Monday, October 30, 2006

L.A. Times Editorial Fails To See Clear Racism

It isn't that the L.A. Times editorial pages haven't glimmerings of good ideas. It's just that the Times stops short of fully implementing them. The thing editorial page editor Andres Martinez has seemed to feel strongest about actually accomplishing was when he dismissed all his Pulitzer Prize winners. He couldn't stand having able writers of conviction on his staff.

Last week, after the Times introduced a squalid new design, and people all over Southern California were ridiculing it, the Times letters column did run several letters denigrating the change. But after that, silence. No more such letters. Martinez had exhausted his courage in one day only.

Now, we come toward the end of the Mid Term election campaign, and the desperate Republicans become more ugly by the day. One of the worst ads has been running in the Tennessee U.S. Senate race, where the Democratic candidate, Rep. Harold Ford, Jr. is bidding to become the first black senator from the old Confederacy since Reconstruction.

The Times Sunday, in its still mainly unsatisfactory Current section, has the right idea when it offers an editorial headlined, "Racism enters the races."

But it can't quite bring itself to close the point.

When it comes to Tennessee, the editorial declares:

"The most masterful (racially-tinged ad) of the genre is the television spot in Tennessee targeting Harold Ford, Jr. Ford is a black Democrat running for the Senate against Republican Bob Corker, and the commercial ends with a bare-shouldered blond urging Ford, a bachelor, to call her.

"Ford admitted that he attended a Super Bowl party sponsored by Playboy, and social conservatives in Tennessee might be offended by this regardless of any one's race. So isn't the issue fair game? Probably. And would it be better or worse for the ad's sponsors to insinuate that Ford's flirting must bet with a black Playboy hostess instead?

"Context provides the moral thicket. Consider that when South Carolina finally repealed its Constitution's ban on interracial marriage in 1998 -- 31 years after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down such laws -- almost half of white voters voted to keep it in place. These ads and commercials may not be overtly racist, they just hope you are."

Oops. Pardon me, the Tennessee ad has been recognized "overtly racist" by anyone who knows Southern politics and is willing to be frank. The Times editorial is another example of failing to call things as they are.

When one considers that the Tennessee Senate race could decide control of the U.S. Senate, we have to expect more of the Times than this.

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