Philadelphia Magazine should be ashamed for this month’s outrageous cover story “Being White in Philly.”
The March issue of Philadelphia Magazine has an article by writer-at-large Robert Huber that purports to be a candid discussion about race in Philadelphia.
It is not. This is not brave journalism. It does not advance conversation on race. It perpetuates stereotypes.
This is poor journalism, filled with race-baiting and fear-mongering from a city magazine that appears to target White suburban readers. African-Americans who make up 43 percent of the population are largely invisible from its pages with the exception of crime stories and articles on corrupt African-American politicians. There are also no African-Americans on staff writing full time for the publication.
The recurring theme of the cover story is that White people are afraid to talk about race because they are afraid how Black people will respond. Where is the evidence for this claim? None is given. To say that African-Americans can not talk about race without getting upset is in itself racist. What African-Americans are members of any group should not tolerate is someone or in this case a magazine making racist comments.
The “Being White in Philly,” article fails journalistically on many levels.
The writer repeatedly uses quotes that aren’t on the record. His sources are anonymous. Anonymous people are quoted making unchallenged racists remarks.
An exchange between a White Russian woman and the writer is a typical representation of the race-baiting throughout the article.
“Blacks use skin color as an excuse,” she says. “Discrimination is an excuse, instead of moving forward…It’s a shame—you pay taxes, they’re not doing anything except sitting on porches smoking pot…why do you support them when they won’t work, just making babies and smoking pot?”
Nothing is done to put this quote in context or challenge its racist assumptions. If anything the writer appears to endorse the woman’s comments. “If you’re not an American, the absence of a historical filter results in a raw view focused strictly on the here and now,” Huber writes, as if foreigners have a more accurate view of the behavior of African-Americans.
The writer and the anonymous people he quotes talk about crime and drugs, and laziness as if race is the problem instead of class and the socio-economic conditions that factor into dysfunctional families, crime and poverty.
But more importantly the article gives a factually inaccurate view of most African-Americans in Philadelphia. In a city with nearly 30 percent poverty rate, the unemployment rate among African-Americans is 14 percent. This is unacceptably too high. But it also clearly means that most African-Americans are working and are not sitting around “smoking pot,” waiting to collect a check from the government. Black lawyers, business owners, bus drivers, plumbers, nurses, and college students are not represented in this article. African-Americans are not quoted either on or off the record.
Fortunately several White columnists and writers at the Philadelphia Inquirer, Daily News, and City Paper and most importantly at Philadelphia Magazine have spoken out against the article. City Council members spoke out in council chambers Thursday to denounce the article. More leaders need to speak out including the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce and other business and civic leaders.
The editor and publisher of Philadelphia Magazine must be sent a strong and clear message not to use sensationalist race-baiting articles to boost magazine sales.
(Reprinted from the Philadelphia Tribune)