Eric Deggans Race is covered as an event rather than an ongoing concern. We hear regularly about the Dow Jones Average, the activities of City Hall, the latest action by Congress. But we don’t often hear about race, outside of special stories—developed over weeks, months, sometimes years—that drop into the news mix, have a brief impact, and then are gone. Small wonder, then, it is so hard to talk about race in a measured way outside of media. We are so used to talking about race in crisis, any mention of the issue in a news story leads to assumptions that there must be a crisis at hand.
Maria Ebrahamji It’s possible to create new ways of tackling diversity. For me, that began in my friend’s apartment in Chicago in 2006. We wanted to combine our creative energies and our passion for writing into a project through which we could inspire others and illuminate the diversity found in the American Muslim community. The result of that brainstorm was I Speak for Myself: American Women on Being Muslim, a collection of 40 essays by 40 American-born Muslim women under 40. The process of collecting contributors (and their essays) for the book was not much of a departure from the work I do at CNN—identify, research, and cultivate guests and talent who have great stories to tell. However, this time it was not me (or my network) telling their stories; we were creating a platform for these women to speak for themselves.
America is already diverse, and a diversity of thought comes with that. No longer does the average citizen need journalists (or anyone, really) to tell their stories. Whether through instantly published videos or in 140 characters, we all have the ability to message and share our thoughts—instantly.
Jeff Yang I [like] how NPR’s Tell Me More covers race and ethnicity, not just because I’m a fan of Michel Martin (and an occasional contributor to the program). TMM neither hides/diminishes its focus on race and cultural difference, nor does it exceptionalize it. They cover these issues as if they’re relevant to everyone and should be accessible to everyone, as opposed to simply inside baseball for POCs [people of color]. Given that this happens to be the truth, it’s sad that this stands out as “refreshing.” Why is it that stories about the economy invariably center on [white people] unless they’re explicitly about the “multicultural economy”? I’ve literally never seen a story about “the middle class” that showcases the story of an African-American, Hispanic, or Asian-American middle-class household. Tell Me More flips that script; it covers these topics from an alternate-world default where people of color make up a majority or plurality of the population—the world we’ll all be living in in about two decades.
Eric Deggans Future news outlets will be amazed at how all the groups of cultures we define as nonwhite Hispanics are marginalized in today’s media. Although their votes were a big reason Obama stayed in the White House, we only saw questions about Hispanics related to immigration, and during one debate here in Florida, NBC only brought out a Latino anchor from Spanish-language Telemundo to ask immigration questions before he left the stage again. Given that this group will soon dominate the youth demographic so many media outlets court, it seems particularly short-sighted, even in a completely economic context.
Raquel Cepeda Eric, totally agree. Although, because of the biological diversity that exists within, say, any one immediate Hispanic/Latino family, the term “nonwhite Hispanics” is mostly misleading. Hoping the census revisits those questions in 2020 and beyond.
Carmen Wong Ulrich Thank you, Raquel. Though we’re fewer in number, Afro-Latinos tend to fall through the Mexican (majority) and African-American cracks and/or we ride both lines, or simply reject one. I land on way too many sides (see: my name), but I’ll leave you with this question I never thought I’d hear, and from my own, half-European (read: blond with blue eyes) daughter (six), after a regular visit to her first cousins (black twin girls) in Prince George’s County, MD: “Mooooom! Why can’t I be BLACK!” Amazing times.
June Cross I run into this too, Carmen. I have Jewish nieces and nephews who are white—and they love to show off their black auntie. Who’da thunk? We in New York often ignore or, worse, disparage the 49 percent of the country that voted GOP. I often use The Dallas Morning News as a touchstone to that quarter. On the morning after Obama’s inauguration, they published a cross section of religious leaders responding to the president’s second inaugural address.