Well, it's about time.
In case you hadn't heard, The New York Times ran an article written by critic Alessandra Stanley about TV producer Shonda Rhimes that referenced her as "an angry black woman," and also claimed that Viola Davis was "less classically beautiful" than lighter skinned actresses.
Yes, this happened in 2014, and yes it is completely unacceptable.
In response to all this, the newspaper's public editor, Margaret Sullivan, posted an article about the backlash, which featured an apology:
"The article on the television producer Shonda Rhimes hadn't yet appeared in Sunday's paper, but the virtual world was ablaze in protest over it on Friday after it was published online…There are some big questions here – about diversity, about editing procedures and about how The Times deals with stories about women and race. They are worth exploring in depth.
This is a preliminary post, and I'll be adding to it later today, or posting again. But I'll say this much: The readers and commentators are correct to protest this story. Intended to be in praise of Ms. Rhimes, it delivered that message in a condescending way that was – at best – astonishingly tone-deaf and out of touch."
In addition, Margaret spoke to the culture editor, Danielle Mattoon, who had her own apology to offer:
"There was never any intent to offend anyone and I deeply regret that it did. Alessandra used a rhetorical device to begin her essay, and because the piece was so largely positive, we as editors weren't sensitive enough to the language being used."
Meanwhile the author of the incendiary piece, Alessandra, gave her own thoughts on the article she wrote, and the stereotype she so insensitively used:
"In the review, I referenced a painful and insidious stereotype solely in order to praise Ms. Rhimes and her shows for traveling so far from it. If making that connection between the two offended people, I feel bad about that. But I think that a full reading allows for a different takeaway than the loudest critics took.
The same applies to your question about 'less than classically beautiful.' Viola Davis said it about herself in the NYT magazine, more bluntly. I commended Ms. Rhimes for casting an actress who doesn't conform to television's narrow standards of beauty; I have said the same thing about Helen Mirren in 'Prime Suspect.'
I didn't think Times readers would take the opening sentence literally because I so often write arch, provocative ledes that are then undercut or mitigated by the paragraphs that follow…
Regrettably, this stereotype is still too incendiary to raise even in arguing that Ms. Rhimes had killed it once and for all."
Was this apology enough? We really hope The New York Times takes extra steps in the future to make sure that offense articles like this never happen again. They're just not fit to print.
Tags: alessandra stanley, angry black woman, apology, article, culture editor, new york times, public editor, shonda rhimes, tv news