home > archive > 2004 > this article
The banality of bias: AP reporter injects anti-white racism, corruption, into Miss. election story
By Nicholas Stix
During 2003 the seemingly constant journalistic scandals at the New York Times caused reporters and editors who were busy corrupting the news at less notorious outlets to be overlooked. In addition to the Jayson Blair scandal, there were the newspaper of record's l'affaires Rick Bragg, Lynette Holloway and Maureen Dowd; the resuscitation of the Sally Hemings Hoax; the matter of the non-existent terrorist attack in Iraq reported by "Pfc. Jose Belen"; the newspaper's postmortem castration of photographer Marvin Smith; its premature burial of dancer Katharine Sergava; and editorialist and Jefferson-hoaxer Brent Staples' baseless smear, claiming that Strom Thurmond had raped Carrie Butler, the black mother of Thurmond's biracial daughter, Essie Mae Washington-Williams. In the face of such a deluge of localized corruption, Associated Press reporter Shelia Hardwell Byrd was a casualty -- a diligent yet neglected racial propagandist.
Byrd would surely be outraged to be called a racist. After all, "racists" are people who oppress black folks; Byrd does whatever she can to help black folks … and hurt whites. According to the current journalistic dispensation, you couldn't possibly call her a "racist" for that!
Byrd opened her November 5 story, "Race Seen as Factor in Miss. Elections," by emphasizing the importance to her of race in the just-concluded, Mississippi state elections, focusing on the lieutenant governor and treasurer's races:
But in the next sentence/paragraph, Byrd acted as if she had done nothing of the sort, when she suggested that white racism cost Barbara Blackmon and Gary Anderson the election:
Byrd clearly thought that Blackmon and Anderson's skin color should have gotten them elected; why else celebrate their chances as black politicians? And yet, somehow I doubt that, had they won, Byrd would have written, "State Sen. Barbara Blackmon, a lieutenant governor candidate, and Gary Anderson, a candidate for state treasurer, both won Tuesday, and some observers say their skin color was at least part of the reason."
Byrd is "passing." She is an editorialist who calls herself a reporter. And like most mainstream, socialist editorialists who pass as news reporters, Byrd takes for granted that it is righteous for black voters to be as racist as they wanna be, in voting for candidates based on the color of their skin, but suggests that whites who refuse to support black racism are automatically guilty of racism. If Byrd had any sense of logic or moral (not to mention, journalistic) integrity, she would realize that if it is not racist for black voters to support black candidates based on the color of the candidates' skin, then it also cannot be racist for white voters to support white candidates for the same reason.
(For an example of an "out" editorialist writing on the same topic, see Paul Krugman's rant, "[Confederate] Flags Versus Dollars," in the November 7 New York Times. Krugman, whose columns are a running digest of Democratic National Committee talking points, argues that since Democrat candidates are more supportive of welfare programs, poor and working-class white Southerners are so stupid and racist, that they vote against their own pocketbooks, when they pull the level for Republican candidates.)
The rest of Byrd's disguised editorial race-baited Mississippi Republican politicians and voters, while burying one GOP leader's defense against the race-baiting in a quickie sentence, to give Byrd cover against charges of one-sidedness. She repeatedly quoted race-baiting, Mississippi Democratic Party chairman Rickey Cole. "Rickey Cole, chairman of the Mississippi Democratic Party, said the GOP's tactics in this election season hearkened back to ‘Nixon's Southern Republican strategy to make subtle winks and nods to white racism in the South.'"
You'd never know, to read Byrd, that anti-white race-baiting has been a staple of Democrat politics since the 1960s.
In following the Democrat party line, Byrd used the NAACP-inspired racial code of invoking Republican Governor-elect Haley Barbour's support of the Mississippi state flag, which includes the Confederate battle flag, to tar Barbour and his supporters as racists.
To give herself the appearance of serious, scholarly support, Byrd quoted Leslie B. McLemore, a political science professor at Jackson State University, who mouthed the Democrat/NAACP line: According to Byrd, McLemore said, "'[T]here is no excuse for this to happen in 2003.' He said Tuck and Barbour used race in a blatant manner."
But there's a story within the story. Byrd failed to note that McLemore is a professor at a racist institution. Jackson State University is a publicly funded, black, excuse me, "historically black" university, whose students are taught "A knowledge and recognition of the value of both one's own ethnic and cultural heritage and of the similarities and difference inherent in a multi-cultural society." Translated into English, Jackson State students are taught to value blackness. In English, that's called publicly subsidized, institutionalized, educational racism.
Founded in 1877 as the private Natchez Seminary, the since renamed Jackson College was taken over by the State of Mississippi during Jim Crow, in 1950, and in 1956 renamed Jackson State College. In 1974, the school was elevated to university status. And "In 1979, Jackson State was officially designated the Urban University of the State of Mississippi," a euphemism for "the pre-eminent black university in the State of Mississippi."
