The Right and Wrong Ways to Cover Holiday Multicultural Issues

Featuring The NYT's "Of Color" gift guide and more

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    NEWSLETTERS

    We found three stellar examples of publications trying to break through the white noise of Holiday coverage, two of which were well-received and one which has proven quite controversial.

    As you'll see, the trick is to go all in -- once you've committed, there's no turning back.

    The New Yorker's Tips for the Sensitive Christian

    In "Tips for the Sensitive Christian" the magazine's Paul Rudnick offers twelve tongue-in-cheek tips to make everyone "feel at ease and have a happy, interfaith holiday season."

    The list starts out strong, suggesting that Christians not call Jesus "Our Lord" or "Mr. Perfect" when non-believers are around --  Rudnick provides the more casual alternatives, "The Son of God, or maybe not," or "The Jew that Got Away."

    When referring to Christmas Day, Rudnick says it may be best to avoid  "A Day to celebrate the birth of Jesus," hinting that "The World's Day Off" or "A big party for almost everyone" may be more appropriate.

    There is no doubt The New Yorker benefits from its branding. The New Yorker's target audience -- Gothamites -- are more than jaded by the hoards of gift-buying tourists that jam up the Midtown sidewalks. And, as with its notoriously dry cartoons, no one wants to admit to being ignorant of the appeal of the magazine's brand of humor.

    Moments to Watch For: Silent Night in Hebrew at 2:05 and 4:32, and for a brief glimpse of Billy Bob Thornton in "Bad Santa" at 2:14.

    Tablet Magazine's "Eight Days of Hannukah"

    The first time most people watched this bizarre video they may have thought it was a misguided publicity attempt by Orrin Hatch, Mormon senator from Utah.

    But the back story is actually quite touching. The idea for the interfaith singalong was sparked by a conversation between Hatch and The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg over a decade ago.

    Goldberg, who is Jewish, had heard five or six of the senator's self-penned Christmas songs and inquired whether Hanukkah made the cut. According to the writer, "Hatch lit up at my suggestion."

    Last December, after years of waiting, Goldberg received an e-mail that read, "Dear Jeff, I know it's nine years too late, but I hope you will like some of the following ideas."

    You can see the result below. Whether or not you roll your eyes, or even when you inevitably turn the video off mid-viewing -- you can't deny that Hatch followed through on his promise. He's right there in the studio wearing his golden mezuzah necklace.

    Moment to Watch For: Hatch sings along at 1:38.

     

    The New York Times Holiday Gift Guide for People "Of Color"

    Just as the New Yorker should know how much leeway it has with its sense of humor, The New York Times ought to approach every story with the knowledge that there are legions of online critics on the right and left waiting to rip it apart. And yet they let this cringe-inducing piece go to print.

    Here's how the gift guide works presented its suggestions:

    Are you friends with an African-American couple in a troubled relationship? The Times recommends you consider buying them "The Conversation: How Black Men and Women Can Build Loving, Trusting Relationships" by Hill Harper.

    Do you have an Indian friend who is a "fashion novice?" Buy her, "Contemporary Indian Fashion" by Federico Rocca.

    There are eighteen suggestions in the guide, explaining how to buy items for Asian woman, African-American children and almost any other group that could be categorized as "non-white."

    Gawker recommended the guide to "racist grannies who maybe feel funny about their adopted Chinese grandkids."

    That, while funny, misses the point. As does The Grio, which points out the obvious, namely that "African-Americans and other minorities have cultural interests and needs that the majority do not think about or may not even know about."

    The problem is the implementation -- the guide doesn't follow through.

    Yes, Asian women may have different gift giving needs than white women -- but is that need satisfied by a book titled "Asian Faces: The Essential Beauty and Makeup Guide for Asian Women"?

    No, it's not. And you're not going to find something useful if you try to target six different ethnic groups in a one-page list. If the Times wants to actually recommend gifts for people of color, it has a newsroom of reporters who can actually ask people what they want and report back what. They don't need to recommend one clumsy bit of ethnic marketing after another.

    Have you seen anything that left you asking yourself, "What were they thinking?" Let us know in the comments below.