A blot on ESPN’s escutcheon?

I was in New York City last weekend when the infamous and seemingly racist headline ran about the Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin. The phrase that was used — a chink in the armor — is not racist on its own. If you’re unfamiliar with the idiom, you can read about it here. But one of the words in the idiom can be a racist slur. I was talking about it with friends and no one could believe that the headline was posted. We freaked out, actually. But one friend wondered if there was any way that the editor was younger and didn’t know about the racist connotation. It certainly worked under the non-racist definition — the article was discussing Lin’s turnovers as his Achilles’ heel, a fatal flaw in his performance.

So I was interested to read this story in the New York Daily News:

The ESPN editor fired Sunday for using “chink in the armor” in a headline about Knicks phenom Jeremy Lin said the racial slur never crossed his mind – and he was devastated when he realized his mistake.

“This had nothing to do with me being cute or punny,” Anthony Federico told the Daily News.

“I’m so sorry that I offended people. I’m so sorry if I offended Jeremy.”

The headline was up for all of a half hour at 2:30 AM on Saturday. But Federico was fired and an anchor who used the phrase separately was suspended for a month:

Federico, 28, said he understands why he was axed. “ESPN did what they had to do,” he said.

He said he has used the phrase “at least 100 times” in headlines over the years and thought nothing of it when he slapped it on the Lin story.

Federico called Lin one of his heroes – not just because he’s a big Knicks fan, but because he feels a kinship with a fellow “outspoken Christian.”

“My faith is my life,” he said. “I’d love to tell Jeremy what happened and explain that this was an honest mistake.”

I thought that was interesting, not just that he said it but that the Daily News included it in its report about the incident. One of the things I find interesting about the Lin story is the effect he’s having on people. For instance, I don’t like basketball but I really enjoy watching him (my husband thinks this is an awesome development since he’s a huge basketball fan). But it’s certainly true, as that great Michael Luo piece in the New York Times showed, that his faith and testimony resonate with people as well.

The other thing I think will be interesting to see in coverage is how Lin’s faith affects how he handles his work and the attention he receives:

A gracious Lin, who led the Knicks to another dazzling hardwood victory Sunday, gave Federico and Bretos the benefit of the doubt.

“They’ve apologized, and so from my end, I don’t care anymore,” Lin said. “You have to learn to forgive, and I don’t even think that was intentional.”

I just wanted to point out that the Daily News did a good job of naturally incorporating religion into this story, both from Federico’s perspective and Lin’s. For what it’s worth, the guy who was suspended also used the phrase with its non-slur meaning, and pointed out that he would have avoided it if he’d thought of the racial meaning. He added that his wife (and child) are Asian.

Which leaves me with one last religion-related question and it’s the kind we don’t typically touch here. But I’m curious what you all think. The Daily News writes that the offending headline was the last headline Federico wrote before heading home at 2:30 AM and that it may be the last headline he ever writes. Now, I know that not everyone practices forgiveness or related religious concepts, but why, exactly, was the guy fired? For not knowing that a completely legitimate phrase that has been used for hundreds of years also contains a word with a racist meaning of more recent vintage? Is that a standard we want to use in newsrooms? A requirement that editors have perfect knowledge of racism? I do think that editors should be aware of racism and racist words and strive to avoid causing offense, but when I look at this story, I’m wondering if newsrooms shouldn’t do some soul-searching of their own.

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  • http://getreligion.org Bobby Ross Jr.

    If he’s used that phrase at least 100 times, surely there’s some evidence of that somewhere. I’d want to see proof that he’s used that phrase in headlines before. Given that … I’d scour his work for any evidence of racism in the past. If none could be found, it sounds like ESPN overreacted. IMHO.

  • susie

    I get the “racist” connotation because I am sadly familiar with the term used as an insult – not against me because I am not Asian but it’s in my memory banks from the days when racial/ethnic slurs were often and commonly used. Haven’t heard it in years but honestly I do think ESPN needs to question their own “zero tolerance” here.

