Has Alessandra Stanley seen any black people outside of TV?
Sorry—that lede was rude. Perhaps that rudeness is just the result of a recent lede that Stanley, a critic for the New York Times, wrote in a piece about Shonda Rhimes. “Wrought in Their Creator’s Image: Viola Davis Plays Shonda Rhimes’ Latest Tough Heroine” opens with this zinger: "When Shonda Rhimes writes her autobiography, it should be called 'How to Get Away With Being an Angry Black Woman.' "
Criticism began rolling out almost immediately, centering on the fact that Stanley, a white woman, had failed to realize that this line (and so many others) played on stereotypes that African-Americans have long been victims of, namely the "angry black woman (or man)."
When a writer tackles a subject that deals with a race or gender that is not their own, there's extra pressure to not screw up. Tell your own story wrong and people might quietly pity you, but tell someone else something untrue about their life and experience, and you will not get away with it. Talking about race and gender is a necessary and important part of our culture, but if you're about to take your thoughts online answer the following questions before you hit publish: