FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 19, 2021
Are these anecdotes true?: To our ear, the New York Times often seems highly performative when it comes to matters of race.
As we noted this morning, we know of no branch of modern journalism which is more heinous than the way this Hamptons-based newspaper covers New York City's public schools.
The newspaper seems to be engaged in constant performance about this deeply consequential subject. Because the subject is so important, we'd call that a poor approach.
Is there anything the Times won't publish so long as it embodies standard narratives concerning matters of race? At several points, we were puzzled by the logic found in yesterday's report about black congressional staffers. Then too, we'd direct you to the op-ed column which ran today beneath this headline:
Anti-Asian Racism Isn’t New
Obviously, the statement made in that headline is true. But then, we started to read the column. The first thing we read was this:
WANG (2/19/21): One of the first English words I learned was an ethnic slur I heard whenever my parents and I walked around the city. I was 7 years old and had just moved to Brooklyn from China. One day, eager to show off, I turned to my father and declared, “We are chinks now!” in English. My father looked as if I had stabbed him. In a grave, low voice he told me to never utter that word again.
The author is Qian Julie Wang, a litigator and managing partner of Gottlieb & Wang LLP.
Wang graduated from Swarthmore, then earned a law degree from Yale. According to Penguin Random House, she arrived in this country in 1994, when she was 7 years old.
Our first question would be this:
In 1994, were Asian-Americans, or newly arrived Asian immigrants, really confronted with undisguised ethnic slurs "whenever [they] walked around the city?"
That's the first assertion today's column makes. The column continues as shown:
WANG (continuing directly): That slur has haunted me throughout my life, cutting like a knife when I least expect it. A boy on a bike once screamed it so deep into my ear that it rang for hours afterward. The ringing eventually subsided, but the street harassment became a regular fixture in my life.
Just as a general matter, how can someone on a bike scream something into someone's ear? How could such a boy scream something so loud—so deep into that person's ear—that it rang in her ear for hours afterward?
Stating the obvious, we have no way of knowing whether these anecdotal claims are true. But as the column continues, the claims continue to sound a bit odd:
WANG (continuing directly): Before the pandemic, the simple act of walking to the courthouse where I work demanded exhaustive control of my body. For a while I tried very hard to make myself look less feminine and more white. I’d pretend to be deaf when strangers addressed me with their eyes pulled back into a slant while taunting “Me love you long time” or loudly said they had “yellow fever.”
Really? As of 2018 or 2019, strangers would routinely address the full-grown Wang with their eyes pulled back into a slant while taunting her by saying, “Me love you long time?”
Other strangers would taunt her by loudly saying that they had “yellow fever?”
Is this the common experience of Asian-Americans in New York City? If so, this should be a front-page news report, not a mere op-ed column promoting a forthcoming memoir.
(Needless to say, Wang wrote her memoir "on her iPhone, during her subway commute to and from work at a national law firm, where she was elected to partnership within two years of joining the firm." Isn't that the way all memoirs get written these days?)
As of 2019, Wang was a 32-year-old commercial litigation associate working in New York City. We know that because, in that same year, she and her husband-to-be described the details of their courtship for this "Mini-Vows" report for the overtly silly side of that same New York Times.
At certain points, we can't quite follow the logic of that long report. Presumably, that's the fault of the Times' jumbled writing, not of Wang and her fiancé, Marc Ari Gottlieb.
That said, the report describes Wang and Gottlieb tramping all over Manhattan on at least one seven-hour date. Was Wang being assailed in the manner described during those excursions?
Obviously, we have no way of answering these questions. We'll only say that Wang's anecdotes seem a bit puzzling to us. Within the past year, has she had these experiences?
WANG (continuing directly): As the coronavirus spread, I began to dread my commute to work. People made a show of keeping away from me even in crowded subway train cars. Other times, the harassment was more overt—strangers bumped their shoulders into me; someone jabbed me with the pointy metal end of a long umbrella while shouting, “Go back to China.” My parents wore hats, sunglasses and double masks whenever they left the house.
It's been widely reported that anti-Asian invective increased as the pandemic spread. This was widely attributed to Donald Trump's self-serving use of the phrase, "the China virus."
Is it true that, even before the pandemic hit, Wang would try to make herself "look more white," so routinely was she assailed in the ways she describes? By the way, how does a woman of Asian ancestry try to make herself look more white?
Today, we make a confession. When we read this column, we thought of a conversation we had several years ago with a major journalist.
Rolling Stone had just published its report about the (fraudulent) UVa rape accusation. Our journalist friend said the events described were so implausible that he didn't believe the report was true.
We hadn't had that reaction when we'd skimmed the Rolling Stone report. As it turned out, our friend's assessment was right.
Our friend thought the claims in Rolling Stone had the ring of untruth. We recalled that conversation when we read today's column.
The fact that the column appeared in the Times did nothing to heighten our confidence in it. We'll close with this restatement:
The column seems to suggest that, from 1994 through 2019, heinous anti-Asian invective was a very regular part of life in New York City. Routinely, such invective descended to the level of the ugly and the stupidly cartoonish, this column seems to suggest.
If true, that should be a front-page news report. Wang is describing remarkable conduct. Is this really what life has been like in the streets of New York?
The question we're asking is fully sincere. Is that really what life has been like in the streets of New York?
Also, this claim about apples: Do you believe the more colorful claims in this column from the Washington Post? Do you believe, for example, that the author, during her law school days, would buy a dozen apples when she already had half a dozen in her room, hidden from her roommate and growing rotten?
After reading this morning's column, we're not sure that we do. Colorful claims can make outstanding copy, but as we've all learned in recent years, such claims won't always be true.
Major orgs have published phony claims on every conceivable subject over the past several decades. If today's implied claims are true, they belong in a front-page report, not in a mere op-ed column.
Is that what life in New York has been like? Forget the apples just for now. Can that remarkable portrait be true?