Amitava Kumar in the NYT's India Ink:
The recent bombings in Boston threw up many questions. One of the most pressing, in my somewhat narrow view, is the meaning of being brown in America.
On April 17, two days after the bombs went off during the Boston Marathon, killing three people and injuring almost 200 others, CNN’s John King went on air to say that the suspect was a “dark-skinned male.” In the CNN video, which shows that the time of the broadcast was 1.15 p.m. on Wednesday, we see King pointing to a photograph from the front-page of The New York Times. A positive identification had been made based on a surveillance video from a Lord & Taylor store just outside the frame of the picture in the Times, King said. A little later that afternoon, King would go on to assure viewers that a subsequent arrest had been made.
No one had been arrested that day, of course, and, alas, there was no dark-skinned male. What is remarkable is that even while first reporting his piece of “exclusive” news, CNN’s King felt it necessary to qualify what he was saying. The qualifications he offered were not about the haste with which he was sharing a piece of misinformation, or the bewildering lack of specificity in his description, or even the absence of adequate verification. Instead, his remarks appeared to suggest to his viewers that he couldn’t be more open with them because of politically correct sentiments that complicated open disclosures of “game changers” that the police had uncovered:
“I was told they have a breakthrough in the identification of the suspect, and I’m told — and I want to be very careful about this because people get very sensitive when you say these things — I was told by one of these sources who’s a law enforcement official that this was a dark-skinned male… The official used some other words. I’m not going to repeat them until we get more information because of the sensitivities. There are some people who will take offense even in saying that.”
Some people! Who are they?