USA Today Editor Says She Was Fired for Tweet ‘Challenging Whiteness,’ Accuses Paper of Racial Bias

“There is always the threat that tweets which challenge white supremacy will be weaponized by bad faith actors,” Hemal Jhaveri writes

Last Updated: March 26, 2021 @ 12:34 PM

USA Today’s race and inclusion editor, Hemal Jhaveri, said she was fired this week after tweeting that the suspect in mass shootings was “always an angry white man” after the Monday massacre of 10 people at a Boulder, Colorado, supermarket.

In a Medium post published on Friday, Jhaveri acknowledged that her tweet was “a dashed off over-generalization” and “a careless error of judgement, sent at a heated time,” but said she was being punished for “challenging whiteness” and that USA Today contradicted its commitment to diversity and inclusion by firing her. (The suspect in the Boulder killings, 21-year-old Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, is of Syrian descent.)

“I can’t do the work I do and write the columns I write without invoking the ire and anger of alt-right Twitter. There is always the threat that tweets which challenge white supremacy will be weaponized by bad faith actors. I had always hoped that when that moment inevitably came, USA TODAY would stand by me and my track record of speaking the truth about systemic racism,” Jhaveri wrote. “That, obviously, did not happen.”

Representatives for USA Today did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment.

In her Medium post, Jhaveri pointed out instances when she said she experienced racism and microaggressions in the newsroom, such as when an unnamed sports editor “only spoke to [her] to ask questions about what it was like to be Indian” after he learned his daughter would be marrying an Indian man, or when she was told “not to use language that would alienate white audiences” when editing a piece about Black golfers.

She also described a double standard in which, according to Jhaveri, white USA Today reporters and editors erred in judgment but were allowed to keep their jobs.

“White USA TODAY reporters have been able to minimize racialized people in print, our white Editor-In-Chief was thoughtless about black face, and a senior politics editor (also white) showed disregard for journalistic ethics by hosting a tax payer funded reception for Trump appointees. All kept their jobs,” she wrote. “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.”

She continued: “We’re never going to see real change in newsrooms unless editors allow for their writers, and BIPOC writers specifically, to freely critique white structural relations. The fact that many newsrooms still view that as ‘bias’ is a saddening and dispiriting fact.”