Several weeks ago — although it feels like months given the turnover in the news cycle — The New York Times hired Sarah Jeong, best known as the senior writer with The Verge, as a member of The Times editorial board.
The move made sense at first: Jeong is a highly educated journalist with a background of producing interesting (if slanted) pieces. Unfortunately, someone dug through her social media past and found that she was not only a vexatious troll, but also a vociferous opponent of a certain race the left currently likes euphemizing as “wypipo.”
Jeong is still firmly ensconced on the editorial board and the only debate left is over whether her racist tweets could be “contextualized.” (Spoiler alert: Of course they can, she’s a liberal.) Nevertheless, having dodged a bullet and only suffered a minor public relations graze, you would think the folks at 620 Eighth Ave. would be slightly more careful about issues of race for the next few weeks or so.
Or you know what? They could do this:
Whoops, NYT. pic.twitter.com/jS3YOS7jbz
— Orwell & Goode (@OrwellNGoode) August 11, 2018
As you can see on the left, the original tweet noted that it was “rare to see black and Latino students excel in math. These kids are changing that.”
That was followed by a statement saying, “We’ve deleted an earlier tweet to this article that was poorly phrased.”
In a message, my site director thought there were only two explanations for this: “… the NYT seemed to think either the stats didn’t support the tweet or the facts were racist. So they had to nuke the tweet.”
I racked my brain trying to come up with another alternative to this and ended up with nothing. This is why you always trust your site director, especially with performance reviews eventually somewhere on the horizon.
The article itself is typical Times fare, although it does raise a serious point: Black and Latino students, especially those from the poorest communities, are underrepresented in math and tech fields and educational programs designed to address that seem to have made some headway at reaching middle-school students. If the reporting is accurate, this is undeniably a good thing and a rare win for a public education system that’s failed so many students over the past century.
“This is probably more math-y black and Hispanic kids than I’ve seen in my whole career,” Dr. Bernstein, a volunteer at the center who received a Ph.D. in algebraic geometry from Harvard in the 1990s, told The Times. “That’s why I’m here.”
“The extreme racial homogeneity in the rarefied realm of young math wizards has drawn little attention in a nation where racial equality in the basic institutions of civic life — schools, housing, health care, policing — remains elusive,” the article continued.
“But it has become an increasing source of consternation for some mathematicians, educators and business leaders, who see it directly linked to the striking underrepresentation of blacks and Latinos in high-paying, high-status jobs in finance, science and technology. As those occupations increasingly propel our society, they fear that enrichment programs for mathematically gifted children, while rooted in meritocratic ideals, have become a particularly potent means of reinforcing privilege.”
Cutting through all of the usual Timesean bilge, the point is that the tweet was fully justified. The numbers, such as they are, are there. That salient part of the article — the one which would have defended the tweet — is wholly intact.
So if that’s the case, the first explanation drops away, leaving only the idea that The Times (or its readers) concluded the facts were racist. And that meant the Times had to delete the tweet.
Some of those who responded to the Times got the point.
A racist is someone who only sees the world through the lens of race. Way to prove the point, NYT.
— Kathryn Arata (@momarata) August 11, 2018
This isn’t exactly Arthur Jensen– or Charles Murray-type stuff we’re dealing with here, stuff that may well cause some controversy. It’s stating a fact that there is a very real difference in performance that they continue to stand by; it almost certainly has nothing to do with race or inherent ability and everything to do with the failure of our public schools.
In their conspicuous circumspection regarding this piece, perhaps The Times gave away too much.
They never specifically called Jeong a racist, after all, merely saying that her tweets were unacceptable. In this case, the facts were considered racist enough that The Times had to delete the tweet. The idea of offending even one reader was simply too much for the Gray Lady’s delicate sensibilities.
But Jeong is still cool. All the news that’s fit to print, indeed.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.