On Monday, Cord Jefferson wrote a piece for Medium about what it’s like to cover “The Racism Beat.”
After a while you may want to respond to every request for a take on the day’s newest racist incident with nothing but a list of corresponding, pre-drafted truths, like a call-center script for talking to bigots. Having written thousands of words about white people who have slurred the president over the past six years, you begin to feel as if the only appropriate way to respond to new cases—the only way you can do it without losing your mind—is with a single line of text reading, “Black people are normal people deserving of the same respect afforded to anyone else, but they often aren’t given that respect due to the machinations of white supremacy.”
Imagine an editor asking a writer to passionately articulate why a drunk driver hitting and killing a boy on a bicycle is wrong and sad. That would never happen, because a drunk driver killing a boy on a bike is a self-evident tragedy. Asking a writer to exert lots of effort to explain why would be a disservice to the dead, as if his right to life were ever in question, as if our moral obligation to not snuff out our fellow citizens via recklessness were something in need of an eloquent plea.