THE BLOG
07/16/2008 07:56 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

NYT's Egan Discovers The Race Chasm - Then Seems to Justify It

The New York Times' Tim Egan - normally a pretty original writer who I'm a big fan of - today discovers the Race Chasm, about four months after it was first discussed and then debated all over the media:

People who live in states with few blacks seem more open to the idea of a president who is not white. Perhaps race is more of an abstract, an ideal. The raw, sometimes tribal clashes of ethnic groups, where a long-ago slight can harden into a political attitude, seems less pronounced.

Thus, Obama is ahead in Oregon, which has a black population of 1.9 percent, but is having trouble in Michigan, where 14.3 percent of the population is black and the white suburban diaspora has complicated views about race informed by black-majority Detroit. (emphasis added)

That part in bold makes me wince, actually. He seems to be employing euphemisms that - whether deliberately or accidentally - seem to justify the racism inherent in the race chasm.

That part in bold makes me wince, actually. He seems to be employing euphemisms that - whether deliberately or accidentally - seem to justify the racism inherent in the race chasm. For instance, he seems to be substituting the innocuous word "complicated" for the word "racist." Worse, he appears to be using the term "informed by" as a euphemism for the term "understandable considering." After all, "informed" implies that the racism they have developed from living near black-majority Detroit is merely a product of being objectively educated (a synonym for "informed") - and therefore, those racist views are supposedly understandable because they are the supposedly logical result of objective education, rather than prejudice.

I'm not saying Egan is a racist, as this was probably inadvertent (and again, I am a fan of Egan's work). But when I read this passage, the phrasing really jumped out at me as yet another example of how racism can be so subtly woven into our language and our media.