the very same New York Times fired an opinion writer after unearthing several controversial old tweets that were potentially offensive to gay people and black people. (That writer, like Ms. Jeong, says the tweets were misunderstood.) But Sarah Jeong gets a pass because, well, #CancelWhitePeople.
For her part, Ms. Jeong issued this explanation: “I engaged in what I thought of at the time as counter-trolling. While it was intended as satire, I deeply regret that I mimicked the language of my harassers. These comments were not aimed at a general audience, because general audiences do not engage in harassment campaigns. I can understand how hurtful these posts are out of context, and would not do it again.”
Twitter’s a bitch when it comes to context, isn’t it? In this case, no context needed. These were not retweets, which leave things open to wild interpretation. These were her own words, tapped out by her own angry, racist fingers.
Bigotry is bigotry. Doesn’t matter whether the target is black, white, Asian, Latino, male, female, gay, straight, transgender or any other of the many delightful variations of humans.
Yet, in today’s world, it’s people who look like me who are exclusively allowed to be targets, to be denigrated and discriminated against, as we must atone for all the sins of our ancestors — even though, I swear, I’ve never oppressed anyone myself — and it’s viewed as acceptable, particularly among the high-and-mighty self-proclaimed “progressive” crowd.
Meanwhile, a racist and a sexist like Sarah Jeong is joining the editorial board of the New York Times.
Yep. Makes perfect sense.
Tim Whyte is editor of The Signal. His column appears Sundays. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @TimWhyte.