    A chink in the armor is not an uncommon phrase or a racial slur.

    chink 1 (chngk)
    A narrow opening, such as a crack or fissure.
    tr.v. chinked, chink·ing, chinks
    1. To make narrow openings in.
    2. To fill narrow openings in.

    I would not use the phrase but I would also not dismiss out of hand what sounds like a very sincere apology for a totally unintentional racial slur.

  • Steve Griffin

    Honestly, I’ve been a little surprised at the lack of reaction to what ESPN has done here. To me, only a laughable moron would sincerely think that there was racial intent in this headline, and firing Anthony Federico just makes ESPN’s management look like illiterate buffoons.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie


    When I first read that he’d used the phrase 100 times by his own admission, I thought that maybe he should be fired for overuse of cliches.

  • http://getreligion.org Bobby Ross Jr.

    Good point, Mollie! He’s either prone to cliches – or exaggeration. :-)

  • Steve Griffin

    None of which really matters… “a chink in the armor” simply is not a racist phrase. ESPN’s management should consider taking up reading for a hobby. It would expand their horizons once they got the hang of it.

  • northcoast

    Could it be that the slur is so seldom heard now that people forget that usage of the word? Too bad that can’t happen with at least one other word. When I was younger the expression probably would have been a (stupid) double entendre when used in reference to an Asian.

    There has been at least one previous high profile dismissal by ESPN over a remark that was made with no intended malice.

  • Julia

    Reminds me of the big brou ha ha over the use of “niggardly” in a Washington meeting a few years ago.

  • Mark Baddeley

    I think in some of these areas companies with a public profile (like newsrooms) have shifted from a concern with justice to a concern with face. And a very different set of rules applies then – motive, intent, whether or not it was accidental, even if it is intrinsically innocent no longer apply. The only question is, “Have you brought us into disrepute with a group of people we care about?”

    I think this is *indirectly* connected to religion, as it “feels” less part of our Western tradition that has prized truth telling, applying only the level of guilt for which an agent is responsible (no more, no less), and (sometimes) forgiveness. I think that’s partly Christianity in the background, and partly its secularization with the Enlightenment.

    But that’s not absolute. Do what Frederico did under a monarch during Christendom – embarrass him or her even unintentionally – and you could possibly lose your head. Same rules seem to apply now, except that companies have only firing rights, and not capital punishment rights.

  • Matt

    In my perception, this trend began in the late 1980s, when there was successful backlash against figures like Al Campanis and Jimmy the Greek, actually powerful people in the world of sports who made statements betraying at least a latent racist upbringing (common in that generation) if not actively racist attitudes. In the intervening quarter century, the frequency and intensity of this kind of backlash has greatly increased. Nowadays, there are a number of things (mostly concerning race and sexual orientation) that even a common person simply may not say; to transgress is to risk the destruction of your place in society, as has happened to Mr. Federico.

    It’s a tough issue because, on the far end, it seems laudable to repudiate rank prejudice, which has not in fact disappeared from our society. Even in Mr. Federico’s case, while I may acquit him for reasonable doubt, I can’t say I am convinced of his actual innocence. Plenty of people (especially at 2am) still think that a pun on someone’s ethnicity is funny.

    On the other hand, I am gravely concerned about the state of free speech in our society. Mr. Federico is being made an example, as have many people before him, and the rest of us will censor ourselves all the more because of this. Is that really healthy?

  • carl jacobs

    Mark Baddeley

    “Have you brought us into disrepute with a group of people we care about?”

    Which requires us to ponder a separate question. What would happen if the group offended was a group the organization didn’t care about. Say, for example, that the Washington Post Editorial staff call evangelical Christians “poor, ignorant, and easily led.” Would anyone get fired? Hrmmmm.

    However, I wonder if this is less about face and more about money. ESPN is a business, and its public reputation is a valuable possession. It needs to protect that reputation in the marketplace. If an employee becomes a financial liability then the company will seek to protect its financial interests. A man has to earn more money for the company that he consumes to justify his employment. If he costs the company money through scandal – whether intentional or not – he will be discharged.

