The old saying that white people think all Black people look alike reared its ugly head Tuesday morning when the New York Times misidentified one dark-skinned Black woman for another in a photo caption. The newspaper’s excuse? It blamed the wire service that provided the photo.
A photo that showed Angela Bassett on stage at the Emmys Monday night somehow confused the Academy Award-nominated actress with her polar opposite, All-American villain Omarosa Manigault-Newman. The Times apologized, but a closer look at its weak but probably true mea culpa — “We regret running an incorrect caption from a photo wire service in some early print editions” — couldn’t mask one glaringly sad truth: the obvious mix-up still eluded the human eyes that were charged with proofing copy before going to press.
Or did it?
Bassett may not be a household name in America, but in Black America, her name rings bells. Loudly.
That’s one of the reasons why it’s hard to believe that the person who missed the obvious error was more than likely non-Black. Another reason is that the number of Black journalists working at the Times has been on the decline, falling from a pitiful 9 percent to eight percent from 2015-2017, according to the paper’s own admission in its “diversity and inclusion” report released in March.
The true irony of it all was how the Times recently created a newsroom-wide team for covering race a couple of years ago. Clearly, none of the team members were privy to Tuesday morning’s caption before it ran.