The Public Editor’s Journal – Margaret Sullivan
By MARGARET SULLIVAN SEPTEMBER 22, 2014 10:10 AMNothing makes a black women angry like a reference to an angry black woman.
The article on the television producer Shonda Rhimes hadn’t yet appeared in Sunday’s paper, but the virtual world was ablaze in protest over it on Friday after it was published online.
Written by the longtime TV critic Alessandra Stanley, its first paragraph – with a reference to Ms. Rhimes as an “Angry Black Woman” – struck many readers as completely off-base. Many called it offensive. Some went further, saying it was racist.
Another reference to the actress Viola Davis as “less classically beautiful” than lighter-skinned African American actresses immediately inspired a mocking hashtag. (Ms. Stanley’s article was pegged to a show, starring Ms. Davis, that will debut this week on ABC, “How to Get Away with Murder.”)
One email from Patricia Washington, a longtime Times subscriber, addressed Dean Baquet, the executive editor, with a copy sent to me. She wrote:
I am deeply offended by the story written by Alessandra Stanley about Shonda Rhimes being an angry black woman. At first, I tried to give Ms. Stanley the benefit of the doubt and thought that she was attempting to be irreverent. Then I realized that she was being racist, ignorant, and arrogant. It is interesting that I have never seen any of Ms. Stanley’s stories refer to any white producers of TV or film programs in racist, stereotypical terms. As awful as the story is, she got her facts wrong because Shonda Rhimes is not the executive producer of the new show, “How To Get Away With Murder.”
I am a black woman and a lawyer. I have worked very hard to achieve in my profession and earn respect. I live in a very nice suburban community in Maryland. And yet, none of that makes one bit of difference because a New York Times writer can make whatever offhanded, racist opinions about a successful TV producer who is a black woman she cares to make, and because she has the protection of The New York Times behind her, can publish it. Because Ms. Stanley is a New York Times writer, her story has reached a national audience. Why is Ms. Stanley allowed to characterize Ms. Rhimes as she did and get away it? Why is she allowed to characterize Viola Davis as she did in her story and get away with it?
Ms. Stanley’s story was a backhand to me and it hurts. For the first time, I am considering cancelling my New York Times subscription because this story is much more than disagreeing with the writer’s opinion. This story denigrated every black woman in America, beginning with Shonda Rhimes, that dares to strive to make a respectable life for herself. No matter what we do, as far as Ms. Stanley is concerned, we will always be angry and have potent libidos as we have been perceived from slavery, to Jim Crow, and sadly in September 2014, the 21st century.
Please remove Ms. Stanley from the New York Times. None of us who read your paper should ever be subjected to this.
Anyway, here’s Alessandra Stanley’s original article
Wrought in Rhimes’s Image Viola Davis Plays Shonda Rhimes’s Latest Tough Heroine
Stanley — who isn’t, by the standards of TV critics, stupid — tried to bring a little flair of intelligence to the usual You Go Girl boilerplate. The NYT pays the best so their writers tend to be smarter than the average member of the lumpenintelligentsia. Unfortunately for NYT writers, social media now allows the angrier members of the dimwit masses to more relentlessly sniff out signs of intelligent life at the New York Times and rally the offended.