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Monday, September 17, 2007

Be careful what you whine for

Columnist S. Renee Mitchell of the O has got herself caught between a rock and a Starbuck. First she wrote an outraged column (which has since conveniently rolled off the newspaper's pitiful website) about an alleged racial stereotype on a blackboard at a Starbucks downtown. Starbucks responded by firing the manager responsible. Now Mitchell's decided that the manager didn't deserve to be fired. But commenters on her blog aren't buying that for a minute. For an O blog, these are some pretty interesting threads -- here and here. Alan over at Blue Hole also gives Mitchell a piece of his mind, with a very revealing photo, here.

Mitchell's back-pedaling furiously, but her original column pretty clearly labeled the drawing "racist" and an act of "bigotry." She received an accurate explanation -- that the drawing was actually a caricature of a white worker at the store -- but she refused to accept it because there was a word written near it that may have been Ebonics. Immediately the author of the writing was branded a racist, when in fact she's more the opposite -- just careless.

As somebody who's had the "r" word flung at him not too long ago, I'm with the outraged readers on this one. Mitchell needs to write something in her print column that qualifies as an apology. So far all she's done is tried to look sympathetic toward the person whose life she's wrecked. As for Starbucks, if they don't hire the manager back with a slap on the wrist, I hope she sues their butts off.

Comments (22)

Some got the point - the need to expose any perceived bigotry, whether it was intended or not.

Perceived? Boy, that leaves it wide open doesnt it? And if she thinks the person didnt deserve to be fired, why did she make such a public fuss over it?

I go to that Starbucks all the time. Everyone there is pretty cool, I sincerely doubt anyone meant anything "racist."

Renee Mitchell is one of those folks who looks for things about which to screech, "That's racist!" Isn't it funny that when you look for racism, you find it?

I had a classmate in law school like this. Everything was a racist conspiracy. When she got bad grades, it was "racism" (never mind that we were given exam numbers and therefore the profs didn't know whose exam they were grading...) When she couldn't make it at the law firm where she was hired, it was "racism" upon the part of her employers. The funny thing was, she got a minority scholarship to law school, and participated in the special minority hiring programs for first-year summer associates that many of the big firms have these days. So were those racist, too? Or just the stuff that she didn't feel she deserved? But I digress...

Renee should really be ashamed of herself, particularly for her most recent column, in which she seems to be attempting to push the blame for what happened onto Starbucks, when she herself was the one that started the whole controversy in the first place. But like other race-baiters out there, she's just using "racism" as an excuse to line her own pockets. I guess she can't find anything better to write about in her paid O column. She got two stories out of it, too!

Narcissists tend to blame everyone but themselves, don't they? Thanks for the link.

So do we still have freedom of speech or not? Is anything about race or ethnicity forbidden somewhere? And what about sex? When and what can I say that's sexual? Only when I'm with other men? Oh, I almost forgot: "bomb." I don't think we can say that without checking to see who's listening, watching (recording?)

Suggest a stereotypical manner of speech on a blackboard and you get fired. Suggest a stereotypical occupation associated with Italians and you get an Emmy.

If Renee wants to get all fired up she should turn to blasting the comic strip "Maintaining" appearing in her very own Oregonian (I still subscribe, mea culpa - oops! Catholic bashing!). This "test" strip employs reverse discrimmination in an attempt at ironic humor. You have dumb blondes, racist parents, all kinds of stereotype bigots. Apparently it's good because everyone gets offended!

I wonder is Renee still dumping off her kids at the Downtown Day Care, uh, I mean, the Public Library?

Hillary Barnes' first mistake was working for Starbucks. Nothing wrong with Starbucks of course, but if you really want to have a "creative" side you need to stay far away from the huge corporate monoliths.

The larger the company, usually the more rigid their policies become (a necessary evil when you have hundreds of thousands of employees).

If Mrs. Barnes wants to be as creative as she seems to - she should seek out a job as a barista at a smaller local shop or chain, where even if they don't embrace the creativity they would most likely be more willing to deal with issues like this on a one-on-one basis instead of having to tow a corporate line.

Now, to the real villain.

S. Renee Mitchell should be ashamed of herself. I am as white as white comes, and I say "lubs" all the time. Ms. Mitchell clearly is looking for every excuse she can to play the race card, and in this situation it has erroneously ended a good person's career.

If the only tool you have is a hammer - all of your problems start to look like nails.

You have plenty of freedom of speech, but that doesn't mean your speech is always without consequences. Your private employer is happy to fire you for embarrassing acts on your part, freedom of speech or not.

I think that the vitriol against Ms. Mitchell is overblown. She did what columnists do, which is try to find a story to fit within a relatively-short format, and to make it a story that is a "wow." In my view, columnists do not usually follow a typical news journalist's approach of making sure to get all sides (sometimes to the point of making sure that every wacko with an opinion gets heard). And Ms. Mitchell gave up when she was told that Ms. Barnes could not speak to her about the incident. In the end, though, I agree that Ms. Mitchell should go above-and-beyond in now trying to remedy this situation for Ms. Barnes.

