Charles Blow’s Son on Encounter With Campus Police: Focus on Unreported Police Brutality, Not Me

New York Times columnist Charles Blow
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Yale U. Concedes Drawing of Handgun Was Questionable

"As a noted memoirist and New York Times columnist who writes often about race, Charles Blow has spoken about the police killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, deaths that sparked a national debate over how police treat African-American men," Ashley Fantz reported Monday for CNN.

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"On Monday, Blow wrote about another young black man's encounter with police — his son, who was allegedly held at gunpoint on the Yale University campus where he's a student.

"Blow took to Twitter on Sunday, writing that he was 'fuming' after his son called to tell him what happened Saturday — that he was walking out of the library when university police 'accosted' him and drew their weapons. Blow tweeted that his son was detained because he 'fit the description' of a suspect.

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"Blow's son was released, and Yale has said that the real suspect was found and arrested later.

"The columnist's son was shaken. On Monday, Blow told CNN that his son is back in class and feeling better.

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" 'He's a good kid, and just wants to go to school. But one thing that he told me was really astute and worth sharing: he doesn't want this story to only be about him,' Blow said. 'He realizes that there are other young people who have fewer privileges, less access and endure even greater traumas, but whose stories go unreported until something truly tragic happens. He wants the focus to remain on them. I couldn't be prouder of him for having the wisdom to recognize that.'

"Sunday night, the columnist was incredibly angry after he says his son called him to explain what happened.

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" '#I can't breathe and #blacklives matter,' Blow posted in a series of tweets. 'This is exactly why I have NO PATIENCE for ppl trying to convince me that the fear these young blk men feel isn't real #RacialBattleFatigue,' the columnist wrote in tweets that were shared hundreds of thousands of times.

"Yale released a statement Monday that said Blow's son was detained in the vicinity of a reported crime, and that he closely matched the physical description of the suspect.

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" 'Let us be clear: we have great faith in the Yale Police Department and admire the professionalism that its officers display on a daily basis to keep our campus safe. What happened … is not a replay of what happened in Ferguson; Staten Island; Cleveland; or so many other places in our time and over time in the United States. The officer, who himself is African American, was responding to a specific description relayed by individuals who had reported a crime in progress,' it read. . . ."

Stephanie Addenbrooke and Amaka Uchegbu, Yale Daily News: Tahj Blow '16 forced to ground at gunpoint by YPD

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Tammerlin Drummond, Oakland Tribune: If Black Lives Matter then all black lives should matter

Charles G. Koch and Mark V. Holden, Politico Magazine: The Overcriminalization of America (Jan. 7)

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Letters, New York Times: The Yale Student and the Policeman (Jan. 27)

Pam McLoughlin, New Haven Register: New York Times writer Charles M. Blow 'fuming' that son was detained by Yale police

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Mary Mitchell, Chicago Sun-Times: Teen's letter should renew calls for action on violence

New Haven Independent: The Cop Was Black

Inae Oh, Mother Jones: Terrifying Video Shows Black Man "With His Hands Raised" Shot To Death By New Jersey Cop

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Do News Media Tell the Public About Their Own Diversity?

When the news media report on the lack of diversity on police forces or in the Republican party base, do they ever mention the diversity figures in their own newsrooms? When they discuss income inequality, do they discuss the racial breakdown of those who make six- and seven-figure salaries in their own organizations compared with those who make five figures?

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"Shameful, deplorable and hypocritical" is how Roland Martin, commentator and host of TV One's "News One Now With Roland Martin" described the news media on matters of race. The occasion was a panel discussion jointly sponsored by the National Press Club and the Capital Press Club, its African American counterpart, Monday night in the National Press Building in Washington.

Titled "Coverage of Race in America: How are we doing? How can we do better? A cutting edge forum to analyze media coverage from Ferguson to Staten Island," it represented an effort by the two groups to work together. Myron Belkind, president of the National Press Club, apologized last month on behalf of the 107-year-old organization for the segregation that led to the creation of the Capital Press Club 70 years ago, when blacks could not be members of the older group.

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The forum drew criticism from the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and Unity: Journalists for Diversity, which represents Asian American, Native American and lesbian and gay journalists, when only African Americans and whites were scheduled for the panel.

Gilbert Bailon, editor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and a former president of NAHJ, was added, but the audience was nevertheless still primarily black and white and about three-fourths African American. C-SPAN cameras recorded the event (video).

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While not specifically addressing the demographics of the audience, CNN reporter Athena Jones, who is African American, said early in the discussion, "There are many people who don't think about racism on a daily basis because they don't have to."

