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White House Correspondents’ Dinner 2019

We need to talk about the “Very White,” White House Correspondents’ Dinner

While recently scrolling though my Twitter feed, I stumbled upon a thread that was shared by a notable Black journalist, who attended this year’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner, hosted in the nation’s capital city. The gripes that were laid out in the tweets that were rapidly gaining warranted attention, seemed to echo my exact sentiments about the televised black-tie affair, that celebrates the mightiest and brightest of an industry that refuses to buckle under the pressure of mandated inclusion.

Unlike the seasonal display of frustration over pending issues that come and go like nagging symptoms of a cold that can’t be cured, the glaring “fuck you!” vibe from prominent news organizations, that are hell-bent on retaining the White aesthetic when it comes to reputable newsroom, diversity initiatives be damned — is the resounding reminder of how the media annoyingly “eats its cake, and devours it too.”

White-owned outlets that feature mostly White staff have no qualms reaching out to targeted Black writers who’ve made it big in the areas of race and culture, when the dire need arises for trending topics to be tackled accordingly, and with the authenticity that reaps a multitude of clicks.

I’ve had my fair share of radio appearances where I was tasked with dissecting the complexities of hair textures or skin hues. And while the invites back then were palatably worth indulging, my current status will not permit the urge to accept offers from renowned brands that are only interested in my narrative when it pays off with clicks. There’s no attempt to actually retain staff members who are more valuable than sporadic DMs that are time-sensitive because of temporary agreements.

You know things are really fucked up when HuffPost Black Voices, under the leadership of a Black woman who happens to be the editor-in-chief, abruptly decides to release Black bloggers who helped to build the now-thriving template, in order to recruit White writers based outside of the country, who are evidently more qualified to be salaried reporters, shedding light on race relations in America.

As Hollywood continues to make strides after decades of blatantly downplaying the viability of Black talents, there has been a significant shift in the right direction, thanks to the hashtag “heard round the world”— #OscarsSoWhite — that ultimately forced the Academy to either willingly oblige or brace up for the the unsurvivable shit storm.

In the 4 years that La La Land was read its rights by the magical activism of social media, the strides that have been amassed are monumentally validating, when you consider the global successes of Black movies like Black Panther, which was essentially a cultural movement like no other.

And while the truth of how the astoundingly impressive profits box office receipts went straight into the pockets of Disney’s Caucasian and well-positioned honchos, provides a stinging glitch in the celebration, the proof of how Black talents are just as appealing — worldwide — as their White counterparts was the triumph that sadly took way too long to orchestrate.

The battle for racial equality in Hollywood is far from over.

The illusion of progress isn’t cloudy enough to hide how dark-skinned actresses never seem to be included in the schedule of improvement. This explains why solid talents like Kiki Layne are deprived of the “ingenue phase” that young White actresses are bequeathed, as the necessary stepping stone to the trajectory of leading actress.

But regardless of the slow cycle of “wokeness” in entertainment, at least there is some traction, thanks to the production prowess of mostly Black women storytellers, who are committed to the duty of spreading the wealth in the direction of up and coming Black creatives, who wouldn’t ordinarily benefit from those prime opportunities based on their racial makeup.

Unfortunately in the media world, the struggle for visibility for those who are persistently shut out and robbed of accessibility to highly-sought after positions is an impossible climb to the top.

The mostly White men in suits who call the shots, would rather be shot in the foot, rather than submitting to the risk of populating anchor desks with Black faces that compliment America’s most trusted profiles.

How else can you explain the ceremonious comeback of beloved newsman Brian Williams, the once-revered staple of NBC News, who was disgracefully banished after his blatant lies about almost dying while covering the Iraq war in 2003, finally caught up with him, causing a controversial storm for his network?

After months away from the cameras, Williams was brought back to cater to the audience of MSNBC, despite his criminal offense. As always, bad behavior that should be disciplined appropriately, ends up being humanized when Whiteness is involved.

It’s hard to imagine a Black anchor bouncing back from the trifling activity of concocting a dramatic testimony of a harrowing ordeal that never transpired, and arrogantly feeding off of the sincere reaction from viewers and colleagues.

But that demonstrates the valued currency of White talents, and why non-White counterparts are unable to compete.

Major cable news networks like CNN, prefer the presence of Black and Brown women commentators when they don’t have a permanent seat at the table.

CNN specifically, showcases a daily roster of esteemed anchors, dominating the news cycle during weekly assignments that don’t reflect the evolving climate of inclusion. White women with their “All-American” appearance, command hours of coverage in the early part of the day, before White men step in for the vital evening news segments.

All across the aisle, the damning evidence of how Whiteness can’t be conquered in favor of a more balanced tone for news delivery has become the open secret that nobody in positions of influence wants to challenge or change anytime soon.

From The New York Times to others in that realm, newsrooms are outfitted with all-White reporters, covering core verticals, that can’t be delegated to equally qualified talents, who doesn’t represent what is deemed as voices of excellence.

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Snapshot of a typical newsroom

Yet, there’s no hesitation to reach out to Black and Brown experts of ultra-sensitive subjects that White staffers aren’t equipped to tackle for obvious reasons.

Aside from the restrictive talent pool that’s causing a backlog of waste, as those who are more than able to pilot anchor duties are infuriatingly relegated to the sidelines, as punishment for their lower-tier citizenship in an industry that insists on that hierarchy — there’s also the dismal reportage on matters of great urgency.

Imagine if Donald Trump were to leave office, taking with him all the salacious items that have become the disturbing obsession of cable news?

This imposing threat is a frightening prospect for media organizations, that have spent enough time calculating profitable returns, that come from non-stop stalking of a bullish oaf, who is freely infecting this country and the globe with his signature brand of terrorism.

White people have nothing to lose in this volatile climate of racial strife, that features the murderous tendencies of White male terrorists. And that explains why White-owned outfits are content with avoiding the responsibilities of spotlighting outstanding issues of life and death, as it pertains to the populations that are enduring never-ending threats to their existence.

This why the White House Correspondents’ Dinner is always a sea of White faces with specks of color that are added for the transparency of filling quotas.

We need to talk about how and why the domineering narrative of America will never deviate from the supremacy of Whiteness.

We see it with Black films that older White Academy members anoint over genuine versions that trample all over the traditionally approved “White Savior” themes.

And we notice it with how the corporate tree of major news organizations continues to swell with the overwhelming landscape of all-White decision makers, and the mostly White talents that manage to make a little room for Black men, before leaving the tight squeeze for Black and Brown women.

Ignoring the glaring discrepancies won’t make this active situation vanish, and the best way to exert much-needed pressure, is through Black writers like me, doing our part in ensuring that our goods and services won’t be devalued with the random pleas for help whenever racial issues start to trend, and the need for “experts” becomes our call of duty.

The message should be “hire us, or you’re out of luck.”

That’s the “white” thing to do.

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