    It’s just business, after all. The advertising business. Which is why I started the comment the way I did. If the company doesn’t care about the group, then it must be because that the offended group can’t affect the company’s bottom line. The true test of this situation would be the company firing someone over a slur to a group the company didn’t care about.


  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    I think in a situation like this one should go on the accused person’s past record and intentions. To destroy a man’s life and career for using a cliche common in the English language involving a non-racist word, but unintentionally in an inappropriate place, is political correctness gone amuck.
    Lin’s reaction seems to be a real class act and is the kind of reaction that heals rather than gouging the perceived wound deeper as the media bosses seem to have done.

  • Bill

    I remember the incident Julia refers to in #8. There, a government employee in DC lost his job and was publicly pilloried for using a word that rhymed with a racial epithet. That the word was used correctly meant nothing.

    The Christians in this story are practicing repentance and forgiveness, while ESPN has a one-strike-and-you’re-out policy. That’s curious. I thought religious folks are supposed to be bitter, rigid and hard.

  • Jonathan

    This issue of forgiveness is one that has bothered me for sometime. I think both Mark and carl are right that this issue is about face AND money. I also agree with the posters that we should look at Mr. Frederico’s past record and evaluate his claims to both using the phrase frequently and innocently. But I think this incident and Mollie’s post raises the bigger cultural issue of which sins are forgiveable and to what extent do we allow people to demonstrate repentance (in the sense of turning from the offending behavior). These “zero tolerance” reactions make no room for change, growth, and improvement. (Not to mention these reactions remove any possibility of “teachable moments” for either the offender or the general public.) I’m not saying that racism shouldn’t be confronted, but this type of “scorched earth” reaction to all offenses, great or small, makes it less likely to have honest dialogues about real issues related to race relations and other social problems we have. Instead, we all just watch what we say for fear of inadvertantly saying something that might be construed as racist.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie


    Your comment reminds me of something I read recently (oh how I wish I could remember where!) about how the culture has such a narrow conception of sin that it results in disproportionate responses to those few things we do consider sin.

    We still must bring wrath down, but we do it on only a few things, and these things become unforgivable.

    I thought it an interesting idea, at the very least.

    You can see how the media have favorite sins and that those sins get a lot of coverage (I share the problem, with my obsession on sexual sins, for instance).

  • sari

    I think the reporter should have been reprimanded and educated, not fired. Was this a business decision? Absolutely. However, before we blame the headline on youthful ignorance and poor editing, consider that the word was mentioned in print as far back as 2009 and again in Time’s recent cover article.

    ….according to Harvard teammate Oliver McNally, another Ivy League player called him a C word that rhymes with ink during a game last season.


    and again last week

    Opposing Ivy League gyms housed the worst offenders. One rival player even called Lin a C word that rhymes with ink.


    Clearly the word was known to college players younger than the reporter. Maybe, being Ivy geeks, they researched racial slurs on the Net (sarcasm intended).

    Many of the comments this thread presume oversensitivity on the part of maligned minorities. Consider that much of the uproar came from non-Asians like myself who found the comment disgusting, derisive, and offensive. It was not equivalent to carl’s example,

    Say, for example, that the Washington Post Editorial staff call evangelical Christians “poor, ignorant, and easily led

    a description, not a derogatory word. And, demographic studies have demonstrated that evangelicals tend to have less education and lower incomes than Christians of other denominations, perhaps in part, because of where they live (or not).


    Before we indulge Deacon John’s allegations of

    political correctness gone amuck

    , consider the outcry had the N—– word been used to describe an African-American player. How is using racial epithets consistent with religious life?

    Matt said,

    Plenty of people (especially at 2am) still think that a pun on someone’s ethnicity is funny.

    . It’s a lot less funny when you’re the target. And in answer to your final question, yes, a little self-censorship would go a long way in a society that seems to have no boundaries.

    Proverbs 12:18 (from the Hebrew): There is one that speaks like the piercings of a sword; but the tongue of the wise heals. From this verse, the rabbis teach that words are like swords, that they can kill a person in the literal sense or by depriving him of his livelihood.

