TUESDAY, DECEMBER 20, 2011
Reviewing the New York police—and The Help: Two Sundays ago, we were amazed by the very poor work in the New York Times’ Sunday Review.
This piece about religious belief struck us as a large muddle. The section included an editorial about Tim Tebow, an NFL player—and an opinion column on the same rather limited topic. Beyond that, we thought this front-page piece was very poorly reasoned.
The author complains about “a persistent historical and present-day attack on black people in America, with black men made into deviants and black women into problems.” On its face, this topic is well worth examining. But go ahead—read the whole piece. Concerning the author’s specific complaint, she cites no source for the current attack other than her family and friends, who, in context, seem to be black. Them, and maybe one book by a Stanford professor.
The Times seems to love weakly-reasoned work, especially concerning race. In part for that reason, we were very impressed by this piece in this past weekend’s Sunday Review. The piece was written by Nicholas Peart, a student at Borough of Manhattan Community College. The piece is extremely well written—and it cuts to the bone about a matter of race involving the New York police.
Because the piece was so well written—and so aggressively constructive—it didn’t rate the Sunday Review’s front page. But what a superb piece of work! It made us think of Dr. King’s refusal, long ago, to be anything but forward-looking and constructive.
In our view, constructive counts, unless you don’t care about outcomes.
Over the weekend, we also watched C-Span’s book event with Melissa Harris-Perry. (To watch the full hour, click here.) At the 33-minute mark, Harris-Perry spends about ten minutes discussing the movie (and/or book), The Help. When The Help appeared in theaters last summer, Harris-Perry was featured on The Last Word offering an aggressively negative but brief review. In this book event, she fleshes out her complaints.
For ourselves, we didn’t think her complaints made real good sense, although there’s surely plenty of room to move beyond the film’s contents. (One example: When people saw the film, did they think they were watching a history? Harris-Perry seems to think so.) But the topic starts 33 minutes in. Your reactions may differ.
One note: Harris-Perry says she saw the film in New Orleans. She says the audience applauded at the end, just as a largely-black audience applauded here in Baltimore on the day we saw the film. She seems to suggest that they maybe shouldn’t have done that, given the film's allegedly gloomy ending. Our guess: For all its shortcomings, which are several, those people may have seen things in the film which Harris-Perry missed.
Check out her discussion on-line. Your reactions may differ from ours. But as we all know, race still matters.