It is not the standard in journalism to remove an entire story post publication, but that is what Refinery29 did on Thursday with an anonymous essay about going on a first date to a Black Lives Matter protest.
The essay, titled “I Took My First Date To The Black Lives Matter Protest,” was written by an anonymous black British woman who describes meeting “a tanned, blonde-haired, blue-eyed man” named David on a dating app. The two hit it off, but dealing with coronavirus issues in lockdown they fail to make a date a reality. When they finally do meet, it’s at a Black Lives Matter protest in London and it’s highly dramatic:
I walked through the crowd, wading through a sea of bodies, my eyes frantically searching for his face with only a Hinge photo as reference. He texted me his Google Maps pin. As his location edged closer on my phone, I spotted his big, blue eyes in the crowd and his sign above his head. Be still my beating heart. We locked eyes. I smiled behind my mask. We walked towards each other and – yes, I know we’re in the middle of a pandemic – we embraced. He asked me how my day was going but I forgot to answer him. Together we turned to face the speakers and chanted “Black Lives Matter” in unison with our signs in the air. Fists punching the sky. David went to the protest alone and told me he wanted to learn more about Black history. His willingness to educate himself impressed me; hearing him talk about wanting to check his privilege was something I had rarely heard from other white men I’d dated.
She even refers to their meeting as “the swirl-version of Queen & Slim: the Black woman fighting for justice with her white boyfriend by her side, ready to take on the world.” She writes:
After we said our goodbyes and I returned to my lockdown home, my phone pinged. “It was so nice meeting you. Let me know when you’re free, I’d love to go to the park with you and get to know you more.” My heart skipped a beat as my mind started to imagine how amazing our wedding would be. “Yes, absolutely. Funny circumstances, eh?” I wrote back nonchalantly. “I’m actually really happy we met at the protest,” he responded instantly.
I grinned. I was happy too, it was perfect.
But the post was taken down later in the day—likely after people began making fun of it on Twitter—with only an editor’s note in its place: “Editor’s Note: We acknowledge this story was insensitive and shared in poor taste. We have taken it down. We are addressing this immediately to ensure that this does not happen again.”
Lots of questions here! How did this get published in the first place? Why, exactly, is it anonymous? Why didn’t Refinery29 leave this essay up for transparency’s sake and live with their mistake? Just this week Refinery29's EIC stepped down partly in response to former employees speaking up about racism within the company. If this is essay is an attempt to correct that culture, perhaps it’s worth thinking a little deeper about it.
Update, 6/12/20 9:00 a.m.: In a statement posted to the Refinery29 Union’s account, the union writes:
It is against the Refinery29 Union’s policy to take down posts. Doing so compromises our editorial integrity. We had no part in the posting of this story or its erasure. We have reached out to management asking them to restore the post and issue an apology and explanation for it.