  • Mark Baddeley

    Carl, I agree with you. I think your ‘reputation’ is basically the same as my ‘face’ or ‘honor’, and I didn’t mention the profit motive as I figured that would be common knowledge.

    And I agree about the selectivity in zero tolerance policies, whatever model we use. Some groups are ‘protected’ others are not. Political correctness doesn’t change that, all it does is change which groups are in which camp. But almost all social groups get part of their social identity by defining themselves against certain groups as well as more positively. That’s true for progressive institutions as much as conservative ones.

    There is also the issue that different groups seem to be sensitized to certain non-criminal moral failings more than others. Accidentally make a racist-like heading and you are instantly sacked. Accidentally, or an purpose, make too raunchy a heading and you probably won’t. Have an affair on your own time that becomes public, and you probably won’t be sacked, and that possibly holds true even if it isn’t simply on your own time (I see you there David Letterman). Get caught on camera making a racist diatribe on your own time and you will.

    Is racist speech worse than the act of sexual infidelity? Not sure, but it certainly attracts a worse reaction among the cultural elites, who prefer their racisms to be subtle. And so it will be treated in a more zero-tolerance fashion.

    But, in the case of someone like David Letterman, do we say that that was industry showing forgiveness? Or something more insidious, like partiality?

  • Matt

    Sari, I agree with much of what you write. However, your response to me indicates that you thought I was approving of such puns. In fact, my whole point was that indeed it is not funny and that the existence of such people indicates that racial harmony is far from being finally achieved.

    Regarding your endorsement of “a little self-censorship”, the problem is that we have moved far beyond “a little”. We are at a place where one hardly dares say anything publicly about race relations or sexual orientation if it does not comport with the dominant narrative, at least not if you have a career that makes you at all vulnerable to public backlash.

  • Mark Baddeley


    If the word was intended in its racist sense, then that changes the equation significantly. The fact that the word was used of Lin, and reported as such, doesn’t mean that that was the intent in the case in question. I certainly didn’t presume that ethnic minorities were overly sensitive.

    So, I think the comparison with N____ and African-Americans is incorrect, unless the comparison is with the example of someone being sacked for using the word ‘niggardly’. Or unless there is some indication that Frederico has form in this area.

  • Mark Baddeley

    urgh. “Sari”, not “Mollie” there at #19. I was responding to #16.

  • peterc

    if the word “niggardly” had been used in a headline in reference to a black athlete, would the author get a pass by claiming ignorance? at the very least, i would think that, such author would be sorely in need of education. i dont think it’s any different here. and i have a really hard time believing that federico didn’t realize what was going to happen when that word was used – as sari pointed out, it is still widely understood to be a racial epithet.

    and i dont think that asian americans are particularly overly sensitive – but when we see that particular word used clearly in reference to an asian american, and when many of us have felt the pain of being called that word, it’s difficult to accept that it was done in ignorance. and even if it was, it should be understood that there is no place in our culture for that word to be used in reference to asians.

  • carl

    16. sari

    And, demographic studies have demonstrated that evangelicals tend to have less education and lower incomes than Christians of other denominations, perhaps in part, because of where they live (or not).

    I wonder where the ‘easily led’ part comes from. Has that also be demonstrated? Is that simply a feature of being ‘poor and ignorant?’ If that statement can be applied to ‘evangelicals’ on the basis of demopgraphic studies, then it can also just as easily be applied to specific minority groups on the basis of demographic studies. If an editor had made a similar statement about one of those minority groups (“poor, ignorant, and easily led”) he wouldn’t have been excused by means of saying his reference was descriptive and not derogatory. He would have been boiled alive in oil, and we all know it.


  • susie

    I guess that means it’s acceptable to marginalize and berate those less fortunate as long as the “journalists” disagree with their beliefs?

    Perhaps if everyone chose their words more carefully we wouldn’t need discussions like this at all. Maybe?

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Readers might be interested in this post from Federico defending himself.

  • Mark Baddeley

    Yep, reading that post, unless someone can point to a smoking gun, or that he’s misrepresented himself in what he claims there, I’d say this was an honest mistake in using a word in the English language that has more than one meaning. And the sacking was a complete overkill.

