Short takes on a Barred Female Journalist and a Black 'Little Mermaid'

By Daily Editorials

July 15, 2019 6 min read

Off the Record

Republican Mississippi gubernatorial candidate Robert Foster last week barred a reporter from traveling with his campaign. The reason? The reporter is a woman.

Larrison Campbell, reporter for the news site Mississippi Today, was assigned to travel the state with Foster's campaign, but he refused to allow her to come along unless she brought a male colleague — a chaperone, essentially — despite the fact that campaign staff would also be on the trip. She was told they were worried about the optics of the conservative Christian candidate climbing out of the campaign vehicle with a woman who isn't his wife.

Campbell challenged the decision, telling a campaign official: "The only reason you think that people will think I'm having a relationship with your candidate is because I am a woman." She was told that the campaign "can't risk it."

Once Foster's Neanderthal position started generating controversy, he tried to dress it up as a matter of principle. He and his wife, he said, had agreed to abide by the "Billy Graham rule" of avoiding impure situations.

The late Rev. Graham is the father of Rev. Franklin Graham — one of America's most prominent religious supporters of a president who has bragged about his extramarital affairs and paid off a porn star. But traveling with a working journalist is a problem?

Splash of Color

One of Disney's most enchanting characters is Ariel, "The Little Mermaid" who yearned to walk on land. Her wide-eyed curiosity, her angelic voice and her bright green fish tail were all necessary elements of her character. Her ivory skin wasn't.

Under the heading of Things We Don't Get To Say Very Often, kudos to Disney Studios for recognizing that and casting a black Ariel in its upcoming live-action rendition of the 1989 classic animated film. The update, slated to begin production next year, will star actress and R&B singer Halle Bailey. It marks the first time Disney has chosen a woman of color to play a character originally animated as white.

It sparked the inevitable smattering of backlash from those who disguise their racism as nostalgia, with some critics noting the original "Little Mermaid" was created by Nordic writer Hans Christian Andersen. A Disney-owned TV network offered a priceless response: Yes, Anderson was white, they conceded, but "Ariel ... is a mermaid."

Fake News!

President Donald Trump last week gathered conservative social media commentators at the White House to congratulate them for going around the "fake news filter." Meaning, of course, circumventing serious, professional media outlets.

"You're challenging the media gatekeepers and corporate censors to bring the truth to the American people," Trump told attendees.

So how good is the president himself at conveying real news and avoiding the "fake" stuff? Not very.

A few days earlier, Trump shared on Twitter a photo from 1987 of himself, then 41 years old, shaking hands with then-President Ronald Reagan at an event. Superimposed over the photo is a Reagan quote: "For the life of me, and I'll never know how to explain it, when I met that young man, I felt like I was the one shaking hands with a president."

The photo is real, but the quote is a fabrication. It's been bumping around the internet for a few years now, promoted by Trump fans. Multiple fact checkers have determined that it is — yes — fake news.

Lifting Workers

Amazon has gotten a lot of well-deserved grief lately. Yes, the mammoth internet mail-order company is killing brick-and-mortar stores. Yes, it's milked cities for tax breaks to host its operations. Yes, it's had serious issues regarding its working conditions.

But credit where it's due: Amazon's plan to spend $700 million retraining some 100,000 of its workers is how big companies should be acting today.

The company announced last week that the new program will be geared at allowing employees to either move up within the company or take those skills elsewhere.

It's not a purely altruistic endeavor; the company says it's trying to prepare for technological changes in the future that will require more advanced training for its workers. For example, it will include opportunities for warehouse workers — whose jobs will get scarcer with growing automation — to train as software engineers. For those workers who choose to do it (it isn't mandatory), it could mean surviving the next wave in the ever-changing world of online shopping.

Skin Test

Judge people not by the color of their skin but the content of their character, said the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. How does that fit with an African-American-focused music festival charging different entry fees based on skin color?

The Afrofuturist music festival in Detroit was charging $20 for white attendees but just $10 for people of color. "The ticket structure is set up to support the most marginalized," explained an organizer.

Never mind that some white festivalgoers are low-income and some black ones aren't. Or that not everyone is easily categorized as white or not. Or that the very notion of looking people up and down at the entry gate and then sorting them based on skin color has some disturbing precedents in this country.

Organizers ultimately relented and started charging everyone the same, in part because some of the festival's performers threatened to pull out. Biracial rapper Tiny Jag told BuzzFeed she supported the festival's goal of black empowerment, but not "alienating a race through the ticket structure."

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Photo credit: enriquelopezgarre at Pixabay

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