Last week’s reaction to TV critic Alessandra Stanley’s “Angry Black Woman” review of Shonda Rhimes and Viola Davis opened the window, ever so slightly, into the privileged world of The New York Times. The fallout, as informed by the Times’ public editor, revealed that two of the paper’s 20 critics are people of color and that three editors approved Stanley’s piece for publication. Now author Daisy Hernández (and former editor of Colorlines) is opening that window just a tad more with an excerpt from her new memoir,”A Cup of Water Under My Bed.” Hernández who recently shared with Colorlines the eight books that define her, writes about being Latina in a majority white male office and how it shaped her time at The Times, first as an intern and then, a staffer:
“Did you hear?” another intern asks me [about Jayson Blair, accused in 2003 of plagiarizing and fabricating stories].
I nod. “Crazy.” I figure the paper will run an apology and move on.
But there isn’t an apology. The story unravels. The anxieties of white people, the ones kept behind private doors, burst and the other newspapers report them: Jayson only got as far as he did because he’s black. A fellow intern comes up to me, irritated. “Why are people thinking it’s okay to say racist shit in front of me?”
She’s holding a cup of coffee. We both glance across the newsroom, across the cubicles and the tops of people’s heads. I have no way, none really, of knowing who in the room is a Mr. Flaco, and this is part of the agreement we make by working here, as people of color. We don’t know who harbors doubts about our capacity to think and work and write. We don’t know, not really, who we can trust.
Read more about Hernández and her Cuban-Colombian family at Salon.