The following is slightly edited from an actual email I sent to the public editor of The New York Times about a story in the September 23 edition about a community conflict in Brooklyn — a flash point for gentrification in the last decade — over the plan to send white students to a predominantly minority school.
The New York Times is a great newspaper; I grew up reading it and still get home delivery at 58 years old.
But sometimes its quest for “balance” and neat narrative can be tortured and unsupported.
Case in point: this morning’s front page story “Race and Class Collide in a Plan for Two Schools.”
The story claims that the proposal to alleviate overcrowding in a mostly white school by sending children to a predominantly minority school has drawn opposition from “both sides,” white parents from P.S. 8 and, “Some residents of the housing project served by P.S. 307” who are “worried about how an influx of wealthy, mostly white families could change their school.”
But the story doesn’t quote a single P.S. 307 parent voicing that “worry.” What they did say is far more revealing, but does not fit the neat narrative of resistance to integration coming from both black and white families. The writer summarizes the concerns expressed at a meeting as parents voicing fears “that their children would no longer be allowed to attend P.S. 307,” not as a resistance to incorporating wealthy white kids into their classrooms. And the only actual quote from a 307 parent at this meeting can be read in that context: The parent says she “has no problem working with anybody,” but says, “I’m not going to let anybody take from my daughter.” So she isn’t resisting integration; she’s fearful her school will be ripped out from under her.
The end of the story even quotes a parent at P.S. 307 inviting the white parents to visit, and to “stop looking down on one another.” Where’s the worry that white families will change the school?
This story hides the racism and entitlement of white parents behind a veneer of “both sides” having prejudices, and ignores the voices who are telling The Times that when white needs bump up against their community they lose. It is doing the P.S. 307 parents and Times readers a disservice.