Though Ta-Nehisi Coates is justified in skewering Donald Otis Graham’s book (“The Wrong People,” 5/21), he does it for the wrong reason. The problem with Graham’s writing has little to do with race and everything to do with bad journalism. For example, when Graham worked as a busboy at a white country club (for an article in New York magazine), he behaved more like a video camera than a reporter. If one is to believe his story, he never confronted any of the country club staff, never asked any questions, never protested how he and the staff were treated, and in fact behaved exactly like someone who actually wanted to keep the job. His big act of defiance was leaving without collecting his paycheck. The result of this passive reporting was a limp, embarrassing parody of an expose that revealed nothing besides the shocking fact that all-white country clubs are racist. (Wow!)

Race does figure in Graham’s success: I doubt he’d ever have been published if he weren’t black and wealthy. But there are innumerable black journalists of far superior talent (Coates is one of them) who are not afraid to take chances and produce writing with genuine content. They deserve our attention. Graham’s work does not.

Friendship Heights

via the Internet