‘Juneteenth’s Day Has Come” read the headline of a piece splashed across the front page of USA Today this past Saturday, written by Mabinty Quarshie.
An extraordinarily sympathetic reading of the 1,900-word article might cast it as an informational piece to familiarize readers with Juneteenth’s history and implementation. However, the writer and her editors waste no time revealing their biases and engaging in some Twitter-grade conflation; this is all the more concerning given USA Today’s purported status as a straight-news outlet. After all, we expect drivel from the NYT opinion pages; it’s quite another thing to see similar takes from the newspaper my grandma relies on for her daily news consumption.
The subheading reads, “Holiday designation comes amid culture war.” Most readers could be forgiven for taking from the line that there is some enormous rift between the Left and Right surrounding the establishment of Juneteenth as a national holiday. It’s not until the sixth paragraph that we find out the holiday’s creation was enormously bipartisan, with Republicans and Democrats coming together to pass the bill. (It should be noted that the editors, not the writer, typically write the headlines and subheadings. Let us momentarily grant Quarshie a pass for what her editors might have plunked atop her article.)
Just as I say that, though, the fourth paragraph confirms the opinion of the subheading, reading, “The day also drops into a culture war, as state legislatures attempt to ban school discussions of the long-lasting effects of slavery, systemic racism and critical theory.” The assumption that the discussion of slavery is necessarily intertwined with systemic racism and critical race theory is absurd and certainly not at home in a news piece. There are few to none who would argue slavery has not adversely affected African Americans. But that does not mean systemic racism and critical race theory (CRT), as they’re generally understood, are prerequisites to the teaching of slavery as the evil that it is and was.
The worst example of the paper’s bias is in the last portion of the piece. Aptly titled, “The debate over teaching slavery in schools,” the final dozen paragraphs do their utmost to conflate the teaching of slavery with CRT. Forbid CRT, and you aren’t teaching slavery is the argument.
Quarshie then offers the most innocuous definition of CRT imaginable: “a legal theory that explores the way slavery and racism continue to impact American society.” Dan McLaughlin wrote a brilliant piece recently about the Left’s motte-and-bailey tactics regarding the debate around CRT, and Quarshie’s definition is in the very bowels of the motte.
The section leans heavily on the remarks of Howard University associate professor Niambi Carter, for example, quoting her as saying, “In this atmosphere where we have politicians not just talking about but turning into policy that you cannot tell the truth, around the horrors of enslavement, that you cannot tell the truth around the horrors of Jim Crow.” Shameful if true. It would be enormously valuable to hear from those politicians.
Unfortunately, she never bothers to reach out to legislators or anti-CRT activists, instead relying on a summary of Texas governor Greg Abbot’s “1836 Project” to be the only counter, and one she uses quotes around when describing its intended purpose to be “patriotic education.” Whether the failure to contact anti-CRT voices was laziness, biased oversight, or intentionally deceptive on her part, the result is the same. The section — and article — read as a smear against Republicans that would better suit the Washington Post comment section. It is deeply disturbing when opinion masquerades as fact, and USA Today would be well-served by ensuring they hold their writers to a higher standard of journalistic integrity.