Monday, December 20, 2004

overreaction in minneapolis

This struck me as really extreme.

A Star Tribune reporter was disciplined Thursday after he disclosed that he wrote an e-mail to a Minneapolis police official that contained racially insensitive language.

David Chanen, a police reporter, told editors that he used the term "colored officers" in an e-mail sent Wednesday to Minneapolis Police Inspector Donald Banham, who is black. ...

Gillespie and Chanen said the reporter had intended to use the term "officers of color," but made an error in rushing to send the e-mail. ... Chanen said he reviewed it and "was shocked to learn I had written language ... that is terribly offensive. I was writing the e-mail in haste, but that's no excuse, and I deeply apologize for what I did."

Now, as someone who's half-black ... I think the term "colored officers" is anachronistic, yea, but "terribly offensive" or "racially insensitive"? Why would it be? Black officers in WWII formed "Colored Officers Assocation." One of the largest civil rights groups is the National Association for the Advancement of *Colored People.*

In any case, shouldn't disciplinary action be reserved for truly egregious behavior, not innocent slip-ups?

I posted a comment on the private listserv of the National Association of Black Journalists on Friday and everyone basically agreed with me, so yesterday I sent an email to Paul Gustafson, the author of the story quoted above (cc-ed to Chanen). Gustafson wrote back this morning saying he was going to forward my message to his managing editor -- which isn't what I intended, but maybe I've accomplished something.


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