Jayson Blair Comes to Harlem

Plagiarizing, Fabricating, Way, Way Fallen Black Dude Seeks Salvation on 125th

I was told by my parents that I would have to work double as hard, triple as hard.


Some of the worst e-mails I got were from white guys telling me I had no right to date a white woman.

Blair, with the home team
photo: Miles Ladin
Blair, with the home team

More nods.

I do think there is a white backlash and it's primarily from people in the old boys network. Look, there are people who don't have credentials to work on a daily in my parents' home town working at The New York Times.

On the verge of amen now.

I'll be like Moses, if you let me.

Awkward pause.

Later that evening, he walks up Frederick Douglass Boulevard and steps into Revival, an upscale black joint sitting in the shadow of the projects.

A young woman at the restaurant bar stops him. You look familiar, she says. Did you go to Howard too?

No, I'm Jayson Blair.

Ooooohhhhhh . . .

Our hero is halfway through dinner now, weighing an appearance at this year's National Association of Black Journalists convention, which tonight's reading has somehow made him come to believe will not end in tar and feathers. There's no Fuck Whitey talk now. He's explaining why he hasn't called former Times managing editor Gerald Boyd, an African American who lost his job in part over the Blair affair. He admits he's scared, but otherwise demurs—You have to be ready. Then the older lady from Hue-Man appears. She wants to say how much she enjoyed his reading. She glances at the tape recorder on the table, and even though it's no longer running, she knows what this is.

I like him, she says, meaning Blair, and for the record.

Of course she does. It's elderly black women who most need the new Jayson's appeal. It is they who've carried so much, who've worked the third job, who've raised other people's kids, who've watched their men come up lame, shaky, and short. Now, more than any of us, they're desperate for champions. Now they pledge fealty to anyone who seems ready to stick it to the Man, instead of his kids. But Jayson knows those two things are never mutually exclusive. He managed to stick it to us all.

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