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Teju Cole. Credit: Sydney Morning Herald.

Days ago on Facebook, Teju Cole made a post about the debate over how The New York Times covers and should cover the US president Donald Trump’s racist statements. The novelist, who is the photography critic at The New York Times Magazine, shared a report on CNN and added his perspective.

His post in full:

“We have to remember we are not advocates for the left. We are not f—ing part of the resistance.”

Says a New York Times staffer. OK.

I’m talking about how we need to push past resistance into outright refusal, and we have cats out here for whom even resistance is too much. OK.

Not that this is a surprise. It’s important to remember what the New York Times is. This is not about the occasional “mistake” but about the paper’s ideological commitment to an impossible neutrality. It it about the paper’s perennial fear of seeming “too left.” It is about treating an emergency as business as usual.

Which is easy to do when you feel the emergency is not an emergency for you.

And so, when I write for the Times, I do so to get away with what I can. I do so to reach my scattered kin across distances. I do so to propose courage to those who might feel they are losing theirs.

(God bless my editors at the NY Times Magazine, who have generally gone against the grain of the larger institution: they have been respectful of my writing, and have not toned down my critique of the paper.)

The Times is a big enough space that people are going to be able to come in there in an insurgent way and query its fundamental attitudes. The Times knows that no matter what the insurgents do, the Times will still be the Times.

Let’s say you’re one of those insurgents. Thing is, you might get to do something for a while. Maybe somewhere prominent or powerful. Maybe for a good long stretch, maybe not for so long. Just be sure to remember: what they are is what they are, and where you at is not where you from.…/new-york-times-critici…/index.html


(1) When the Camera Was a Weapon of Imperialism, and When It Still Is…/when-the-camera-was-a-weapon-of-i…

(2) Against Neutrality…/…/magazine/against-neutrality.html

(3) A Time for Refusal…/…/magazine/a-time-for-refusal.html

(4) Resist, Refuse…/teju-cole-resistance-op-ed-resist…

A day later Cole shared a new Spotify playlist on Facebook. Titled “Call Me When You Get There,” it features 19 songs.

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About Otosirieze Obi-Young

View all posts by Otosirieze Obi-Young
Otosirieze Obi-Young is a writer, journalist, & Deputy Editor of Brittle Paper. He sits on the judging panels of The Miles Morland Writing Scholarships and of The Gerald Kraak Prize. He is Nonfiction Editor at 14, Nigeria’s first queer art collective, which has published volumes including We Are Flowers (2017) and The Inward Gaze (2018). He is Curator at The Art Naija Series, a sequence of e-anthologies of writing and visual art focusing on different aspects of Nigerianness, including Enter Naija: The Book of Places (2016), which explores cities, and Work Naija: The Book of Vocations (2017), which explores professions. His work in queer equality advocacy in literature has been profiled in Literary Hub. His fiction has appeared in The Threepenny Review and Transition. He has completed a collection of short stories, You Sing of a Longing, is working on a novel, and is represented by David Godwin Associates literary agency. He has an M.A. in African Studies and a combined honours B.A. in History & International Studies/English & Literary Studies, both from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He taught English in a private Nigerian university. He is currently nominated for the inaugural The Future Awards Prize for Literature. Find him at, where he accepts writing and editing offers, or on Instagram or Twitter: @otosirieze. When bored, he Googles Rihanna.

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