According to the school's latest data, Jackson State's student body is 95.3 percent black (7296 out of 7655 students whose race could be determined; the race/ethnicity of 128 "aliens" is not provided by the school). Jackson State was founded, as part of Southern segregation, as a racially segregated, black institution. And yet, to borrow from Leslie B. McLemore, with the destruction of white-imposed segregation, there is no excuse for this to happen in 2004.
Jackson State is one of some 120 "historic black colleges and universities" (HBCUs). Every one of them receives federal funds, and every one of them engages in racial discrimination in its hiring decisions, which means that every one of them is in violation of Title VI, which bars any institution receiving federal funds from engaging in any form of racial discrimination. Unless private HBCUs are willing to forfeit federal funding, there is no legal excuse for this to happen in 2004.
Note that although only 3 per cent of American Ph.D.s are black, Jackson State's faculty is 64.3 per cent black (218 out of 339 faculty members, according to the school's latest figures). It is impossible for an American university to have a minority white faculty, without engaging in egregious racial discrimination in hiring decisions. Were Jackson State a segregated, white institution, teaching the value of whiteness, and discriminating against white job applicants, the feds would cite it for violating the 1964 U.S. Civil Rights Act, and either shut it down, or forcibly integrate it, and would certainly remove JSU officials and language promoting white supremacy. The rules cannot be different, because in Jackson State's case, the segregation is imposed and supported by blacks such as Leslie B. McLemore.
And there is yet another layer to the story that Shelia Hardwell Byrd refused to tell. Byrd failed to report that Leslie B. McLemore is a local politician who has lived off the race card, who is currently a Democrat Jackson city councilman, and whose term does not expire until June 30, 2005.
Now, most universities have conflict-of-interest rules which prohibit one from serving as a professor, at the same time that one is serving as an elected official. (Since the man teaches political science, he must talk about politics all the time. But since he is a Democrat politician, his teachings are virtually guaranteed to be corrupted by his party loyalty. And the commingling of roles as his students' teacher and some of their councilman is also rife with conflicts of interest.) Regardless of how the rules may be at Jackson State University, Shelia Hardwell Byrd, whose beat is Jackson politics, knew that she was committing an unpardonable journalistic sin, by not citing McLemore's office in quoting him. But then, had she done so, it would have blown McLemore's credibility out of the water. Readers would have seen that, far from being a disinterested scholar (if you'll pardon the anachronism), McLemore was merely a politician, speaking on behalf of his party.
Oddly enough, in Byrd's spinning of the defeats of Blackmon and Anderson, she contradicted her own pre-election appraisal of the candidates' chances of winning. On August 29, in "Black woman seeks statewide office in Miss.," Byrd wrote of Blackmon, "To succeed, the Democrat will have to energize black voters--blacks make up 37 of Mississippi's population--and win substantial white support Nov. 4, when she faces Republican Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck." In contrast, on November 5, Byrd flipped the script, in reversing her earlier appraisal: "The two candidates lost despite the fact that Mississippi has a black population of nearly 37 percent and nearly 900 black elected officials on the county and local levels." (Byrd neglected to tell her readers that she was contradicting her earlier analysis.) If black voters were in need of being energized to vote for black candidates, whites cannot be blamed for black voters' refusal to "vote black." You've heard of 20-20 hindsight; Shelia Hardwell Byrd would have you believe that she suffers from retrospective blindness.
And so, Shelia Hardwell Byrd: 1. Ignored a huge story on her own, Jackson beat -- the institutionalized racism that has created power bases for the likes of Leslie B. McLemore, and which McLemore uses to racially harass whites; 2. Misrepresented McLemore; 3. And rather than tell the story of institutionalized, black racism on her beat, chose to write a stealth editorial on a non-story (white racism, for which she had no evidence), which she used to perpetuate anti-white racism.
As egregious as Shelia Hardwell Byrd's racism is, it is also so common as to be banal. As exposes such as William McGowan's Coloring the News: How Crusading for Diversity Has Corrupted American Journalism have shown, Byrd's brand of racism thrives in every major print and network TV newsroom in America. But the fact that such racism is pervasive does not excuse it, anymore than anti-black racism in the Jim Crow South was excused by its pervasiveness.
New York-based freelancer Nicholas Stix has written for Toogood Reports,
Middle American News, the New York Post, Daily News, American Enterprise,
Insight, Chronicles, Newsday and many other publications. His recent work
is collected at www.geocities.com/nstix and http://www.thecriticalcritic.blogspot.com.
Get weekly updates about new issues of ESR!
© 1996-2018, Enter Stage Right and/or its creators. All rights reserved.