Jack Kelly Of The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Is A Fucking Disgrace, And (Probably) Needs To Get Fired » VSB

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Jack Kelly Of The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Is A Fucking Disgrace, And (Probably) Needs To Get Fired

A few months ago, I published a response to a strikingly tone deaf column from Eric Heyl of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review. In it, I stated that “Neighboring districts shy away from Wilkinsburg’s forbidden fruit” (Heyl’s column) was literally the worst major newspaper column I’d ever read. I (obviously) did not mince words then, but I also held back a bit. I didn’t (and still don’t) believe Heyl should have lost his job or anything. I just wanted him and others to realize exactly how wrong it was to direct such flippant snark and sarcasm at school kids who’d done nothing to deserve their fate. (And, apparently, Heyl was reprimanded and wrote an “apology.Whatever.)

Jack Kelly, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist whose shockingly offensive and unapologetically racist piece (“Remnants of Slavery“) takes the crown from Heyl’s as the worst major newspaper column I’d ever read, will receive no such consideration. Every day he continues to be employed by the Post-Gazette is a black mark on the entire paper. And, considering that the PG is the Pittsburgh region’s flagship paper, his stay with the PG is a black mark on the city. Because if the region’s most prominent news source gives someone like him a paid platform, it’s a damning indictment on our cultural, social, and political zeitgeist.

And this isn’t about him having political views I don’t agree with. Disagreement (and argument) is fine. Encouraged. But, by publishing something so factually inaccurate and structurally inept about such an explosive and sensitive subject, the PG is basically saying “Fuck you” to every person of color in the Greater Pittsburgh Area. Which saddens me, in part because some of those people of color work for the Post-Gazette. And some of those people are my friends. And they have to work under the same masthead as this fucking disgrace.

But don’t take my word for it. Let’s take a look at Kelly’s column to see why this guy’s next PG paycheck should be his last.

I’m glad I live in a time of automobiles, air conditioning, indoor plumbing, the Internet and great medical advances.

But if I had to live in an earlier period, I’d want to be a soldier in the Union Army. I can think of no greater cause than to fight to eradicate America’s original sin.

Slavery isn’t America’s original sin because it was unique, or uniquely horrible here. If prostitution is “the world’s oldest profession,” slave trading is second. Since the dawn of recorded history, slavery has been practiced in nearly every society known to man.

Kelly begins his column with some exposition to let the reader know exactly how noble he is. Because this great and principled White man is such a great and principled White man that, if he could, he’d go back in time to fight for the Union Army. I can almost smell the hauteur on his breath. This isn’t remarkably terrible, though. This assertion and the paragraph about slavery being a common part of human civilization is boilerplate conservative columnist speak. Nothing really to get all railed up about.

But then this happened:

The words “slavery” and “benign” ought never to appear in the same sentence, but slaves in the American South and the British Caribbean (usually) were treated less harshly than in most other places where slavery has been practiced — especially in ancient times.

Yes, what you just read was a thinly-veiled defense of American slavery, wrapped in the context of an argument that we (American Blacks) should be happy we were American slaves and not slaves somewhere else. Because while slavery here was really bad, slavery everywhere else was really, really bad.

But let’s say Kelly is right. (He’s not, but let’s say it anyway.) Let’s say slaves in America were actually treated better than slaves everywhere else. This does not matter. It’s an inherently invalid argument; a logical fallacy because you do not grade degrees of evil. Evil is evil. Stating that one evil is better than the other ignores the fact that one evil can not be better than another evil. All evil is equally evil.

And that he’d attempt — and be allowed — to go there with slavery is particularly telling. Can you imagine a major newspaper publishing something similar about the Holocaust? Where a paid columnist stated that the gas the Germans used in the gas chambers was actually a relatively humane gas and, all things considered, a polite form of mass execution? Do you know how quickly everyone associated with that column — writers, copy editors, line editors, managing editors, executive editors, etc — would get reprimanded, boycotted, and, eventually, fired?

Our word “slave” is derived from “Slav,” the peoples most frequently enslaved during Roman times. Throughout history, only a relatively few slaves have been black. And for every African brought to North America on (mostly British) slave ships, dozens and possibly hundreds more were taken east by Arab slave traders.

What made slavery America’s original sin was its violent conflict with our founding principles. If “all men are created equal, and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights,” what gives some men the right to own others?

Racism is as ancient and ubiquitous as slavery. The word some Chinese use for “foreigner” can be translated as “foreign devil.” Russian slang for black Africans translates to “wood chips.” Chinese, Koreans and Filipinos can attest that until recently Japan was among the most racist nations on Earth.

