“I wish Maria Taylor all the success in the world — she covers football, she covers basketball. If you need to give her more things to do because you are feeling pressure about your crappy longtime record on diversity — which, by the way, I know personally from the female side of it — like, go for it. Just find it somewhere else. You are not going to find it from me or taking my thing away.”
—-ESPN sideline reporter Rachel Nichols in a phone conversation nearly a year ago after learning that she would not host coverage during the 2020 N.B.A. finals, as she had been expecting.
The phone call, unbeknownst to her, was being recorded, and someone leaked it to the ESPN brass and the public. The ethical issues raised by that conduct are clear and have been discussed here often: it is a dastardly thing to do, a breach of basic Golden Rule ethics, and indefensible because it creates harm to all involved. But that’s not the issue at hand.
After the video was leaked, many black ESPN employees told one another that it confirmed their suspicions that outwardly supportive white people talk differently behind closed doors. Nichols, seeing the ominous handwriting on the wall, tried to apologize to Taylor with texts and phone calls. Taylor did not respond. Meanwhile, ESPN employees turned against Nichols, whom they perceived as indulging in a “common criticism used by white workers in many workplaces to disparage nonwhite colleagues” when she suggested that “Taylor was offered the hosting job only because of her race, not because she was the best person for the job.”
Let’s pause here and think. Nothing in Nichol’s quote disparaged Taylor or her ability. Nor did Nichols say that the only reason Taylor was getting the new plum job was because of her race, though that might indeed have been the case, since the same scenario is playing out everywhere across the country, in every industry, organization and government agency.
Is there anyone honest and blessed with a functioning cerebral cortex who has been paying attention to trends and developments in distributing jobs, promotions, appointments and honors over the last year who read what Nichols said and thought, “What in the world could she be talking about?”
Yet the New York Times, in its first story about the “scandal” (speaking the truth about race-related matters is a scandal, though we are constantly told that the fact that Americans “never talk frankly about race” is a problem—I know, it makes no sense, but that’s the rule—) called Nichols’ private remarks “disparaging” and the Daily News called them “racist.”
Heavens, what would ever give this woman the idea that a black employee would get a job that a white individual was qualified for because of “diversity” concerns?
Today there is a full page, full-color ad at the back of the first section of the New York Times from STARZ, the cable movie channel. Six large photos of African-American performers line the top and bottom. The text sandwiched between the photos reads,
Representation Matters On Screen and Behind The Camera
followed by this graphic:
Then, of course, there is this, proudly posted by Yale…
…as well as, oh, thousands of other examples, like cartoon character voice actors being replaced solely because they are white, and theater artistic directors being replaced because they are white, and Coca-Cola demanding that its law firms obey a racial quota regarding which lawyers they assign to clients, and the Oscars installing racial quotas for film production, and Nikole Hannah-Jones being offered a tenured position at UNR despite having no academic credentials at all and being exposed as a fraud, and, of course, Kamala Harris.
The rule, apparently, is that it is “racist” to acknowledge what isn’t just going on, but what is being boasted about, proclaimed, and made the basis of public relations efforts. There was and is every reason for Rachel Nichols to conclude that her race was what got her bounced out of a star broadcasting role at ESPN, and the necessary converse of that is that the race of her replacement was a major reason as well.
With the return of the NBA season looming, ESPN announced last week that Rachel Nichols has been removed from coverage of the sport, and her weekday show, The Jump, has been canceled.
I do not believe that the logical, legal, ethical and factual tension between a full-court press across the country to discriminate against white citizens and the position that accurately describing the phenomenon as what it is constitutes racism is sustainable. Eventually victims like Nichols are going to figure out that apologizing for speaking the truth is not the required response.