    I’m impressed with how his own faith is enabling him to handle it with the same kind of grace that Lin showed. Shame to see a journalist who got religion lose one of the increasingly rare journalist jobs in the MSM.

  • sari

    When I said a little self-censorship, I meant exactly that, not the PC muzzle. Something more along the lines of people should think before they speak (or reread before they post headlines/articles).

    I asked my seventeen year old if she was familiar with the derogatory meaning of the word chink. She responded with an eyeroll and “D’uh, of course”. When asked where she’d encountered it, she replied books, Blazing Saddles, and school. So, at least some people under middle age are familiar with the word and its meaning. We do not use such language at home.

    She asked why the question. I told her about the ESPN situation vis-a-vis Jeremy Lin and y’all’s comments in response to the firing. Her first comment was that the word is still commonly used to denote Asians and Asian-Americans. She went on to say that it is hard to be a minority and that members of the majority (white and Christian in her world) tend to downplay the import of such comments, because they don’t understand what it’s like to be constantly judged in relation to a stereotype (her words). She speaks from first hand experience, and repeatedly has been compared to the prevalent stereotype: cheap, smart, rich, with dark frizzy hair. In her case, only the smart applies. Her friends deal with similar comments geared to their ethnic background, sexual orientation, religion and level of achievement. Lastly, she is familiar with Jeremy Lin, mainly because many of her friends and classmates, primarily Asian-American, are huge fans.

    She was of the opinion that the journalist should have been familiar with the word and used it as a double entendre.

    carl, I agree that the WaPost statement is out of line, though it wasn’t clear to me whether yours was or was not a direct quote. A more correct and less loaded statement would have said something like less educated and less affluent, both of which are true, without the following value judgement: if A and B are true, than C must be true, also. Still, a derogatory name is a one word distillation of a stereotype that is understood and subscribed to by the majority, and is meant to hurt.

    Mark, a quick search for niggardly and Obama brought up this delightful sign and a recap of the backlash.


    Here’s a Wiki entry which lists a number of incidents with references:


    An opinion piece by James Poniewozik suggested that the word is often used correctly but also in such a way as to be deliberately insulting.

  • sari

    Does it strike anyone as odd that Federico needed to list all his charitable endeavors rather than simply say he was sorry and had learned from the experience?

  • Parker

    Let’s say for the sake of argument, that Federico did not know the racial slur meaning of the word. If that was the case, does anyone still seriously contend that he should be fired?

    If so, how far does that go? How far must a journalist go to research the hate and ignorant filled parts of society? Should a journalist research gang signs to make sure that they don’t accidently include a picture of someone subtly making one.

    On the grand scheme of things, I think most people are aware that the n-word is used as a racial slur against African Americans, probably some less people are aware of the C-word for Asians, and even less people are aware that the number “88″ is a white supremacist symbol. How far down the continuum must a reporter go? If you would advocate firing Federico for this headline, would you recommend firing a reporter for a headline making a pun on the number 88, that was both perfectly acceptable the way it was written, or could be read as an endorsement of the White Supremacist movement, depending on the reading?

    I guess, in summary, I think that there are two seperate questions that need to be asked here. First, does it seem like Federico was sincere in his claiming ignorance. I don’t know the answer to this.

    Second, if he was sincere, how much do we expect journalists to go out of their way to learn about the racist aspects of society. That could almost encompass an entire 3 credit course in college, once you consider all the various racial, religious, gender, sexuality, nationality, etc… derogatory terms there are. How wide spread must they be before we say ignorance is no longer enough?

  • Roberto

    For not knowing that a completely legitimate phrase that has been used for hundreds of years also contains a word with a racist meaning of more recent vintage?

    If he didn’t know that the word “chink” is a racial slur, then he shouldn’t be fired, only reprimanded and told to go and sin no more.

    However I disagree with the point about a “completely legitimate phrase.” I am Puerto Rican — If someone wrote something about me and used, say, “spic and span” in the document, I wouldn’t care that how legitimate that phrase is. After all, it wasn’t my people who turned “spic” into a racial slur.

