Pittsburgh Post-Gazette screenshot

A few months ago, I published a response to a strikingly tone deaf column from Eric Heyl of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review. In it, I stated that “Neighboring districts shy away from Wilkinsburg’s forbidden fruit” (Heyl's column) was literally the worst major newspaper column I’d ever read. I (obviously) did not mince words then, but I also held back a bit. I didn't (and still don't) believe Heyl should have lost his job or anything. I just wanted him and others to realize exactly how wrong it was to direct such flippant snark and sarcasm at school kids who'd done nothing to deserve their fate. (And, apparently, Heyl was reprimanded and wrote an "apology." Whatever.)

Jack Kelly, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist whose shockingly offensive and unapologetically racist piece ("Remnants of Slavery") takes the crown from Heyl's as the worst major newspaper column I’d ever read, will receive no such consideration. Every day he continues to be employed by the Post-Gazette is a black mark on the entire paper. And, considering that the PG is the Pittsburgh region's flagship paper, his stay with the PG is a black mark on the city. Because if the region's most prominent news source gives someone like him a paid platform, it's a damning indictment on our cultural, social, and political zeitgeist.

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And this isn't about him having political views I don't agree with. Disagreement (and argument) is fine. Encouraged. But, by publishing something so factually inaccurate and structurally inept about such an explosive and sensitive subject, the PG is basically saying “Fuck you” to every person of color in the Greater Pittsburgh Area. Which saddens me, in part because some of those people of color work for the Post-Gazette. And some of those people are my friends. And they have to work under the same masthead as this fucking disgrace.

But don't take my word for it. Let's take a look at Kelly's column to see why this guy's next PG paycheck should be his last.

I’m glad I live in a time of automobiles, air conditioning, indoor plumbing, the Internet and great medical advances.

But if I had to live in an earlier period, I’d want to be a soldier in the Union Army. I can think of no greater cause than to fight to eradicate America’s original sin.

Slavery isn’t America’s original sin because it was unique, or uniquely horrible here. If prostitution is “the world’s oldest profession,” slave trading is second. Since the dawn of recorded history, slavery has been practiced in nearly every society known to man.

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Kelly begins his column with some exposition to let the reader know exactly how noble he is. Because this great and principled White man is such a great and principled White man that, if he could, he'd go back in time to fight for the Union Army. I can almost smell the hauteur on his breath. This isn't remarkably terrible, though. This assertion and the paragraph about slavery being a common part of human civilization is boilerplate conservative columnist speak. Nothing really to get all railed up about.

But then this happened:

The words “slavery” and “benign” ought never to appear in the same sentence, but slaves in the American South and the British Caribbean (usually) were treated less harshly than in most other places where slavery has been practiced — especially in ancient times.

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Yes, what you just read was a thinly-veiled defense of American slavery, wrapped in the context of an argument that we (American Blacks) should be happy we were American slaves and not slaves somewhere else. Because while slavery here was really bad, slavery everywhere else was really, really bad.

But let's say Kelly is right. (He's not, but let's say it anyway.) Let's say slaves in America were actually treated better than slaves everywhere else. This does not matter. It's an inherently invalid argument; a logical fallacy because you do not grade degrees of evil. Evil is evil. Stating that one evil is better than the other ignores the fact that one evil can not be better than another evil. All evil is equally evil.

And that he'd attempt — and be allowed — to go there with slavery is particularly telling. Can you imagine a major newspaper publishing something similar about the Holocaust? Where a paid columnist stated that the gas the Germans used in the gas chambers was actually a relatively humane gas and, all things considered, a polite form of mass execution? Do you know how quickly everyone associated with that column — writers, copy editors, line editors, managing editors, executive editors, etc — would get reprimanded, boycotted, and, eventually, fired?

Our word “slave” is derived from “Slav,” the peoples most frequently enslaved during Roman times. Throughout history, only a relatively few slaves have been black. And for every African brought to North America on (mostly British) slave ships, dozens and possibly hundreds more were taken east by Arab slave traders.

What made slavery America’s original sin was its violent conflict with our founding principles. If “all men are created equal, and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights,” what gives some men the right to own others?

Racism is as ancient and ubiquitous as slavery. The word some Chinese use for “foreigner” can be translated as “foreign devil.” Russian slang for black Africans translates to “wood chips.” Chinese, Koreans and Filipinos can attest that until recently Japan was among the most racist nations on Earth.

But it wasn’t until after Britain’s “Glorious Revolution” of 1688 and the American Revolution (1775-1783) that slavery and racism became widely and inextricably linked. Before then, not many thought men were created equal or that God-given rights took precedence over the whims of kings and emperors.

And before publication of John Locke’s “Second Treatise on Civil Government” (1689) and the Declaration of Independence (1776), not many believed the people were sovereign and that government was supposed to serve them, not the other way around.

Slavery was considered mostly a matter of bad luck. It was common practice for survivors to be enslaved when a tribe lost a war. Wealthy Romans bragged about how learned and cultured their Greek slaves were. That’s why they bought them to tutor their children.

“If God wills that … until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword … the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether,” said Abraham Lincoln in his Second Inaugural Address.

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He continues with some more historical gobbledygook to provide context for his premise, which is…we should be grateful for slavery? Slavery was business, not personal? (Basically, slavery is no different than a Mafia hit?) Russians had strange slang? Who the fuck knows where he's going.

Four hundred thousand Union soldiers died to free the slaves. That blood debt was paid long ago. Abraham Lincoln was white. So were those who voted for him. About 90 percent of Union soldiers were white.

It says something good about today’s white Americans that so many feel guilty for a sin neither they nor most of their ancestors ever committed. But white guilt has a pernicious effect on our politics.

The assertion that only people of certain ethnic groups can be racist is pure racism. Black racism is as vile and prevalent as any other kind.

Slavery was horrible, but no black American living today has suffered from it. Most are better off than if their ancestors had remained in Africa.

The black community is uniquely troubled, in large part because white racism is blamed for social dysfunction that has other causes. To address those causes, white Americans must abandon an undeserved guilt, and black racists who blame all their problems on white racism must stop preying upon it.

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There it is! There's the point! He finally got to it. They (great and principled White men like Jack Kelly) have completely absolved whatever slavery-related debt America had. In fact, there was never any debt to begin with. Because by bringing us over here, we're much better off they'd we'd be if we stayed in Africa. They are our great benefactors — the Magwitches to our Negro Pips — and our only problems today directly stem from us being ungrateful. The next time you, Black person saved from eternal savagery, sees Jack Kelly — or any other great and principled White man — we should genuflect. And then, only then, will we progress.

The "probably" in the title of this piece might seem out of place. After all, I state very clearly that I believe he should be fired, so why put "probably" in there? Well, maybe this is what the PG wants. He does have an editor (Post-Gazette opinion editor Tom Waseleski, a man who, full disclosure, I've worked with before) who apparently vetted and okayed this column. And it would be wrong to fire someone for doing something you asked him to do. That would be a fucking disgrace, too.