Houston Chronicle’s “Watermelon” Apology A Start; No Word from Columnist Bill King

kingPortrait                                                                                Darwin Campbell, African-AfricanNews&Issues

watermelon

Police Chief says: Still Not Good Enough…

While not issuing a formal  written public apology  for disparaging comments made by Bill King, a member of the Houston Chronicle editorial board about Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland, an executive of the newspaper took one step  toward being more sensitive to African-American culture and history by calling the police chief.

 

However, sometime the best efforts to heal an injury only makes it hurt even worse.

“I did receive a call from Mr. (Jeff) Cohen who said he called to apologize on behalf of the Houston Chronicle,” Chief McClelland said. “Even though I appreciate it, it is still not enough. I a still upset because the apology needs to come in the paper and from the columnist who wrote it.”

Bill King, one of the Houston Chronicle editorial writers, wrote an anecdote about the department that was not only offensive to African-Americans and Houston Police Chief Police Charles McClelland, but also raised questions about racist innuendo in writing.

King allegedly was challenging the premise that the department has issues that a third party review should address. However, to open the news piece King wrote what appeared to be a racist business anecdote referring “Watermelons” and talking about the department McClelland heads.

Chief McClelland, who is Black, runs the Houston Police Department, who the anecdote was written to describe.

McClelland was sworn in as Chief of the Houston Police Department on April 14, 2010. He has served 35 years at the Houston Police Department, joining the department as a patrol officer in 1977 and rising through ranks to his current position as Chief of Police. His management experience has touched virtually every aspect of law enforcement throughout his career with the Houston Police Department.

His duties include managing the 5th largest police agency in the United States with an annual budget of more than $695 million dollars and a staff of 5400 sworn police officers and more than 1600 civilian employees.

Something that may have been meant written to hook readers, actually offended a segment of the Houston community and casts somewhat of a negative shadow in the Black community on the premise of fair, unbiased, non-racist reporting tactics of Mr. King and the Houston Chronicle Editorial Board, when it comes to covering African-Americans and the Black community.

It is one thing to question and seek answers, but it is never appropriate to use word-smithing skills to poke fun or deliberately harm others.

Using “watermelons” as an anecdote was very offensive because of the link to slavery and the notion that Blacks were happy as slaves and didn’t need the complicated responsibilities of freedom; they just needed some shade and a cool, delicious treat.

The Houston Chronicle’s efforts to understand sensitivity is a good start.

Now editorial writer Bill King should take full responsibility for his actions as a serious journalist and come out from behind the ivory walls of the editorial conference room and be a man and admit it was inappropriate.

If King fails to do so and can no longer be fair and objective when writing about Black people, he should turn in his “pen and ink” for good.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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