Why We Need Diversity in Media, Now More Than Ever

Not long ago, Donald Trump held his first rally or KKK meeting in Tulsa, OK, and if you dare watch the viral, clips depicting the outrageousness of a raging racist, at his worst — you can’t deny the fact that we are right smack in the middle of a worsening national emergency.

And as we weather this season of upheaval and the reckoning that exposes white supremacy to white folks who were too white to figure out the lethality of their privilege until now, the glaring inconsistencies of white-owned industries, has become a bone of contention for Black creatives like me, who had to endure the 90s era of mandated exclusion.

Those days were rough!

So rough that when Black women found themselves in prominent spaces, it was understood that we had to work just as hard to replicate those successes without handouts.

But 2020 is supposedly the decade that will initiate long-overdue revisions that will provide future generations a healthier environment that won’t stifle talents and drastically reduce prime opportunities for stellar trajectories and deserved advancements.

Yet, when we examine the landscape of media, and the notable outlets that control the national narrative, we are hard-pressed to witness the consistency of diversity across the board.

Mainstream media has been reluctant to adopt the mandate of inclusion that Hollywood was forced to adhere to after #OscarsSoWhite became the rally cry against an industry that has spent decades performing to the rulebook of white supremacy.

While The Academy scrambled to rework outdated policies that minimized the visibility and relevance of non-white talents, news organizations were reporting those historic steps without taking accountability for their own contributions to normalized exclusion.

For instance, the go-to destination for those who are hooked on anything that defeats Trump’s antics, CNN, prides itself as the well-respected brand that valiantly calls out the bullshit with the authority that misleadingly places the popular cable news network above reproach.

But CNN’s roster of esteemed anchors who dominate the prized weekly segments are filled with white faces, with the exception of Don Lemon. The faces of color make their appearances for the tasking weekend shifts that are typically an all-day affair.

How can it be that in 2020, during a grueling election year that features the current racist-in-chief, locked in a contentious battle with his more humane adversary — outlets like CNN are inexplicably satisfied with the current arrangement that criminally downplays the relevance of Black talents, who have way more to lose in November.

Black women in particular, should be hired to anchor targeted slots that require the level of expertise and authenticity that won’t permit embarrassing episodes like the one with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, who appeared shocked when Susan Rice, former National Security Advisor to President Barack Obama, exerted that Black women like Breonna Taylor are also victims of police brutality.

The cringe-worthy clip is damning proof of how and why CNN is failing Black viewers by forcing them to sit through uneven segments with seasoned, but out-of-touch white anchors, who can’t effectively navigate the specificities of surviving in Trump’s America as members of brutalized communities.

There should be a hiring spree of of new Black faces, who are more qualified to command the demanding requirements of the upcoming election season based on the uniqueness of their knowledge and applicable life experiences.

It is infuriating to watch non-Black anchors on cable news networks, expectedly struggle with the ability to empathetically convey the backstory to news items that are never without complexities.

Weekend anchor Ana Cabrera dropped the ball, during her coverage of the George Floyd protests in Philly back in May, when she demonized those actions without providing much-needed context in ways that mimic how Don Lemon typically covers those high-tempo scenarios on behalf of his oppressed community.

And while the latest win by MSNBC staple, Joy Reid with the newly-installed primetime show The Reid Out is noteworthy, we also can’t ignore how it was only made possible with the abrupt resignation of Chris Matthews, who anchored Hardball with Chris Matthews at the prized 7 pm slot, that his anointed successor has now claimed.

Joy Reid has a proven track record of excellence in journalism, and her long-running morning show AMJoy was a huge hit for good reason, but it’s a shame that it always requires the unplanned removal of white talents, in order for Black talents to have access to the earned opportunities of their career trajectories.

We need more diversity in media, now more than ever, and until tone-deaf white executives at the top are ready to make those moves, nothing will be done to swiftly populate prominent newsrooms with Black and Brown employees.

The White House Correspondents’ Dinner that was held in May 2019, was a controversial event because of the absence of an assigned comedian, after the previous year’s snafu with host Michelle Wolf, whose stellar jokes hit too close to the filthy corridors of The White House.

But, for me, the actual scandal was the potency of whiteness in the glitzy space containing illustrious names, dominating an industry that’s obviously committed to maintaining the offensive practice of exclusion, even while touting the contrary.

If white guilt isn’t a myth, then we need to see the demonstrated efforts by the titans of media to demolish the old order, and reinstitute work environments that greatly benefit from the smarts and streets marts of Black creatives, who are recruited to direct and activate the national narrative to reflect the truths that white America would prefer to stay hidden.

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and wife, Patti Quillin are flooding Black-owned institutions with a shitload of money, and while those grand gestures are noteworthy and appreciated, it would be interesting to note how many Black executives and decision-makers are employed at the streaming giant’s headquarters.

Yes, the recent hire of Bozoma Saint John as the Chief Marketing Officer at Netflix is an encouraging feat, but does it stop there or will there be a continued streak of ensuring that white faces don’t always outnumber talents of color?

You can’t buy our forgiveness or loyalty because with or without the impressive donations from wealthy white individuals and entities, the power structure at big name industries will continue to celebrate whiteness at the expense of Blackness, with the bitterness of how our aesthetic as originators is constantly being poached for white profits.

Black Panther was a global phenomenon and its resounding success inevitably enriched the white male producer’s of the budding franchise beyond reason.

Making vital revisions isn’t an easy transition, but the outcome will be the path to progression that the media and film industry refused to embark on for obvious reasons.

But we will never stop demanding change.

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