USA Today fired the Diversity editor who jumped to conclusions about the identity of the Boulder shooter

When authorities in Boulder, Colorado named the supermarket shooter this week, there were a whole lot of people on the left who had egg on their face. That’s because many had wrongly assumed the shooter must be white. I wrote an entire post based on a Twitter thread just collecting some of the many blue checked lefties who made this mistake.

One of the most conspicuous people to make this error was Hemal Jhaveri. As Dave Rubin pointed out she had tweeted this about the shooting: “It’s always an angry white man. Always.” Only in this case, it wasn’t.

Jhaveri isn’t just some rando leftie on Twitter. She was the Diversity and Inclusion editor at USA Today Sports. Today Jhaveri wrote a piece on Medium explaining she was fired shortly afterwards.

On Monday night, I sent a tweet responding to the fact that mass shooters are most likely to be white men. It was a dashed off over-generalization, tweeted after pictures of the shooter being taken into custody surfaced online. It was a careless error of judgement, sent at a heated time, that doesn’t represent my commitment to racial equality. I regret sending it. I apologized and deleted the tweet.

By Tuesday morning, after the shooter was identified as Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, several high profile alt-right Twitter accounts picked up the tweet as an example of anti-white bias and racism against whites…

There was social media outrage, threats and harassment towards me, and by the end of the day, USA TODAY had relieved me of my position as a Race and Inclusion editor.

Was her firing reasonable? To be honest, I’m not sure. On the one hand I’m against canceling people over tweets, especially old tweets someone put up when they were a dumb teenager.

On the other hand, I do think there are times when someone’s tweets are not compatible with their job. For instance, I think the SF School Board made the right call to strip Alison Collins of her leadership position based on her tweets about Asians. Collins hasn’t really apologized and hasn’t deleted the tweets. She clearly still believes Asians use “white supremacist thinking” to “get ahead.” And that’s just not a tenable position to hold if you are part of a district that is 30% Asian people.

I think you can make a similar argument here. I don’t think Jhaveri should be fired because of angry reactions to her tweets. Never give in to the mob. But it is fair for her bosses to ask if her admittedly careless public statement is really compatible with her job. To be blunt, what she said is racist. Not all mass shooters are white and saying this is exactly as offensive as any other universal, negative stereotype about a particular race. Big surprise, no one wants to be associated with mass shooters because of their skin color.

Should an apology have been enough to fix this? That’s where I’m more open to argument. She did delete it and says she apologized. I don’t see the apology but maybe I missed it or maybe she deleted that too. So even though I think this tweet was more than dumb I kind of wish USA Today wasn’t so quick to fire an 8-year employee.

Of course there may be more to this story. Jhaveri says she loved her job but her Medium post includes a lot of criticism of her employer:

This is not about bias, or keeping personal opinions off of Twitter. It’s about challenging whiteness and being punished for it. As a columnist and Race and Inclusion editor with our Sports Media Group, it was my job to push for anti-racism and inclusion in our stories and with our staff. That work can not be done without calling out existing power relations, often in a public forum.

USA TODAY, like so many other newsrooms, has been vocal about trumpeting its commitment to diversity, equality and inclusion. And yet, doing the actual work of diversity, equality and inclusion necessitates engaging with complicated structural issues that should make white audiences uncomfortable. In this case, after I made one mistake, the company contradicted their commitment to DEI and wilted upon criticism…

Sending one wrong tweet that ended up in the hands of Sean Hannity on Fox News though, was enough for this publication to turn tail.

So many newsrooms claim to value diverse voices, yet when it comes to backing them up, or looking deeper into how white supremacy permeates their own newsrooms, they quickly retreat.

See, I’m not sure she’s really sorry. What she’s saying here sounds a lot like an argument that making white people unhappy was her job and therefore she shouldn’t have been fired for making white people unhappy. Except, what she wrote wasn’t about promoting diversity or inclusion, it was a lazy stereotype that turned out to be false.

What I don’t think Jhaveri gets is that white people had good reason to be unhappy with her. And her bosses didn’t abandon their commitment to diversity, they abandoned their commitment to her because she put out a sloppy, ugly tweet. There’s a difference.

That doesn’t mean I support some of the online abuse that came her way as a result. I don’t support those kind of cheap attacks on anyone. But she did say something wrong and criticism was justified. Maybe her bosses just didn’t think she deserved another chance. I do hope they didn’t just cave to the mob because that’s not a good precedent in these situations.