It’s so bad that The Village Voice recently republished a 1995 two-part series called “The Unbearable Whiteness of Publishing,” by James Ledbetter, without an update, because nothing has changed.
There is better news in television newsrooms, where, a study found, people of color made up 25.9 percent of staff in 2019. The study noted, however, that “in the last 29 years, the population of people of color in the U.S. has risen 12.8 points” while “in TV news it is up just 8.1.”
I run an independent production company now, so I have less to lose when I speak up. I can even speak for those who can’t: This is a moment, propelled by the outrage over brutal policing and so many other flagrant inequities, when Black and brown reporters won’t await your awakening.
We are letting viewers, listeners and readers know that the absence of reporting on communities of color is why it took shocking videos of police killings to awaken them to police brutality. We are telling the public about the editor who wore brownface and the puffy article about the first lady that fails to mention she is a birther and the pained euphemisms that replace calling the president a racist when he acts out.
We refuse to be benched or tainted as activists or deemed incapable of objectivity, while white reporters are hailed for their “perspective” on stories.
It’s been 52 years since the Kerner Commission declared: “The press has too long basked in a white world, looking out of it, if at all, with white men’s eyes and a white perspective. That is no longer good enough.” You don’t get another 52 years. Time’s up on hiring and promoting and giving us voice. We can’t stand it anymore. I’m optimistic that the public will agree.
Soledad O’Brien (@soledadobrien) is the host of “Matter of Fact With Soledad O’Brien” and chief executive of Soledad O’Brien Productions.
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