Time Warp

Believe it or not, it's 2003 in Highland Park, too

Each year, the Press Club of Dallas passes out scads of bronze statues of a semi-naked woman--called the Katie Awards--for excellence in local journalism and public relations. Buzz, while not a member of the club (see Groucho Marx's comment re: clubs, membership in), would like to suggest a special prize this year for the Park Cities People, its editor, Tom Boone, and staff writer John Clare. Call it the Special Award for Possessing Really Big Brass Ones.

Why? Because this week, Park Cities People published a story with the headline "Area's first African-American family welcomed" about a couple who likely are the first black family to own property in Highland Park. Ever.

Don't bother reaching for your calendar. It really is 2003. We checked.

For those of you unfamiliar with the journalism business, allow Buzz to sum up the typical--i.e., mostly white--newspaper person's attitude toward matters of race: We'd rather not mention it. It makes our palms sweat and readers cranky and uncomfortable--especially readers of small community newspapers published in mostly white enclaves. In fact, there are only a few things more likely to set readers off: pictures of abused animals, the word "abortion" and errors in the TV listings--and not necessarily in that order.

Nevertheless, Boone saw what he thought was a legitimate story and decided to go for it. "We thought it was pretty strange that this was the first African-American family to buy a house and move into Highland Park," Boone says. "That's pretty newsworthy as far as we're concerned."

He's right, of course. Still, the calls and messages came, mostly, Boone suspects, from white people who thought the story odd, tasteless or offensive to the couple, Karen and Joshua Watson. "They seem to be presuming that Karen Watson would be offended by it," Boone says, though he heard she was so happy with the story that she asked for 20 extra copies of the paper. (We couldn't find a phone listing for the couple to confirm that, and not even Buzz is so crass as to suggest that she may want to keep a few copies in her car to hand out to Highland Park police in the future. No, wait. We are that crass. Never mind.)

Other readers suggested that the paper should act as though it's colorblind on such matters. Unfortunately, colorblindness among many whites often clears up just about the time some non-white guy gets a job a white guy wanted. (Hallelujah! I CAN SEE!) Or, as Boone puts it, way less cynically: "[Since] race is still an issue, it's something we still need to write about."

So, good for him and his reporter, Clare. And good for the Watsons, too. Karen Watson told the paper that her neighbors have been friendly and welcoming, which in fairness to Highland Park--and we really hate being fair to Highland Park--is about what you'd expect from affluent, well-educated white people. As long as no person of color is trying to get their jobs. Or join their country clubs. Or...

 
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