But it wasn’t until after Britain’s “Glorious Revolution” of 1688 and the American Revolution (1775-1783) that slavery and racism became widely and inextricably linked. Before then, not many thought men were created equal or that God-given rights took precedence over the whims of kings and emperors.

And before publication of John Locke’s “Second Treatise on Civil Government” (1689) and the Declaration of Independence (1776), not many believed the people were sovereign and that government was supposed to serve them, not the other way around.

Slavery was considered mostly a matter of bad luck. It was common practice for survivors to be enslaved when a tribe lost a war. Wealthy Romans bragged about how learned and cultured their Greek slaves were. That’s why they bought them to tutor their children.

“If God wills that … until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword … the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether,” said Abraham Lincoln in his Second Inaugural Address.

He continues with some more historical gobbledygook to provide context for his premise, which is…we should be grateful for slavery? Slavery was business, not personal? (Basically, slavery is no different than a Mafia hit?) Russians had strange slang? Who the fuck knows where he’s going.

Four hundred thousand Union soldiers died to free the slaves. That blood debt was paid long ago. Abraham Lincoln was white. So were those who voted for him. About 90 percent of Union soldiers were white.

It says something good about today’s white Americans that so many feel guilty for a sin neither they nor most of their ancestors ever committed. But white guilt has a pernicious effect on our politics.

The assertion that only people of certain ethnic groups can be racist is pure racism. Black racism is as vile and prevalent as any other kind.

Slavery was horrible, but no black American living today has suffered from it. Most are better off than if their ancestors had remained in Africa.

The black community is uniquely troubled, in large part because white racism is blamed for social dysfunction that has other causes. To address those causes, white Americans must abandon an undeserved guilt, and black racists who blame all their problems on white racism must stop preying upon it.

There it is! There’s the point! He finally got to it. They (great and principled White men like Jack Kelly) have completely absolved whatever slavery-related debt America had. In fact, there was never any debt to begin with. Because by bringing us over here, we’re much better off they’d we’d be if we stayed in Africa. They are our great benefactors — the Magwitches to our Negro Pips — and our only problems today directly stem from us being ungrateful. The next time you, Black person saved from eternal savagery, sees Jack Kelly — or any other great and principled White man — we should genuflect. And then, only then, will we progress.

The “probably” in the title of this piece might seem out of place. After all, I state very clearly that I believe he should be fired, so why put “probably” in there? Well, maybe this is what the PG wants. He does have an editor (Post-Gazette opinion editor Tom Waseleski, a man who, full disclosure, I’ve worked with before) who apparently vetted and okayed this column. And it would be wrong to fire someone for doing something you asked him to do. That would be a fucking disgrace, too.

Damon Young

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB. He is also a columnist for GQ.com And he's working on a book of essays to be published by Ecco (HarperCollins). Damon is busy. He lives in Pittsburgh, and he really likes pancakes. Reach him at damon@verysmartbrothas.com. Or don't. Whatever.

  • Sigma_Since 93

    I hope Tony Norman sucker punches him in the hallway at the PG offices. SMH

  • uniquebeauty79

    That last paragraph made my blood boil a tinge. I need to step away from the keypad on this one. I wonder how many white people read this ish and was like, “he’s right”

    • Jessica Jernigan

      I cannot speak for all white people, by I can tell you that my own response was incredulity. Eye-popping, jaw-dropping WTFness. Jack Kelly is a kind of idiot with which I am—sadly—quite familiar, but I can only guess that his editor(s) just dropped into the flagship paper of a modern Midwestern city after running a mimeograph machine in Alabama in the 1970s or thereabouts.

      • LuckBALady

        No, ma’am. Keep Alabama out of this one.

        • Jessica Jernigan

          My apologies. Let’s say Cincinnati instead. Or maybe just some white-person basement pretty much anywhere in the United States.

          • LuckBALady

            Accepted. Cincinnati will do.

          • PhlyyPhree

            Cincinnati ain’t never…you know what? You’re right.

      • uniquebeauty79

        I don’t get why some white people always trying to throw up “white guilt.” We can’t make you feel guilty. If you feel any kind of way it’s because you have said or done something that someone of my skin tone would find offensive in the first place. For example, giving a job to Becky instead of Natasha even though the latter was hella more qualified.

        • Plus guilt ? action.

          • esa

            guilt usually equals non-action. it’s the replacement for action. it’s the cover story for why nothing gets done. or gets done backwards. or basically why things stay undone.

