By Vernon A. Williams
When a forum on the state of Black America was held in Indianapolis recently, a persistent theme was the lack of Black news voices at major media outlets. There was a clear delineation of how insensitive, biased white journalists and commentators are empowered to design the narrative of what is relevant to people of color.
A victim of that climate of exclusion, forum host Roland Martin decried the fact that there is not even one hour of news pertaining to African Americans during the entire 168-hour broadcast week. The harrowing implication is that the intellectual presence and cultural perspective of Black America are irrelevant.
While there are a handful of Black commentators on the networks and major cable programs they remain far outnumbered and less frequently visible. The news void is particularly troubling because day-to-day prioritizing of subjects and conveying the facts is the nucleus for any subsequent analysis or interpretation.
Gone are such familiar TV faces as Martin’s, investigative journalist Soledad O’Brien, riveting news analyst, and interviewer Melissa Harris-Perry, stinging satirist Larry Wilmore and former “Today Show” personality Tamron Hall. What’s worse is Tamron’s replacement appears to intentionally exude the polar extreme – being a former volatile, outspoken race-baiting journalist from a rival network.
Megyn Kelly, the volatile Fox commentator turned NBC morning talk show host, barely moved the needle on the radar a few weeks ago when she unashamedly basked in the confirmation of alleged sex assaulting Justice Kavanaugh while she berated his accuser.
Now she is stoking controversy and thrusting herself into the middle of the fray on the question of whether “political correctness” has gone too far; an eerily familiar rant of the poster child politician of her former network – the infamous 45.
Megyn’s gripe evolved from her adamant position that whites wearing Blackface – especially for Halloween – was totally acceptable. She recalled doing it during her childhood and injected the story of a friend who got in trouble after “darkening her color” to imitate Diana Ross. She rationalized that it was a tribute and her friend was a huge fan of Ms. Ross. No consideration was given the social implication.
She quickly threw in the ludicrous aside that it was totally okay for a Black person to wear white face – as though the two acts were moral equivalents.
The thinly-veiled ruse was just a red herring to camouflage her obvious reversion to the bigot-speak that made blonde-haired, blue-eyed Megyn the toast of the racist Fox news network. I am still annoyed at how easily NBC got off cutting ties with far more talented veteran Black journalist Hall to make room for her antithesis, Megyn.
In the beginning, Megyn wanted to appear that she would assimilate and become one of the warm, welcoming voices of a major network. She went from the beginning of 2018 almost to the end without making any major waves – until now. Seems you can take bigots out of the hotbed of racism but you can’t take the racism out of the bigots.
Lest we forget, this is the same Megyn Kelly who declared repeatedly that Santa Claus is white and so is Jesus. On a more serious note, she accused jailed hanging victim Sandra Bland of being suicidal. Then in the wake of Ferguson, she accused shooting victim Michael Brown of precipitating his death by reaching for the officer’s gun and called angry Black Americans a danger to whites.
Megyn would later criticize the termination of Ferguson police officers for highly offensive emails, claiming that you see similar racist exchanges at every workplace in America. In a bizarre move of callousness, Megyn provided a platform for shooter George Zimmerman’s attorney to perpetuate the lie that Trayvon Martin was a violent thug.
Speaking of that terminology, she harshly criticized Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake for walking back her reference to rioters as thugs.
As a news reporter Megyn insisted race didn’t factor into a McKinney, Texas incident in which a white police officer pulled a gun on Black teens at a splash party before body slamming to the ground a diminutive teenage girl. Finally, Megyn insensitively characterized Michelle Obama’s push for social justice as a perpetuation of a culture of “victimhood.”
These are just a few highlights of her questionable status as a fair-minded journalist. And make no mistake, despite it all she switched networks, got a huge pay boost and remains in a prime programming spot. Some call it hypocrisy. Some call it white privilege. Either way, it is at the expense of Black journalists who need an outlet in the Broadcast world to tell our story.
Others who were on that state of Blackness panel pushed African Americans to become more vigilant in the fight to make it happen, to boycott advertisers on programs that are offensive. To write to the network executives and organize demonstrations that illustrate the disrespect.
But what will it take to spark sustained national protests?
That is the question and next week, I will continue discussing the Indianapolis forum with some of the solutions offered by participants.
CIRCLE CITY CONNECTION by Vernon A. Williams is a series of essays on myriad topics that include social issues, human interest, entertainment and profiles of difference-makers who are forging change in a constantly evolving society. Williams is a 40-year veteran journalist based in Indianapolis, IN – commonly referred to as The Circle City. Send comments or questions to: [email protected].