Two big things wrong with the Playboy black KKK cover story

May. 1, 2008
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Anyone with nosy parents or a jealous spouse knows that Playboy can go hand and hand with embarrassment, vicious arguments, and a frenzied dash to find a better hiding spot. Jason Whitlock, sports columnist for the Kansas City Star, can now vouch for the first two. Playboy has printed his story with an eye-catching, controversial, and intriguing headline that would be a perfect draw if only his story was actually about “The Black KKK.”

Sadly, Whitlock’s challenge to the wisdom of the war on drugs is not about “The Black KKK.” He never uses the phrase. Nor do the anti-gang advocates he interviews, who worry that the high levels of incarceration force nonviolent criminals into a prison gang culture. The prison guards he interviews don’t say the words. The three ministers don’t either.

Yet the headline is on the cover. The headline is in the press releases sent to talk shows asking them to promote the story, to interview the author, to have Jason Whitlock explain how, as the equal-parts edgy and irrelevant sub-head states, “Hip Hop is killing Black America, and it’s time to do something about it.”

Whitlock, understandably, isn’t thrilled with the headline. Neither is Lee Froehlich, his editor on the story, who Playboy Editorial Director Chris Napolitano overruled to choose that title. But anyone who bought the magazine to read a prominent black columnist discuss “The Black KKK” won’t be too happy either (at least with the articles).

It is a ground he has covered before. The eye-catching euphemism for black-on-black violence was coined by Whitlock in columns following the shooting deaths of two football players. This was not, however, the subject he was contracted to write about. There was no subject he was contracted to write about - he had explicitly been given free rein.

At least they didn’t promote him as centerfold. He’s kind of a big guy.



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