Martin followed his broadside at the lack of media transparency on internal racial matters with an observation that he said his six years at CNN helped teach him: Television hosts sometimes don't ask guests hard questions about race because "most folks in the media actually crave and desire access" to the newsmakers. He added that transparency on hiring should be matched by disclosing how many of the company's suppliers are of color.

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In other observations:

April D. Ryan, who covers the White House for American Urban Radio Networks and is author of the newly published "The Presidency in Black and White: My Up-Close View of Three Presidents and Race in America," said more black journalists were covering the White House under Bill Clinton than under Barack Obama. One reason, she said of television networks, has to do with the flavor of the month: "A lot of them want to have white women with blonde hair" as their White House correspondents.

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Jones said that too often media stories on race lack context, such as reporting on police protests of New York Mayor Bill de Blasio's comments that he told his black son to be careful in dealings with authorities. That such talks are almost routinely held in black homes was not reported enough, Jones said.

Paul Farhi, media reporter for the Washington Post, said that "in the day to day of what we do, there is not the same level of heat and passion that you're getting up here" in the panel. "If we could bottle this passion, we would do a lot more social good and do a lot of good journalism." He also urged that white journalists receive "equity training" to make them aware of their white privilege.

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Jeff Johnson, special correspondent at Black Entertainment Television who interviewed Obama for BET this month, said lack of consistent leadership in some communities leads not only to "schizophrenic leadership" but also "a schizophrenic media." He cited his hometown of Cleveland, where 12-year-old Tamir Rice was killed by a police officer, noting that actions by the mayor to punish errant police were overturned by a judge to little media attention.

Johnson also said few were linking African American dissatisfaction with police actions with upcoming elections in several cities, where mayors who supervise the police will be elected.

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Bailon said that contrary to the impression given by the news media, the growth in the Hispanic population will come from native-born Hispanics, not from immigrants, and that the Post-Dispatch was delivering on some of the complaints about Ferguson coverage but that the coverage was not being matched nationally.

Community members were urged to be more assertive with news media and to be more responsible in social media. "The vast majority of the protests have been peaceful," said Kenya Vaughn of the St. Louis American, a member of the black press, adding that only six days saw violence and that the protests are continuing. That is not the message being delivered in the national media, she said.

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Johnson also bemoaned lack of support for black media that report on racial issues "with integrity," and he urged current members of the media to be "talent scouts" for the next generations of journalists.

Two groups that might qualify were present. A newly formed D.C. group of honor students called Legacy, four African American entrepreneurs in their late teens who they said have separately built a school in Ethiopia, bought real estate in Kenva, written a book and are feeding impoverished Jamaicans, described their work and wondered what they needed to do to counter the image of their generation as interested primarily in sports and hip-hop music.

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Students from Washington's Eliot-Hine Middle School covered the event with their own cameras as their teacher, Mandrell Birks, sought support from the panelists in the students' effort to secure an interview with President Obama. The panelists took Birks' business cards and perused letters of endorsement secured by Birks from local officials and Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga. They promised to help.

Tensions Over Press Access on President's Trip to India

"Tensions between Indian and White House officials over press access are heating up, as the White House Press Corps tries to preserve its ability to cover President Barack Obama on his trip to India," Edward-Isaac Dovere and Hadas Gold reported Saturday for Politico.

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"Reporters who wish to cover Obama attending the Republic Day parade will have to give up all electronics, wireless access, and even bathroom breaks for upward of eight hours. If any news were to occur during the parade — an all-day spectacle of marching bands and floats, dancing children and rolling tanks — there would be something like a six-hour delay for the traveling pool to notify the rest of the American press.

"According to White House officials, the parade is the only event other than the president's inaugural parades for which Obama has been out so long at an event in public.

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" 'We want to make sure that you and your colleagues have the opportunity to get some access to the president and get a good sense about what the president’s doing when he is representing the United States of America on foreign soil,' White House spokesperson Josh Earnest told reporters on Friday, according to The Hindu.

''Sometimes these can be very challenging negotiations, particularly when we’re going to countries that don't have the same kind of respect for or don’t value an independent news media. Sometimes that can make those negotiations more complicated.' . . ."

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Editor Concedes Insufficient Attention to Boko Haram Attack

Was the killing of as many as 2,000 people by the Boko Haram terrorist group in Nigeria justifiably overshadowed by the attacks in Paris that left 17 victims and three gunmen dead? Margaret Sullivan, New York Times public editor, wrote this in the Sunday print edition:

"I posed these questions to three international editors last week. All were quick to point out that The Times's West Africa correspondent, Adam Nossiter, has done extraordinary work on Boko Haram for years. He was writing powerful enterprise pieces about the group long before it surfaced into the global consciousness by kidnapping hundreds of girls last April.

