Backers of race partiality require a double standard

Tuesday, May 27, 2003 at 12:00am

America's leading black journalists seem to be in denial about what affirmative action means.

ABC's Michel Martin says the fixation with Jayson Blair is little more than "race baiting" for the sake of selling newspapers. New York Times columnist Bob Herbert declares, "The race issue in this case is as bogus as some of Jayson Blair's reporting."

Two days after The New York Times issued its massive mea culpa on l'affaire Blair, Terry Neal, an online columnist for The Washington Post, declared that "diversity has nothing to do" with Blair's mistakes. The next day Courtland Milloy, another Post columnist, asserted that those who seek to use the Blair case as an excuse to discuss affirmative action have "shortcomings far more pathological than those displayed by Blair."

Forgive me, but doesn't all this sound a bit desperate? With the noteworthy exceptions of Ellis Cose of Newsweek and Clarence Page of the Chicago Tribune, it seems that a disturbingly high percentage of prominent liberal black journalists have been unwilling to entertain the idea that race is a major issue here. After all, Howell Raines, the executive editor of the Times, has admitted that he gave Blair "one chance too many" because of his race.

But enough about Blair. What I find interesting is the defensiveness of America's best black journalists. Almost all of them make the argument that it's unfair to single out black journalists. Herbert quotes one black reporter who says, "After hundreds of years in America, we are still on probation."

Many of them complain that there are "affirmative action" programs for women in "short skirts"

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