Bay Area News Group columnist Tammerlin Drummond has apologized for her use of a quote which included the racially offensive phrase “chink in the armor” in a story about Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, reports Journalisms Richard Prince.
“I apologize for anyone feeling that it was somehow racially or ethnically insulting,” Drummond told Journal-isms by telephone. “In retrospect, I would probably have done it differently.”
The controversy was first reported in AsAmNews Sunday.
Drummond’s column focused on concerns that Oakland Mayor Jean Quan has not been transparent during her first term as mayor and that lack of transparency has come back to bite her following her recent car accident.
Drummond quoted political science professor David McCuan as saying “So a fender-bender now becomes another chink in the armor of someone who has not moved forward smoothly.”
Drummond is described by Journalisms as African American. She said she was not aware that the phrase was offensive.
It used to be that cross cultural communication was a black and white issue or an issue between minorities and whites. But with the increased diversity of the United States, cultural misunderstanding can happen even between minority groups.
Journalism is one of the few professions in the country where this issue has been confronted head on. In the early 1990s, the Asian American Journalists Association formed an alliance with the National Association of Black Journalists, National Association of Hispanic Journalists, and Native American Journalism Association under the umbrella group, Unity Journalist which later became Unity Journalists of Color.
Unfortunately a disagreement three years ago over finances and voting rights lead to NABJ pulling out of the alliance in 2011. Efforts to bring the coalition back together have failed and just last year the NAHJ pulled out of Unity citing some of the same issues as NABJ.
In 2011, the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association joined Unity and it is now known as Unity Journalists for Diversity.
It is unfortunate the alliance remains so divided. Opportunities for cross cultural communication are rare in today’s still segregated society. We should increase these opportunities and not decrease it.
I benefited from such an opportunity in 2003 when I received a fellowship to participate in a five week leadership program sponsored by the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education held at Northwestern University. Maynard was founded by Robert Maynard, the late African American publisher of the Oakland Tribune.
MIJE has targeted largely African Americans for its programs, but I participated through a fellowship awarded to me by the New York Times and AAJA. The program gave me a boost at a time I really needed one. The benefits of my participation in the program stay with me today, not only for the leadership skills I developed, but for the greater understanding of other people’s cultures I learned.
Hopefully Unity will one day work out its differences and NABJ and NAHJ will return.
As we learned from this incident, the importance of cross cultural communication should not be minimized.