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"Joseph Kahn, The Times's top-ranking editor for international news, told me that the Paris and Nigeria stories aren't comparable. 'These were totally different challenges,' he said, with the former happening in a major Western capital where The Times has a substantial staff.

"He, and others, spoke of the difficulty of covering the Boko Haram story because of its remote location, the problems of verification, and the questions hanging over early reports. While Amnesty International was reporting as many as 2,000 dead, he told me, some trusted experts were cautioning against using the number. The Times needed to verify what had happened, something best done on the ground. But getting there is both difficult and time-consuming.

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"In retrospect, Mr. Kahn said, a story about the controversy over the numbers would have been one way to provide early and meaningful coverage — informing readers without falling prey to overstating what had happened. Such a story, especially if it had been prominently displayed and published quickly, would have been a valuable way to be transparent with readers about what The Times knew and what it didn’t know.

"Mr. Kahn also said that while the Paris attack had an intense and short news arc, the Boko Haram story would continue and that The Times would keep covering it with commitment. The editor on the International Desk who handles Africa coverage, Greg Winter, told me last week that Mr. Nossiter (who has also been a leading reporter on the Ebola story) was in Nigeria again working on a major Boko Haram piece.

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" 'I understand readers' concerns about covering Nigeria, and I share them, which is why our correspondent has risked his life for years to cover the country and the turmoil in the north,' Mr. Winter said.

"I asked Mr. Kahn how, in general, the numbers of violent deaths figure into editorial decisions. 'We don't cover everything equally,' he said. 'It goes to gut news judgment, as we ask: "Is this a big deal? Are we going to deploy someone?" ' Among the factors: 'The circumstances, how unusual it is, the location, the relevance to American interests.'

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"And, he said, The Times has to be careful not to overreport violent death.

" 'Not every incident of carnage is a major story for The New York Times. You have to put it in context, and not fill the news report with unlimited doses of terrible violent news from around the world.'

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"But, speaking of the recent Boko Haram attack, he said: 'It could have had more attention and emphasis.'

"I agree. I have no objection to the extent of the Paris coverage. But whatever the calculus of news judgments, these lost Nigerian lives surely were worthy of The Times’s immediate, as well as its continuing, attention."

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Isabell Hülsen and Holger Stark, Spiegel: Interview with Chief New York Times Editor Baquet

Siobhán O'Grady, Foreign Policy: Kerry's Visit to Nigeria Coincides With Major Boko Haram Offensive

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Siobhán O'Grady, Foreign Policy: Nigeria Keeps Playing the Boko Haram Blame Game

Recession Wiped Out Black Wealth Gains, Reporter Finds

"The recession and tepid recovery have erased two decades of African American wealth gains," Michael A. Fletcher reported for Sunday's print editions of the Washington Post. "Nationally, the net worth of the typical African American family declined by one-third between 2010 and 2013, according to a Washington Post analysis of the Federal Reserve's Survey of Consumer Finances, a drop far greater than that of whites or Hispanics.

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"The top half of African American families — the core of the middle class — is left with less than half of the typical wealth they possessed in 2007. The wealth of similarly situated whites declined by just 14 percent.

"Overall, the survey found, the typical African American family was left with about eight cents for every dollar of wealth held by whites. . . ."

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Fletcher's story focused on the Washington suburb of Prince George's County, Md.

"African Americans for decades flocked to Prince George's County to be part of a phenomenon that has been rare in American history: a community that grew more upscale as it became more black," it began.

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"The county became a national symbol of the American Dream with a black twist. Families moved into expansive new homes, with rolling lawns, nearby golf courses and, most of all, neighbors who looked like them. In the early 2000s, home prices soared — some well beyond $1 million — allowing many African Americans to build the kind of wealth their elders could only imagine. . . ."

An editor's note explained, "This is the first part in a series looking at the plight of the black middle class, particularly in Maryland's Prince George’s County, the nation’s highest-income majority-black county."

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Fallen Journalist Reinvents Herself as Successful Poet

"Sometimes, the words come to her on the Garden State Parkway or on the Outerbridge Crossing, snippets of verse that capture a flash of light, an eruption of color, a piercing cry," Rachel L. Swarns wrote Sunday for her column "The Working Life" in the New York Times.

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"She recites the words aloud, burning them into memory, as she steps out of the faculty parking lot at the College of Staten Island and climbs the stairs to her second-floor office.

"She recites the words because she wants to hear how they hit the air, to feel how they roll off the tongue, to know if they are discordant shards or melodious fragments of a sonorous whole.

