NY Times sorry for Shonda Rhimes ‘angry black woman’ article

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APOLOGY: Acclaimed screenwriter Shonda Rhimes

THE NEW York Times has apologised for publishing an article where acclaimed screenwriter Shonda Rhimes was referred to as an ‘angry black woman’ and Oscar-nominated actress Viola Davis was deemed “less classically beautiful” than others.

Times Public Editor Margaret Sullivan has published her inquiry into how the “astonishingly tone-deaf” article, written by longtime TV critic Alessandra Stanley.

“There are some big questions here – about diversity, about editing procedures and about how The Times deals with stories about women and race,” Sullivan writes. “They are worth exploring in depth.”

Stanley’s first paragraph immediately raised eyebrows.

“When Shonda Rhimes writes her autobiography, it should be called ‘How to Get Away With Being an Angry Black Woman,'” it begins.

Rhimes hit black on Twitter via a series of tweets. In one, she wrote:

“Wait. I’m” angry” AND a ROMANCE WRITER?!! I’m going to need to put down the internet and go dance this one out. Because ish is getting real.”

She added in another: “Final thing: (then I am gonna do some yoga): how come I am not “an angry black woman” the many times Meredith (or Addison!) rants? @nytimes”

In its entirety, the article has been accused of being racist. Sullivan posted a scathing letter sent by a longtime reader threatening to cancel her Times subscription.

“The readers and commentators are correct to protest this story,” she writes. “Intended to be in praise of Ms. Rhimes, it delivered that message in a condescending way that was — at best — astonishingly tone-deaf and out of touch.”

“There was never any intent to offend anyone and I deeply regret that it did,” culture editor Danielle Mattoon reportedly said.

“Alessandra used a rhetorical device to begin her essay, and because the piece was so largely positive, we as editors weren’t sensitive enough to the language being used.”

Stanley says she believes her “intentions were misunderstood,” and blamed the Twitter culture for pulling out “140 characters” from her entire work, according to Sullivan.

In a statement issued to US Weekly, the TV critic said: I didn’t think Times readers would take the opening sentence literally…Regrettably, this stereotype is still too incendiary to raise even in arguing that Ms. Rhimes has killed it once and for all.”

She maintains her article intended to highlight Rhimes’ career — as creator, writer and executive producer of several ABC shows including Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal — ahead of the debut of How to Get Away with Murder, which stars Davis, 46.

But the writeup also drew outrage from social media users and bloggers for its assessment of Rhimes’ work. For one thing, Rhimes, 44, is not the creator of How to Get Away with Murder, but she is an executive producer on the show.

About Davis, Stanley wrote that Rhimes ignored beauty standards to choose an “older, darker-skinned and less classically beautiful” actress than Kerry Washington or Halle Berry for her new show.

In what seemed to be a comment directed at the article, Davis took to Twitter to post an extract from late author Maya Angelou’s iconic work Still I Rise.

“You may shoot me with your words, you may cut me with your eyes, you may kill me with your hatefulness, But still, like air, I’ll rise!!!”

When Davis was profiled by The New York Times on Sept. 12, she revealed that she hopes to become an inspiration for young girls who look like her. “A 25-year-old white actress who is training at Yale or Juilliard or SUNY Purchase or N.Y.U. today can look at a dozen white actresses who are working over age 40 in terrific roles,” she said. “You can’t say that for a lot of young black girls. That’s why I’m doing what I’m doing.”

 

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