If the Pittsburgh Post-Gazettes’ Monday editorial “Reason as racism” put a bad taste in your mouth, you’re not alone.
The editorial defended President Donald Trump’s inflammatory statement he made in a meeting Thursday with lawmakers discussing immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and several African nations — countries Trump reportedly described as “shithole[s].”
The Post-Gazette’s editorial attempts to muffle the alarmingly racist sentiment from Trump by calling it nothing more than a derailment from the meeting’s true agenda of immigration — a mere “racist rabbit hole.”
“If the president had used the world ‘hellhole’ instead, would that have been racist?” the editorial asks.
The editorial fails to understand that the most alarming element of Trump’s rhetoric during the speech isn’t a purely semantic one — it’s the clear failure to acknowledge that people from these countries have value and potential.
The editorial appeared two days prior in the Toledo Blade — a publication also owned by John Block, the Post-Gazette’s publisher and one of four people on the all-male, all-white editorial board. Apart from defending Trump, the editorial suggests we reserve the “word ‘racist’ to people like Bull Connor and Dylann Roof.”
Though “Reason as racism” is a shortsighted analysis of Trump’s language and its attitude is disappointing and disheartening, it’s crucial to note that the editorial is not representative of the City of Pittsburgh — or the rest of the Post-Gazette.
Protected by their union, dozens of Post-Gazette reporters, photographers and editors wrote or shared tweets critical of the editorial and the paper’s publisher.
Reporter Chris Potter said he removed his byline from his stories as a form of protest. Matt Moret, a Post-Gazette employee and former Pitt News opinions editor, called the editorial a “boiler plate reaction that comes from a venting session about how privilege isn’t real.” Reporter Rich Lord said it was “shocking and saddening” to read the editorial, especially on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Former staffers also criticized the editorial, with 28 writing a letter to the editor Tuesday, expressing anger at the editorial and its timing.
“The piece seeks to excuse President Trump’s disparaging remarks about nations of color,” the response said, “while also limiting the term ‘racist’ to the narrowest and most violent forms of the practice, as if it no longer exists.”
Though the backlash within the Post-Gazette community is noteworthy, focusing on these responses alone only scrapes the surface of the much more deep-seated, localized issue of racism embedded in the streets and neighborhoods of Pittsburgh.
At Milano Pizzeria in Uptown Friday night, Mahmut Yilmaz, a manager in the shop, was recorded and charged with assaulting 34-year-old Jade Martin. After his arrest, Yilmaz told police she was being “loud and disruptive.”
This Martin Luther King Jr. Day, more than 70 protesters gathered in front of the pizzeria to protest the assault and demand justice for Martin, who is black.
“This is gonna be a catalyst to the year,” said Anthony Hall, a protester from the North Side. “Making sure that we’re taking back our community, equal rights and opportunity for all, standing up [against] more inequalities, not just for minorities, but for all.”
Though the Post-Gazette’s editorial is indeed disappointing — or according to a response from the Pittsburgh Foundation and the Heinz Endowments, “a sorry pastiche of whitewashing drivel” — we can take heart in knowing that this City, whether huddled en masse in front of a pizza shop or penning a letter of complaint, can speak louder than the voice of an editorial.