  • Haston Lowman

    Racism should be considered a mental illness

    • PunchDrunkLove

      May as well, everything else is…..IJS

    • Val

      No, it’s not. It is a deliberate way of looking at the world in order to gain an advantage. Racists, in general, especially the ones with real power, are not racists because they are mentally ill. They are racists becasue they think it benefits them to be.

  • TeeChantel

    “Most are better off than if their ancestors had remained in Africa.”

    This immediately made me think of Barbara Bush’s comment about the Hurricane Katrina evacuees. That type of thinking is out there and will continue to be out there. It is as if they are DOING US a favor. Both could use one of these:

    http://www.reactiongifs.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Superhero-Punch.gif

    • Elowwole

      That gif is everything and says so much of what I’m feeling right now.

      • TeeChantel

        So true.

    • Siante

      “Most are better off than if their ancestors had remained in Africa.”

      This comment is the epitome of ignorance smh—Africa is a country that is rich with resources???

      Also…….imagine if EVERY African American had a cultural identity that was intact. A majority of us do not because our cultural identity (language, ancestry, customs, etc.) was stolen from us during slavery & we are STILL suffering from the effects of this!

      Imagine if EVERY African American didn’t suffer from a warped desire to gain the approval of a society built on white supremacy? <—(I don't even have time to delve into this because my shift is about to end.)

      • iphone300

        I logged in just so I could like this comment

      • John Henry

        Also…Africa was just as affected by slavery. It was raped, pillaged, and colonized. If our ancestors had been left alone, we would be part of a major world super power.

        • truthseeker2436577@yahoo.com

          You’re right. Without the Maafa and European colonialism, there would be no Berlin Conference, no Sharpeville Massacre, etc. Without the Maafa and transnational slavery, we would be much better off as a people and as a community.

      • Val

        Siante, I wish I could upvote your comment a thousand times!

    • Question

      I can’t believe a journalistic outlet claiming to be credible allowed that sentence to be published.

    • Sigma_Since 93

      This happened in my college cafeteria my junior year. Brings back memories,

  • Lola

    i’m impressed by your ability to write such well thought responses to his ‘points’ because all i was able to bring forth wa ‘this dude jack, can suck.my.dick.’
    i’m not sure where i’m procuring said phallus. but he can surely choke on it once i find one.

  • Elowwole

    The one thing I do not want out of this entire situation is an apology from that man nor anyone who made the decision to post such a disgraceful, historically incorrect, and racist article. Do. Not. Want.

  • Jessica Jernigan

    I have been to Pittsburgh. It is a modern city with excellent hospitals and some fine schools and at least one Sephora and good coffee and many varieties of very delicious “ethnic” food. The beer selections are laudable, and I was able to find varieties of liquor and chocolate there that are hard to come in my tinier part of the United States. This is to say that it is, from my perspective, a thriving modern city. So I find myself asking, WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT?

  • dadumdee

    Just about all of Kelly’s assertions are like the opposite of the truth. American chattel slavery was unprecedented in its brutality. White people got sickly creative with their cruelty. Regarding the Civil War, it’s not like White people nobly rose up to fight for Black people. It’s that Southern White people wanted to fight for the right to enslave Black people and then Northern her White people wasn’t having it. “Slavery was horrible, but no black American living today has suffered from it.” Weirdly timed comment considering the legacy of the Black mandingo menace myth has been getting us murder from lynchings to BLM. “Most are better off than if their ancestors had remained in Africa.” I hate when White people say this because even it were a truth, it would only be so because colonialism damaged Africa and hurt Africans so much. We would all be better off if White people had never gone to Africa at all. In fact, the world wouldn’t be on the brink of being uninhabitable if they would have just sat their hyper asses down somewhere.

    • NomadaNare

      ^This Was going to say something similar rebutting every silly point but just settled on the above

    • Ger Wil

      WOW this is just too much #truth for one post! But, darn it if you didnt make it fit in there!

  • Dwight Johnson

    I’d like to know the lineage of the author to pin point the exact moment in time in which his own people were made to be slaves and brought to a better place that ultimately lead him to be a writer in today’s age. He displayed his racism in the form of a 2 week old edible arrangement.

  • dadumdee

    Watch him get fired and try to blame it on the PC police or some straw man. Nah bruh, you’re getting fired for writing a fact-free, cut and paste Stormfront op-ed article with no sourcing, citations, or historical accuracy. That exposes you as both a racist ignoramus and a lazy journalist.

    • Question

      …Definitely the PC police. Donald Trump has awakened the fear of political correctness. Its not bigotry and misogyny that’s ruining this country, but the people who dare say that bigotry and misogyny are not appropriate.

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