Saturday, May 24, 2003

Jayson Blair’s use of Race Card is Disingenuous

I interrupt my usually politically motivated muses to voice my outrage at the liar Jayson Blair. You know the man who duped the New York Times, and fabricated and/or plagiarized not one, not two, not three, not ten, or even 20, but an embarrassing 36 stories for the fabled newspaper. It’s not enough that the man has besmirched the venerable and highly respected name and reputation of the Times, and in so doing cast a pall over the entire face of print journalism, but now he has the audacity, and the gall to try and play the race card in order to cover up his lack of character!

Words alone cannot describe how disgusted and utterly disappointed I am in this man. As a Black male, this is indeed a sad day for me, and my honest hardworking fellows who must win our respect one deed at a time. Why oh why, must the race card be played every time an issue of character rears it ugly head, and those questioned are black? In a ground breaking and eye opening interview with the New York Observer, published on May 21, 2003, Blair lashed out at the Times, stating, “[a]nyone who tells you that my race didn’t play a role in my career at the New York Times is lying to you. Both racial preferences and racism played a role. And I would argue that they didn't balance each other out."

As any Black male will tell you, being one of us in America is not a walk in the park by any means, but the behavior portrayed by Blair has nothing to do with race and everything to do with a serious flaw in his individual character, far removed from race. His imperfections are all too human, and all too typical of this generation of young professionals; or should I say professional wannabes. Why work when I can take the easy way out. And why accept the blame for my own shortcomings; surely someone, or something else must be the blame!

Blair went on to say, "I was under a lot of pressure. I was black at the New York Times, which is something that hurts you as much as it helps you. I certainly have health problems which probably led to me having to kill Jayson Blair, the journalist. . . . So Jayson Blair the human being could live, Jayson Blair the journalist had to die." So what. I am black working for a major Technology out-sourcing company based in Texas. I have felt the bite of racism from colleagues and managers alike, but I do not respond by becoming less of a person than I was meant to be; I do not blame the entire corporation for the actions of a few and attempt to assassinate the whole. And it is rumored that Blair’s “health problems” were self-induced (alcohol and cocaine), yet another character flaw in a long, long list of many.

Blair blames everyone but himself for his shameful run at the Times, and indeed celebrates the fact the he was able to dupe the Times for so long, saying, “I fooled some of the most brilliant people in journalism...[t]hey're all so smart, but I was sitting right under their nose fooling them. If they're all so brilliant and I'm such an affirmative action hire, how come they didn't catch me?" Was this a game to him? It seems it was, and what is even more amazing is that he has no regrets. He has yet to earnestly apologize to the Times, or even more importantly, to the readers of the Times who depend on the newspaper for accurate, professionally written, unblemished news. To be sure, the Times editors should have kept a tighter rein on the young liar, but in the end the blame rests squarely on Blair’s slight shoulders.

And his claims that the editors at the Times are racist stand hollow in the face of his own deplorable behaviors. Indeed, by Blair’s own admission while interning at The Boston Globe in 1999, Blair was guilty of the same behaviors, faking an interview with D.C. mayor Anthony Williams. Blair has described his former Globe colleagues as "a bunch of thin-skinned, sheltered, cocooned babies." Were the Boston Globe editors guilty of racism as well?

Now there is talk of a book! And to add insult to grievous injury, Blair says he laughed at the Times’ recently published 7000 word Mea Culpa in which the newspaper detailed Blair’s trail of deceit.

I do not buy Blair’s assertion of racism; I reject it, as I reject him. In the end his downfall was not brought about by the color of his skin, but by the content (or lack thereof) of his shallow, reprehensible character.