  • susie

    and, Sari, I still have trouble understanding Still, a derogatory name is a one word distillation of a stereotype that is understood and subscribed to by the majority, and is meant to hurt. as if a derogatory phrase about Evangelical Christians seems to be a minor offense because it isn’t meant to hurt, only to silence? I do not think that is what you meant but that is the way it looks.

    I am more sorry than I can say that people are so horrible that they verbally abuse others but I do not understand the levels of abuse being different.

    And yes,I found Mr Federico’s listing of his charitable works odd. I also saw it as his sad attempt to have the public view him as a whole person.

    Personally I try to remember Sr Helen Prejean’s statement about a man being more than the worst thing he has ever done.

  • Maureen

    If newsrooms are going to carry some kind of fire-on-sight policy, they really need to program their computers with a big red flashing alarm if someone even approximates some kind of slur. They need to hire historical linguists with a specialty in nasty slang, to dig up every possible nasty term, and several dirtymouthed people with nasty friends, to keep in touch with every word that comes up being used in a nasty way. (Which, if you believe the online “Urban Dictionary’s combination of knowledge and trolling, is every single word in the English language.)

    Of course, then you would get sued for having discriminatory terms programmed into your computers.

  • Maureen

    Oh, and how dare you ever use the word “quaint” about any woman or her house or her customs! Pigs!

    Because of course everyone knows that “quaint” is an older form of the c word, you sick jerks, and just because 400-500 years have passed doesn’t mean you’re allowed to just forget.

    (And the police will sue you if I ever say “pigs”….)

  • Maureen

    Heh, heh, Google News has page after page of stories using that evilbad word “quaint”… and ESPN has 73 results on their website.

    Obviously, everyone must be fired! Mwhahahah!

  • sari

    and, Sari, I still have trouble understanding Still, a derogatory name is a one word distillation of a stereotype that is understood and subscribed to by the majority, and is meant to hurt. as if a derogatory phrase about Evangelical Christians seems to be a minor offense because it isn’t meant to hurt, only to silence? I do not think that is what you meant but that is the way it looks.

    You say that you have heard others use the word Chink in a derogatory fashion. In one word, a single word, the speaker encapsulates all the stereotypes commonly associated with a particular group. The name, whatever it is, is meant to hurt and to generate a sense of shame. It denotes superiority, privilege, and power over the other, the people who, for one reason or another, are excluded from the prevalent group.

    Three members of minorities–peterc, roberto and myself–have tried to give readers here a sense of what a racial slur feels like to the recipient. The listed contributors (tmatt, Mollie, et al) are all, judging by their pictures, white, and by their bios, some flavor of Christian. My sense is that most who’ve posted on this thread are Christian as well. Rather than acknowledge that racial slurs may be more hurtful than y’all realized, most of you downplayed Federico’s headline and shifted right into but journalists hate Christians and nobody cares mode.

    carl’s WaPost quote (unsure whether it’s real or made up) suggested a situation where a reporter superimposed his or her personal views on factual data. Very inappropriate, but it lacks the entrenched profiling of the racial epithets. It is a fact that Evangelical Christians as a group are less affluent and less well-educated than members of most other Christian denominations and most non-Christian groups. This has been documented. Income and education are easy to quantify; the only question, at least to me, is whether respondents correctly self-labeled themselves. This does not mean that all Evangelical Christians are poor or poorly educated; the numbers refer to an aggregate. From a completely impartial standpoint, I’d like to know what factors caused this group’s behavior to skew in a particular direction, but I’d want solid data, not someone’s opinion.

    My daughter’s take on this was interesting. She had never heard that word come out of my mouth. It elicited a strongly negative response, both to the word and the bigger shock of hearing me say it. When she reads ugliness about Jews or others, she simply assumes the writer is an uninformed idjit. The word felt entirely different to her.

  • Maureen

    And to be fair, a lot of times, “qeynt” and its other spellings just meant “female groin” — for example, the famous period description of where Irish gowns’ bodices and skirts met. But of course it’s not any less discriminatory to go describing cute cottages in terms of groins.

