As the saying goes about a broken clock....
The New York Times has earned a reputation as Woke Central, with a radicalized cohort of young staffers pushing out centrist writers guilty of word-crime or anti-woke inclinations, a list including James Bennet, Bari Weiss, and Donald McNeil.
So it was a welcome surprise to see, on Thursday’s front page, a balanced story on yet another racial controversy within another feverishly progressive milieu: Smith College in Massachusetts
Reporter Michael Powell returned to the scene of an alleged racist incident at the painfully progressive school in “Tensions Simmer Over Race and Class at Smith – College Struggles With Identity After Bias Complaint.”
One saw that headline deck and was prepared to grind through another presumption of white-on-black racism. Instead, Powell offered a balanced 2,800-word analysis of what happened, bringing class as well as race into the mix, offering facts which leave accusing student Oumou Kanoute coming off not well at all. Perhaps a liberal copy editor on the headline desk didn’t approve of the story’s tone?
At any rate, Powell began (click “expand”):
In midsummer of 2018, Oumou Kanoute, a Black student at Smith College, recounted a distressing American tale: She was eating lunch in a dorm lounge when a janitor and a campus police officer walked over and asked her what she was doing there.
The officer, who could have been carrying a “lethal weapon,” left her near “meltdown,” Ms. Kanoute wrote on Facebook, saying that this encounter continued a yearlong pattern of harassment at Smith.
“All I did was be Black,” Ms. Kanoute wrote. “It’s outrageous that some people question my being at Smith College, and my existence overall as a woman of color.”
The college’s president, Kathleen McCartney, offered profuse apologies and put the janitor on paid leave. “This painful incident reminds us of the ongoing legacy of racism and bias,” the president wrote, “in which people of color are targeted while simply going about the business of their ordinary lives.”
Less attention was paid three months later when a law firm hired by Smith College to investigate the episode found no persuasive evidence of bias. Ms. Kanoute was determined to have eaten in a deserted dorm that had been closed for the summer; the janitor had been encouraged to notify security if he saw unauthorized people there. The officer, like all campus police, was unarmed.
Smith College officials emphasized “reconciliation and healing” after the incident. In the months to come they announced a raft of anti-bias training for all staff, a revamped and more sensitive campus police force and the creation of dormitories -- as demanded by Ms. Kanoute and her A.C.L.U. lawyer -- set aside for Black students and other students of color.
But they did not offer any public apology or amends to the workers whose lives were gravely disrupted by the student’s accusation.
Powell implied, rather too nicely, that student Kanoute’s weaponized account was a tissue of falsehoods:
This is a tale of how race, class and power collided at the elite 145-year-old liberal arts college, where tuition, room and board top $78,000 a year and where the employees who keep the school running often come from working-class enclaves beyond the school’s elegant wrought iron gates. The story highlights the tensions between a student’s deeply felt sense of personal truth and facts that are at odds with it.
Those tensions come at a time when few in the Smith community feel comfortable publicly questioning liberal orthodoxy on race and identity, and some professors worry the administration is too deferential to its increasingly emboldened students.
As a bonus, Powell demonstrated how useless the so-called American Civil Liberties Union has become in this era of all consuming racial guilt:
Rahsaan Hall, racial justice director for the A.C.L.U. of Massachusetts and Ms. Kanoute’s lawyer, cautioned against drawing too much from the investigative report, as subconscious bias is difficult to prove. Nor was he particularly sympathetic to the accused workers.
“It’s troubling that people are more offended by being called racist than by the actual racism in our society,” he said. “Allegations of being racist, even getting direct mailers in their mailbox, is not on par with the consequences of actual racism.”
So much for “innocent until proven guilty.”
This followed Powell’s deep dive into another case of weaponized hypersensitivity in academia, a full-page story on a seemingly obscure but vital issue: “Blind to Hate, Or Sounding Right Notes? – A musicology journal stirs a fight over race and free speech.”
Powell’s piece makes quite a change in tone from the paper’s original August 2018 coverage, “All I Did Was Be Black’: Police Are Called on College Student Eating Lunch.” Daniel Victor faithfully took the now-discredited student’s word as absolute truth: “The encounter was the latest example of a black person encountering unwarranted police scrutiny in recent months.”