I can’t imagine being columnist Jenee Osterheldt. She is on a lovely vacation in Paris and instead of enjoying herself, she is the victim of a “racist attack.” Lucky for her, this gives her a front-section story about the history of American racism and how people are racist all over the Globe. This is her regular column topic, so hopefully she was able to deduct the cost of her trip for research?
But when you read her description of the incident, I don’t see any racism at all. But as the Globe has been trying to prove through countless articles, racism is in the eye of the beholder. If a white person wearing white clothes and white sneakers walks by and looks at a black person, that could be perceived as a racist attack. Surely the white person knew that wearing white was a dog whistle to white supremacists? They must be trying to intimidate the black person, obviously. Didn’t the KKK wear white robes? Did Hitler also have a white suit? Maybe that was Mao.
In this alleged racist incident, Osterheldt was hailing a cab and a white French woman, nicely dressed, came across the street and started screaming at her. I presume it was in French as Osterheldt does not offer a single quote as to what is said. Without a translation, how does Osterheldt know this was evidence of racism? Perhaps the French woman thought the cab was hers and some foreign tourist took it from her. Maybe she was having a bad day and really needed the ride. There are probably 100 more plausible explanations than “racism.”
Osterheldt then says that she got injured in the altercation. I guess the woman tried to get in the cab and some sort of scuffle ensued.
Being in a foreign country, Osterheldt didn’t physically defend herself from the assault, if that’s what it was, but she is convinced this was a racist incident. Why? Because Osterheldt is black and the French woman was white. So what else could it be?
Think how angry one can get when you are waiting for a particular parking space and someone else swoops in and grabs it because you hesitated. That’s what this incident sounded like to me as a reader. Maybe the woman flagged the cab, it stopped, and Osterheldt took it, thinking it was stopping for her. Osterheldt does describe walking behind the cabby, so maybe this was a line of cabs with the drivers soliciting rides from tourists. Or maybe the white woman was just mentally ill.
Regardless, tying this incident with no evidence of any racism (no racist words or comments were reported) to the black American experience and 400 years of slavery just show the downside of current “Afro-American studies” in our colleges. To see racism in this example is to imagine racism behind every human interaction, no matter how benign.
Osterheldt didn’t describe what clothes she was wearing. Maybe her clothing triggered this poor woman who felt Osterheldt was racially attacking her, so she was just defending herself. That is about as fantastical and without any basis as Osterheldt’s premise.
Oh, here’s another idea. Maybe this has happened to Osterheldt before? Maybe crazed white people have physically assaulted her so often that she just knows a racist attack when it occurs. Or maybe she views the world through victimization glasses and just sees racism everywhere.
Either way, it is sad. But at least Osterheldt got a column and maybe a tax deduction out of it.
*Requires minimim of 5 Ratings to be displayed
Grading articles for bias is subjective. We hope that with widespread participation, we can give the reporters and editors at the Boston Globe valuable feedback on their professional work. Here are our suggestions for grading news articles for bias. (We do not rate editorial opinion columns for bias. But we do analyze the Boston Globe for overall editorial balance.)
Consider whether the article is completely free of bias (a grade of 10 or A), has been mostly free of bias (8 or 9, A- or B+), has been biased but not terribly or where the bias did not hurt the integrity of the underlying information (7 or 6, B or B-).
If the article was fairly biased overall, but subtle; or where the bias was particularly prominent but isolated to a single section, give the article a 5 or 4 (C+ or C). If the article was very biased but perhaps not intentionally so, perhaps a C- (3) would be deserved.
If the article was extremely prejudiced with major misstatements of fact, intentionally misleading, or ignored well known facts to advance a false narrative, give the article a D or F (2 or 1).
Reviewers must subscribe to Public Editor and agree to our terms of service to participate. Subscriptions are currently free. We recommend that all readers subscribe to the Boston Globe or the newspaper of their choice to support journalism, and to send the Boston Globe your feedback directly. Thank you for participating in Public Editor’s bias rating project!