Does liberal New York Times columnist Selena Roberts have a double standard for white/blacks accused of crimes? A review of her recent work makes that conclusion hard to escape.
Earlier this year, Roberts wrote passionately (if incorrectly) regarding the three falsely accused Duke lacrosse players in the Times's once-august pages. One of her main themes was that the lacrosse players were engaging in a wall of silence designed to protect the guilty. She condemned this behavior in very strong terms, even using the illustration of a gang member wearing a "Stop Snitching" T-shirt on her first article, published on March 31, 2006. In this she portrayed them as equally despicable and in fact equivalent to those gang members who discourage snitching to the authorities with threats of physical violence.
Having done that, how did Roberts react to the news that Michael Vick's co-defendants had snitched on him, revealing his leadership and his financial bankrolling of the dog-fighting gang? Surely she was happy that they had not engaged in the behavior she had previously ascribed (falsely) to the Duke lacrosse team?Not exactly. It turns out that in her colum today (unfortunately hidden behind the Times Select wall), Roberts only approves of snitching in cases where the defendants are white and demonstrably innocent of the crimes of which they are accused. If the defendant is black and has demonstrably guilty, then apparently it is not acceptable to snitch on the ring-leader. As KC Johnson writes:
In her column for today’s Times, however, Roberts takes a far different view of “snitches.” Her commentary deals with the Michael Vick case, and the parade of friends or relatives of the quarterback cooperating with the government—or, in Roberts’ parlance, “snitching.”
How does Roberts describe their behavior?
Vick’s cousin was “the first to fail” him. Then a friend with whom he had a falling out, Tony Taylor, was “the first to flip” on him. And finally, another old friend, Quanis Phillips, who pled guilty to dog-fighting charges on Friday, was “the latest to betray” Vick. [emphasis added in each sentence]
Fail him? Flip on him? Betray him? What happened to Selena Roberts, the arch-crusader for justice, who argued that friends and teammates needed to “come forward to reveal an eyewitness account,” and smash the culture in which “any whisper of a detail [is] akin to snitching?”
Last spring, Roberts described the lacrosse team as “a group of privileged players of fine pedigree entangled in a night that threatens to belie their social standing as human beings.” How does she describe Vick? As a person of “disarming charm” who “employed friends and housed pals.” He has, she laments, been “abandoned, left to contemplate a plea deal that could imprison him and ruin his N.F.L. career.”The differences in the set of standards applied to black and white athletes by many of the members of the Press in dealing with these two cases are equalled only by the media's hypocrisy in applying those standards.