I didn’t see anyone in the mainstream media address this, but the ceremony seemed to me to be wildly Christian, from the invocation that mentioned Jesus to the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” to the benediction given by the Episcopal priest. The Jewish Daily Forward searched for signs of inclusion, saying that the speech, “which broadly stressed the message of equality, had little other references specifically of interest to the Jewish community,” adding wryly that poet Blanco did say “shalom” and that master of ceremonies Chuck Schumer is Jewish. I couldn’t find anything in the Muslim press or blogs writing about the realization that they were left out entirely (if readers have seen otherwise, I’d love to know).

The absence of Asian Americans was particularly noticeable — even one of the two current Asian American Cabinet members, Eric Shinseki, was missing, since apparently he was chosen to be the customary “designated survivor,” kept in a secure location in case of a catastrophe. Though Obama’s one line about immigration affects Asian Americans as well as Latinos, there was no sign at the inaguration ceremony that Asian Americans even exist in America, despite the fact that they comprise over 5 percent of the population and are the fastest growing racial group.

The verdict? Obama’s Second Inaugural was diverse, yes, in that it didn’t reflect only straight, white men. But it wasn’t diverse in the sense of being inclusive of America’s actual multicultural makeup. The nation is more than Christian, more than African American, Latino, and gay. There are also South Asian Americans, Asian Americans, transgender people, Native Americans, and people who practice a multiplicity of religions. At least a nod to this greater diversity would have been in order. I was surprised, and a little alarmed, that no one in the mainstream media seemed to have noticed these omissions. We journalists must notice, and be a watchdog for all of the nation’s social minorities, because they depend on us to get their voices out in the world.


Jennifer Vanasco is a is a news editor at WNYC and the former editor in chief of MTV Network's LGBT news site 365gay.com. She writes about social minorities, national politics, and culture. Her award-winning newspaper column on gay and women's issues ran for 15 years.