Sunday, September 07, 2003

White People Dominate the Discourse

Some wonder why I'm posting up pictures of white people. Recently I took a look at CNN. The point I'm trying to make is that white people dominate the political discourse in the country. There are plenty of non-white journalists out there, but especially when it comes to opinion journalism which increasingly shapes the political discourse in this country, white people dominate. And, it isn't simply true in the "mainstream" media, it's also true in the actual liberal media like the American Prospect.

Recently there have been a lot of Kausian snide comments about "identity politics" emanating from all corners of the media - left, center, and right. That media should take a look in the mirror and ask exactly who is practicing identity politics.

It's an embarrassment, or it should be, that CNN's premier opinion show, "Capital Gang," has had 5 white people on it for as long as I can remember. It's embarrassing that none of the Sunday political chat shows has a minority anchor. It's even more embarrassing when such shows start talking about racial issues. I don't mean because white people can't talk about them - I do of course - but because they are willfully blind about their own business.

The single biggest beneficiary of affirmative action that I can think of is Margaret Carlson.


A few more comments. It is true that ABC has a fairly diverse roundtable panel, though why they need to provide affirmative action for the over-represented bow-tie sporting nincompoop crowd I'm not sure.

Second, this problem in general goes deeper than simply the anchors. It's more than obvious that minorities tend to get more media play when they're being "contrarian." So, not only are, say, African-Americans underrepresented, the viewpoint of the African-American community at large is even more underrepresented. I'm not arguing that any racial/ethnic group is monolithic in its opinions, but clearly conservative African-Americans are greatly overrepresented, relatively speaking. Ditto for gay/lesbians, who have the misfortune of having Andrew Sullivan, Camille Paglia, and Norah Vincent be their national spokespeople. Part of the problem is that conservatives in general are overrepresented in the media, as they have an unlimited supply of people being paid by Richard Mellon Scaife to sit around and wait for the networks to call them. How often are the unfiltered viewpoints of liberal African-Americans, Latinos, gays/lesbians, etc... allowed on the air?

There seems to be this notion that only non-whites have embraced what Daniel Weintraub calls "the belief that you define people first by their ethnic group rather than as individuals." One has to look no farther than the Texas Republicans who are currently panicking over the impending Hispanic takeover of their state to see how silly this is. You can be damn sure white people tend to define themselves as white, it's just that for many of them they're rarely confronted with minority status so they're not conscious of it. And, more importantly, white people are quite good at defining other people by their ethnic group first. When others are defining you by your ethnic group, it's odd to ask you to pretend to ignore it. The notion of racial/ethnic identity was out there long before Latino student groups appeared on the scene. It wasn't invented by Jesse Jackson. And all that didn't magically disappear after 1964. Even if some of the laws and practices improved, the attitude behind those laws and practices didn't just go away. None other than Tony Snow seems to define people by their racial and ethnic backgrounds.