'New York Times' editor apologizes for 'slave mistress' reference in Julian Bond obituary

The New York Times was criticized this week for its obituary of the late Julian Bond because of the use of the words “slave mistress” to describe Bond’s great-grandmother.

Many criticized the term as being outdated as well as being a way to erase the lack of control and consent in such a relationship.

One such criticism, penned by reader Walter Lipman, explained the problem this way:

One can be a mistress. One can be a slave. One cannot be both, for a mistress has the element of consent in what she decides to do. A slave does NOT.

Since the concerns have come to life, Public Editor Margaret Sullivan issued a column, which included an apology on behalf of the New York Times by Executive Editor Dean Baquet, explaining that comments from readers like this helped them to understand the need for an apology and the need to promise never to use that phrase in the future.

“I brought the concerns to the attention of Times editors on Wednesday; they were already aware of the complaints,” Sullivan said in the piece. “After meeting with editors to discuss it, [Baquet] responded. He said that The Times regretted using the expression. It is an archaic phrase, and even though Julian Bond himself may have used it in the past, we should not have.”