paper trail

LA Times responds to open letter from its Guild’s Black Caucus; Tressie McMillan Cottom on class and white consumerism

Tressie McMillan Cottom. Photo: The New Press

Eve L. Ewing on why she capitalizes the “W” in the word White when talking about race: “Whiteness is not only an absence. It’s not a hole in the map of America’s racial landscape. Rather, it is a specific social category that confers identifiable and measurable social benefits.”

Tressie McMillan Cottom—author of Thick and Lower Ed—considers how the COVID-19 pandemic is making people uncomfortably aware of class in America: “The white consumer is fighting for their very lives, as they experience them. If they are not consuming, then they may not exist as they imagine they exist: good, hard-working Americans that are one right decision removed from their rightful place of benevolent superiority.”

At the New Republic, J. C. Pan looks at the roots of the current fight about wearing masks in public to protect communities from coronavirus. Looking back at conservative policy doctrine from Reagan on, Pan sees a familiar pattern, one that has played out in deadly ways in the current crisis: “The near-total abdication of the government during the pandemic has shifted even more responsibility for weathering the outbreak onto individuals, and the result is a vicious clash between pro- and anti-mask culture warriors. But that conflict over personal choices just underscores how our government has been designed to fail.”

Rebecca Solnit writes about the personal-injury lawyers who were photographed in front of their mansion pointing guns at Black Lives Matter protesters in St. Louis.

In the Columbia Journalism Review, Jack Herrera considers the press’s vexed relationship to the term “defund the police.” After a series of explainer articles in outlets like CNN, NPR, and MSNBC that seemed to misunderstand the abolitionist movement, the media moved on to its true passion: horse-race reporting on the upcoming election.

Los Angeles–based writer Kara Brown has started a virtual book club. The first selection is Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God.

On Twitter, LA Times reporter Erin B. Logan has released a statement from the paper’s owner, Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, responding to a recent open letter from Black members of the Times Guild. Soon-Shiong outlines six steps the publication will now take, including hiring more Black journalists, reviewing compensation, and “reshaping our coverage to address unconscious bias.” Soon-Shiong ends his letter by avowing: “We will do everything in our power to end racism at the LA Times. Black Lives Matter. This is a self-evident truth. Black lives are vital. Black lives are beloved.”