New York Times editor lays out who gets to be Midwestern or Southern. Spoiler: It’s racist

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WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 13: Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (R) and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) attend a news conference where House and Senate Democrats introduced the Equality Act of 2019 which would ban discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, on March 13, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar

Um, wow. Well, now we know how deeply the attitudes that lead to The New York Times’ refusal to call racism what it is and endless coverage of white Trump voters go in the minds of the newspaper’s reporters:

Screenshot of now deleted, racist tweet by Jonathan Weisman

Where to even start on this abomination? To pick some particularly low-hanging fruit, is Times deputy Washington editor Weisman aware that John Lewis grew up the son of sharecroppers near Troy, Alabama? Is that “Deep South” enough? Was Lewis “Deep South” enough when he was getting his head broken open on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama? Is it his representation of a city that makes him Not Really Southern, even though it’s the city of Margaret Mitchell and Martin Luther King Jr. alike? Or is it his blackness, even though the states with the largest black populations are overwhelmingly southern?

Similarly, Tlaib was born in Detroit, a city in Michigan, a state in the Midwest. Her father worked in the auto industry, the state’s signature industry. What, perchance, makes her Not Really Midwestern? Omar, true, wasn’t born in Minneapolis. She’s a Somali American living in … the city with the largest number of Somali Americans in the United States, in a state that has welcomed a number of other refugee groups over recent decades. Omar is, in other words, an excellent representative of Minnesota’s population and recent history. Just as Tlaib is a representative of a long and significant history of Arab Americans in Michigan.

The Midwest is defined as Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. These states are pretty different from each other, enough so that it should be difficult to lump them together beyond geography. Missouri is not Nebraska is not Michigan is not Illinois is not South Dakota. But no, to the Times’ illustrious Weisman, two women who are not just elected representatives of Midwestern states but are classic representatives of important aspects of those states’ demographics cannot possibly be Midwestern for the same reason that John Lewis can’t be Southern. (Lloyd Doggett, born and educated in Texas, first elected to office there in 1973, years during which Texas had three different Democratic governors, was obviously thrown into this list to make it seem like it’s not about race.)

Since Donald Trump won the Electoral College, The New York Times has put itself in the business of deciding who really counts as American or from the heartland or working class, with the answer being white and conservative, white and conservative, and white and conservative. This is of course a strain that’s long existed in American politics, but the Times has sought time and again to validate it, with profile after profile of Trump voters in diners. Now a Times editor—one with triple brackets on his Twitter handle, no less—has made it explicit from the other side, asserting not just that conservative white people are more American, but that liberal women of color are less so.