Taking advantage of a tragedy to push one’s political opinions is an awful thing to do, and it’s ever-increasingly a part of our never-ending national argument. Nearly everyone does it, even the current president.
After Monday’s tragic mass shooting in Boulder, Colo., USA Today’s then-race and inclusion editor Hemal Jhaveri rushed to Twitter to get likes and retweets by blaming white men for the crimes.
In the since-deleted tweet, Jhaveri said, “It’s always an angry white man. always.”
The Boulder shooting turns out to have been perpetrated by a Syrian refugee, Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa. He may be angry, but he’s not white by the usual definition.
We don’t know what his motivation was at this point though there’s evidence that he hated Trump, is on the political left, and may have ISIS sympathies. If that’s the case, there is recent precedent. Several mass shootings on U.S. soil have been committed by jihadists in the past, including the mass murder in San Bernardino, Calif., that killed 14 in 2015. The Pulse nightclub massacre in 2016 in Orlando, Fla., was likewise committed by a jihadist. Omar Mateen killed 49. Nidal Hassan killed 13 at Ft. Hood, Texas, in November 2009. In Chattanooga, Tenn., Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez shot and killed four U.S. Marine Corps recruiters on July 16, 2015. He was apparently inspired by jihadist Anwar Al-Awlaki. None of these killers were white males.
It would be wrong to rush to Twitter while shell casings are still hitting the ground during a shooting and blame all of them everywhere on all Muslims. It would be factually wrong. The Atlanta killer isn’t Muslim. Many mass shooters aren’t. In 2017, Slate reported that mass shooters are racially diverse. White men are not disproportionately represented in this awful demographic.
Jhaveri didn’t wait for the facts, even though they’d been available to anyone with an internet connection for years. She rushed to Twitter with a hot take and blamed a whole category of people for a crime that it turned out none of them were involved in.
Yes, it was. It was a revealing one, too. The now-former race and inclusion editor demonstrated racial bias and smeared millions of people who did nothing wrong.
She is blaming her firing on just taking her job too darn seriously.
This is not about bias, or keeping personal opinions off of Twitter. It’s about challenging whiteness and being punished for it. As a columnist and Race and Inclusion editor with our Sports Media Group, it was my job to push for anti-racism and inclusion in our stories and with our staff. That work can not be done without calling out existing power relations, often in a public forum.
No. That’s not why she was fired.
It’s an editor’s job to get facts right, even if that means waiting a minute while everyone else is losing their minds around you. Jhaveri failed even to do that. All that takes is a little patience. Twitter doesn’t reward patience at all. Very little in modern life does.
In the email announcing that I had been fired, USA TODAY’s standards and ethics editor said I had been previously disciplined for a similar situation, but did not offer specifics. In my recollection, there are only two other tweets I’ve sent that USA TODAY found problematic. In one tweet, from roughly 2017, I called out a reporter’s white privilege. In another, from 2018, I pushed back against a USA TODAY Sports column, because the piece dismissed the human rights violations in Qatar as “a little on the repressive side.”
I suppose it’s of some comfort that USA Today’s standards and ethics editor trumps the race and inclusion editor. That may not be the case forever in today’s increasingly woke newsrooms. It already doesn’t appear to be the case at the New York Times.