Originally published by Neiman Reports.
The signs that someone like Donald Trump was coming were right there, in online comments lousy with creatively spelled racial slurs that slipped past even the best filters. They were in the vicious tweets and voicemail nasty grams aimed at journalists of color, especially when we wrote about race. It was in the hundreds, if not thousands, of racist and xenophobic emails that clogged my inbox during my 11-year-tenure as a columnist at The Commercial Appeal in Memphis.
Never before had white readers been exposed to the regular opinions of a black woman; I was the paper’s first black female columnist. But even as this angry tribe of white readers grew, many of my non-black colleagues—particularly editors and publishers—insisted these readers were outliers. (And I knew these readers were white because they almost always told me so, using phrases like, ‘I’m a white reader in the suburbs and I want you to know I’m tired of your racist shit.’) Never mind that all the basements in the world couldn’t contain all these folks.
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