Times scribe's 'no angel' phrase provokes Twitter storm

Social media explodes with indignation after Times writer alleges Michael Brown was "no angel"

Yawu Miller | 8/25/2014, 6:17 p.m.
Social media explodes with indignation after Times writer alleges Michael Brown was "no angel"
Michael Brown

It took just two short words for New York Times writer John Eligon to draw fire and spark yet another conversation about race. Writing in Sunday’s Times that slain 18-year-old Michael Brown was “no angel,” Eligon went on to describe a litany of minor offenses Brown committed in his short life — drinking alcoholic beverages and smoking weed, rapping vulgar hip hop lyrics and getting into a scuffle with a neighbor. In 9th grade, he was accused of stealing an iPod, but cleared the matter up by producing a receipt.

Monday, social media exploded with righteous indignation at the “no angel” phrase, with Twitter aficionados questioning whether such language, and the accounting of minor misdeeds, would be deployed in a write up on a college-bound white teen whose life was cut tragically short.

Then Eligon’s comrades in the media began piling on the blame. Twitter feeds showed up on websites including the Washington Post, the Huffington Post, Salon.com, New York Magazine.com, the National Journal.com. A spirited defense by Times National Editor Alison Mitchel seemed to only fan the flames.

In a piece titled “Besides Michael Brown, Whom Else Does the New York Times Call “No Angel”? Vanity Fair scribe Kia Makarechi searched the words in the paper’s digital archive and found the Times put Brown in the company of Chicago gangster Al Capone, Boston’s own James “Whitey” Bulger, Nazi Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, and a few other slain unarmed black boys.


When white reporters are serving up one of their own for race bias, a mea culpa is soon forthcoming. At 4:55 p.m. Eligon agreed that the term “no angel” was “not a good choice of words” in an interview with New York Times Public Editor Margaret Sullivan.

Alright Mr. Eligon, time to get tested for unconscious racism. The healing can begin now.