What Are Black Journalists Allowed To Say About Race?

Julia Craven, HuffPost Black Voices

Jemele Hill said what she said.

In a series of tweets stemming from an odd conversation about Kid Rock, the co-host of ESPN’s “SC6” called President Donald Trump a “white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself w/ other white supremacists.”

“Trump is the most ignorant, offensive president of my lifetime,” she wrote. “His rise is the direct result of white supremacy. Period.” She added that Trump’s presidency had empowered other white supremacists and that his bid for the White House wouldn’t have been successful if he weren’t white.

Backlash to the tweets, helped along by people like former ESPN reporter Britt McHenry and Fox Sports Radio’s Clay Travis ― who frequently says racist things ― led ESPN to release a statement saying Hill’s views “do not represent the position” of the network. This made things worse.

Richard Polk/BET via Getty Images

Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, called Hill’s tweets a “fireable offense.” That same day, ESPN tried to prevent Hill from co-hosting “SC6” with Michael Smith. In a tweet, Hill said her “regret” was that her comments “painted ESPN in an unfair light.” ESPN’s public editor, Jim Brady, said Hill ― and the media at large ― should “let the reporting do its work, and resist more incendiary labels.”

None of what Hill said in her initial volley of tweets was inaccurate. Trump voters were driven by racism, and white supremacists openly support him. His campaign rhetoric was a dog whistle for white supremacists. His attorney general has praised the Immigration Act of 1924, a law crafted by eugenicists and championed by people hoping to preserve a “distinct American type.” After a violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, Trump attributed the violence to “both sides,” even though none of the counter-protesters killed anyone.

That Trump is a white supremacist is a straightforward conclusion that can be drawn from an abundance of available evidence.

But not all straightforward conclusions are admissible in mainstream American media, particularly on the subject of race, particularly when stated by a black woman.

To get a sense of the straitjackets placed on black media figures working in a predominantly white industry, where “white supremacy” is usually seen as a slur applicable only to Klansmen and Nazis, I convened three prominent black journalists: Greg Howard, a reporter at The New York Times; Elena Bergeron, former staff writer at ESPN The Magazine and current editor-in-chief of SB Nation; and a current ESPN employee who, for obvious reasons, wanted to remain anonymous.

Read the full interview here.

Read about the crucial role of black press here.

Read more Breaking News here.

This Day in Black History: The Chicago Defender was Founded

From the EBONY Pictorial History of Black America

Chicago Defender Building

Chicago Defender Building

The Chicago Defender was founded on this date in 1905. The brainchild of Robert Abbott, it was one of the first African-American newspapers in this country to reach a circulation of more than 100,000.

During the era classified by the historians as the “Great Migration,” 1915 to 1948, The Chicago Defender and Mr. Abbott played a major role. Using its pages, Mr. Abbott was able to influence more than 50,000 African-Americans to leave southern states and come to Chicago. In Chicago the opportunities for employment, education and personal freedom were immensely greater. On February 4, 1956, Abbott’s nephew, John H. Sengstacke took over the Chicago Daily Defender.

This publication became the largest African-American daily in the country. Continuing the work of his uncle, he used the Defender to help “improve the quality of life” for all Americans. He was directly involved in the desegregation of the U. S. armed forces. He also worked closely with President Franklin D. Roosevelt to create jobs in the United States Postal Service for African-Americans.

Read more about the Chicago Defender here.