Careless is definitely the correct word. Little people occassionally forget the power of those that outrank them, and are liable to be trampled if they are not ever-mindful of their place in the cashflow and ever-respectful of the people that keep them there. Deserving's got nothing to do with it.

Maybe The Big "O" Should Fire The Columnist and consider The Fact That Workers Are Newspaper Readers and that They Need us more than we Need Them??

Unfortunately "perceived" racism is good business. Just ask OJ.

Jack, it seems as though your demographic is shifting -- upscale. The first comments here are among the more erudite (the eruditer?) flavor tasted here, I have.

I took a pass on following the links into the OregonLive deadzone, so my thoughts here may be disconnected from what the skinny is. Too little information.

The whole thing of 'racism' is racism, in some wider apprehension. And racism 'allegations' (yet a true and very real presence), is but one 'wedgie' imprecation effectively setting we, the people versus we, the people. Others, perhaps, are 'class warfare,' 'ideology challenged,' 'KnowSomethings - KnowNothings,' 'participatory con peripatetic;' only first-to-mind. Each meaning to show there are rampant topics that drive attention and discussion to people's differences, and then there are more seldom seen topics that raise consciousness and consideration of people's shared attributes and common sense. Sameness is so boring, whereas conflict is the fuel of sensationalism (i.e., massmind broadcasting); while sameness salves sociality and conflict burns it.

I am interested in your remark, Jack, that you are a recent victim of an injust 'r'-worded slur. It seems in the settlements of power, the hew and cry of conflict, ("racist," "bigot," "sexist," e.g.), inadvertently (perhaps) recognizes the shifts of it (power). Conventional massmedia goes not easily into its dark night, nor enjoys the dawn of webmedia. I just think there is more benefiting value in attending this discussion on the side, in venues or forums such as blogs of Bojack and BlueHole, away from the principals' causations -- leave Starbucks and the newspaper(s) to figure out for themselves their own (ad) rates of each other; when I want latte, I'll go to Starbucks; when I want lies, I'll go to massmedia; when I want civil community, I'll read and write here and there.

Perhaps there was an instance when Renee Mitchell and I allied, (or maybe my memory is faulty). I once wrote a castigating letter to the newspaper regarding Tony Snow's vile words appearing there, and thereafter he and his spit disappeared. Praise the word, literally. (She knows what I'm talking about, if my memory is not faulty, and that's what matters in this.)

Mitchell is simply the Oregonian's staff race baiter. I have read her columns for some time. She seems to frequently find minor things to be indignant about. It just (wrongfully) cost someone their job this time.

Herb Caen used to call it "columny".

...the hew and cry of conflict...

Oh dear!

I hope it doesn't come to that...

I know it's a crazy connection, but here's a job opening posted this morning on craigslist:

After a little bit of searching I managed to find her original column. The image of her carrying the picture of the offensive drawing in her hand, "blood pounding behind her eyes" storming through every Starbucks within walking distance of The Oregonian (must have taken her most of the afternoon) was one of the funniest things I have read in awhile. It's unfortunate that some of the best satire written today is done without the writer even being aware of it.

I'd love to see how she backs out of this:

1) Don't apologize and be seen as the person who got a poor woman fired.

2) Apologize and admit she is wrong and admit the picture was not racist.

I'd bet on the latter.

PS - You should have bet on the Redskins. They beat the Eagles outright. I guess I should have know better than to take Norv Turner's side, he'll destroy the Chargers yet.

I'd love to see how who Sebastian (He can't be Bassy can he?) picks next week. He is pretty sharp.

Sorry, I meant former. This implies no change on her part.

"Mitchell is simply the Oregonian's staff race baiter."

I disagree, that is Steve Duin's job. I remember his column about our fear of the black man causing a police shooting. I am sure he felt much better driving home to lily-white Lake Oswego after passing CIty Hall with its all-white male council and leaving the O with its all white-male (excepting S Renee) editorial board.

To be fair, I usually agree with Ms Mitchell (not this time, though.) DUin is just a pompous *** who pretends he is more moral than the rest of us.

excuse me STeve....but Lake Oswego isn't "lily white"...how racist of YOU.
In addition there are 3 women on LO's City Council- the mayor and two council women....

Mitchell is a race-baiter and a chronic quoter-out-of-context. This is coming from one who was quoted out of context in her column. It doesn't feel good, let me tell you. I just thank god I wasn't fired because of her p.o.s. column.
She called me about a year ago to ask about a neighborhood issue, as I am on the board of our association. I was confused when she immediately directed the conversation towards racism, when race had absolutely nothing to do with this particular issue. I could hear the disappointment in her voice when she realized the truth and that her column would not be as racially charged as she had hoped. It wasn't until a week later that I saw the column and saw how she had cherry-picked one half-sentence out of a 15-minute conversation and used it to paint an ugly picture of our neighborhood association.
Oh well, live and learn.

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