  • susie

    Sari, I acknowledge everything you are saying is true. I wish I could change it but I can’t. What I am saying is that by your very statement about “some flavor of Christian” you are (no doubt unintentionally) turning the tables by dismissing the slurs based on religion and background that we “flavors” deal with now.

    Am I saying it’s the same thing? No and I am not trying to take away the fact that generations of others have suffered the slurs and worse.

    I just don’t believe that dismissing the slurs against Evangelical Christians is the answer.

  • carl jacobs

    34. sari

    The quote is a real historical quote from the Washington Post. I didn’t make it up.


  • susie

    And I am not what you would probably call an Evangelical Christian. My “flavor” is the same as Mollie’s is based on her articles which referred to the testimony by the president of her (my) church body. And yes, I am white. Not affluent, not terribly well “educated” by the standards of most probably. Just trying to be as non-judgmental as I can be while not appreciating generalizations of anyone.

  • sari

    What I am saying is that by your very statement about “some flavor of Christian” you are (no doubt unintentionally) turning the tables by dismissing the slurs based on religion and background that we “flavors” deal with now.

    Not at all. I stated that the WaPost quote was inappropriate. Nor do I believe that Federico should have been fired; the punishment did not fit the crime. What I am saying is that Christian is normal, the default in this society, in much the same way that Jewish is the default in Israel. That’s beginning to change as more of the population detaches from religious observance of any sort, a change that is reflected by the media. Nonetheless, no single word approximates the C- word for Asians, the N- word for African-Americans, or the K- word for Jews. Hopefully we won’t get there.

  • susie

    Hopefully not. I quite like having not heard the words in a very long time.

    I will be happy not to hear or see myself referred to as a “flavor” too.

  • carl jacobs


    If an editor ever said that black people were ‘poor, ignorant, and easily led’ he would be barbecued as a racist. This is not even debatable. No appeal to demographic studies would save his neck. No one would call the quote ‘inappropriate.’ They would call it racist, and rightfully so. So what then is the difference? Why would it be racist to say as much of a black man but only inappropriate to say it of an evangelical Christian. Inappropriate means “not befitting the context.” What context allows someone to say a group of people are “poor, ignorant, and easily led.”


  • sari

    If an editor ever said that black people were ‘poor, ignorant, and easily led’ he would be barbecued as a racist. This is not even debatable. No appeal to demographic studies would save his neck. No one would call the quote ‘inappropriate.’ They would call it racist, and rightfully so. So what then is the difference?

    Well, for starters, you compare apples to oranges. A person’s faith is personal, a decision to adopt certain beliefs as truths. At least I hope that it involves some degree of introspection. Race, ethnicity, and disability are beyond our control. An African-American cannot decide to move in a different direction. His or her skin is an instant identifier. Likewise, Jeremy Lin will always be identifiably Asian.

    What you object to is bigotry, not racism. C- and N- are racist epithets. K- and S- fall on the border, mainly because they attach importance to status of birth. Denigrating evangelicals based on quantifiable facts is despicable and bigoted, perhaps, but it is not racist.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    OK friends,

    I think we’ve exhausted this conversation. Let’s move on.

  • TTT


    I’m curious to know how you’d respond to demographic or sociological data that might not be favorable to Jews. For instance, what if a historian noted that violent revolutionary movements were disproportionately led by Jews or a reporter showed that Wall Street crimes (insider trading, fraud, etc.) were primarily committed by Jews. Would truth be a defense?

  • Parker

    OK friends,

    I think we’ve exhausted this conversation. Let’s move on.

    On that note, are there any comments on my suggestion above? Should journalist students be required to take a course on derogatory terms, language, and symbolism?

    Is it fair to ask journalists to not be prejudice, and to be fairminded, but then punish them for not knowing the lingo of the prejudiced community?

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    I read the Link to Federico’s site and his comments.
    Right away he gave away that he, like Lin, is a class act. For he wrote: “I am truly sorry”–NOT the usual crapola given out for media consumption—”If someone feels offended, I am sorry.”