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"Where's that girl going? Past slant sag porches, pea shuck, twangy box guitars begging under purple dayfall.

"She is Patricia Smith, Staten Island’s literary sensation, a poet, an English professor and a star on the national stage. Last month, she won the Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry, awarded by the Library of Congress to luminaries such as James Merrill, Louise Glück and Mark Strand. In April, she won a Guggenheim Fellowship in poetry.

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" 'Extraordinary,' Lee Papa, the interim chairman of the English department at the College of Staten Island, said last week.

"It is all the more extraordinary if you consider her story.

"Patricia Smith, the nationally acclaimed poet, is also Patricia Smith, the disgraced former journalist who plunged into a black hole of her own making in 1998.

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"She was a columnist for The Boston Globe, a Pulitzer Prize finalist and a lauded wordsmith who resigned after admitting that she had invented characters and quotes in a scandal that prompted self-examination at newspapers across the country.

"Since then, she has salvaged a successful writing life from the ashes and quietly closed the door on her past. There is no mention of her years in journalism on her faculty bio page or on her personal website. . . ."

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N.Y. Times' Vega Moves from Race Beat to the Bronx

"In recent months Tanzina Vega showed how varied and powerful a national beat focusing on race could be: She explored the psyches of minority gun owners, looked at school discipline and how it varies by ethnicity, and was tear-gassed in Ferguson while covering the events there," Wendell Jamieson, metropolitan editor of the New York Times, and Dean Chang, his deputy, wrote to Times staffers on Monday.

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"But as we've told many a Foreign correspondent, you don't need to travel abroad to find adventure: The Metro desk can accommodate you right here in New York. So too is it true that all the issues of justice, race and inequality play out in the five boroughs just as they do elsewhere, perhaps even more so. And nowhere are they more evident, and in technicolor, than in our teeming courtrooms.

"So we're excited to announce that Tanzina, who first worked for The Times as a Metro stringer and graduated next door at CUNY, will return and open up our first full-time Bronx courthouse beat. . . ."

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Times spokeswoman Eileen Murphy did not respond to an inquiry about the status of the national race beat.

Short Takes

"A former employee of a Fox television station in Texas shot himself to death outside the company's New York headquarters Monday, shortly after handing out fliers saying the company had ended his career, police said," the Associated Press reported. "Phillip Perea, 41, shot himself in the chest at around 9 am. Monday outside the building near Radio City Music Hall that houses Fox News, the New York Post and The Wall Street Journal. Perea left a suicide note, authorities said, and a weapon was recovered at the scene. No other injuries were reported. . . ."

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"I was looking forward to seeing American Sniper," Mateo Romero, an enrolled tribal member at Cochiti Pueblo, wrote Sunday for the Indian Country Today Media Network. "I took my brown Native high school-aged son to see it. I’m a fan of Clint Eastwood's acting and directing, and his Sniper is a beautifully shot and directed action packed flick. But after his film, I spent the hour's drive home explaining to my son why I thought the movie was dangerous and corrosive to the American people. This is a tense war movie that looks great. But just underneath the film's sexy veneer is a shockingly racist ideology of hate and death that is advanced by the white male sniper Chris Kyle. . . ."

"Tunisian journalists held hostage in Libya, Sofiene Chourabi and Nadhir Ktari 'are alive,' said Libyan Minister of the Interior Omar Al-Sinki," Tunis Afrique Presse reported Friday from Tunisia. "Al-Sinki, whose remarks were reported by press agencies, said Friday he had relevant information on that, adding that the Libyan side is acting with utmost caution to preserve the life of hostages. . . ." On Jan. 8, the Libyan branch of the Islamic State group claimed to have executed the journalists, who went missing in September.

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"Officials in Mexico say they have found the decapitated body of a journalist who had been missing for three weeks," the BBC reported Monday. "Moises Sanchez was abducted from his home in the eastern state of Veracruz by gunmen on 2 January. He reported on corruption and violence for weekly newspaper La Union in the town of Medellin de Bravo. . . ."

"A reporter who fled Argentina after breaking a story about an Argentine prosecutor's death has been talking about the reasons for his flight," Roy Greenslade reported Monday for Britain's Guardian newspaper. "Damian Pachter, who flew to Israel, had reported that the prosecutor, Alberto Nisman, had died with a bullet to the head in his Buenos Aires home on 18 January. Nisman's death occurred the day before he was due to answer questions in public about his allegation that Argentina's president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, had conspired to derail his investigation . . . into the 1994 bombing of a Jewish charities federation office in which 85 people were killed. . . ."

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