Was it racist for a black panelist on the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. to call someone a “crying white girl?”
That’s what some viewers thought, sending complaints to the CBC’s ombudsman Esther Enkin. Enkin told iMediaEthics she received about 60 complaints over the program and four asked her to review.
The comments were made in CBC News Network Dec. 17, 2017 panel discussion. Panelists discussed people who “had an impact on the public discourse but may have not received the attention they deserved,” Enkin explained in her report on the complaints and review. Panelist John Ibbitson listed a woman named Lindsay Shepherd, to which panelist Vicky Mochama disagreed and made the “crying white girl” remark.
Shepherd, a teaching assistant at Laurier University on Ontario, had played a clip on gender pronoun use to her students, and then her superiors “reprimanded” her for allegedly breaking the university’s policies, saying students had complained, the Globe and Mail reported last year. Next, the university conducted an independent investigation and found no one had complained about her showing the clip, and the university apologized to her for its reaction.
In response, the CBC’s executive producer of daily news, Aubrey Silverberg, told Enkin that while hers was a “provocative” comment, Mochama “was alleging that racism was a factor in the attention paid to Ms. Shepherd’s story – or more accurately, her treatment by the university.” Silverberg also said that Mochama “is a commentator and not a CBC journalist,” Enkin added. As a commentator, Enkin explained, Mochama was on the program to offer her perspective. Mochama is a national correspondent for Metro News covering race and gender, among other issues.
Both Enkin and Silverberg noted that in context, Mochama’s comment of “crying white girl” wasn’t a criticism but rather an explanation for why Shepherd was able to get attention. So for that full context, Mochama’s comments were:
“I have to disagree, I think that she is someone that exists, and I think that a lot of people responded to her for the same reasons they tend to respond to things, which is that she is a young, crying white girl, but there are a lots of moments in which the academic freedom conversation could have been had and that has been skipped over serially and I don’t think she’s the appropriate person to have launched this conversation because as it turns out she leans hard right on some of her choices.”
As such, after reviewing the complaints, Enkin found that Mochama’s comments were not racist and broadcasting them wasn’t a breach of any policies. “You may not like the way she expressed herself, but that does not make it a violation of policy, nor does it make it racist,” Enkin explained. “From Ms. Mochama’s point of view, Ms. Shepherd was not worthy of being singled out as a newsmaker, nor was she the best person to represent the issues her experience raised. Her objection actually appears to be more about her politics than her skin colour.”
Further, Enkin commented, “Her characterization of her may have been dismissive but that is a comment, it is not a condemnation of a race.”
Mochama declined to comment to iMediaEthics’s questions about her response to the complaints and review.