Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Part of the solution or part of the problem?

Like a helpless alcoholic who can't stay on the wagon, the Kenosha News is at it again with a perhaps well-intentioned but nonetheless paternalistic journalism.

Wednesday's newspaper carried a prominent story about how there are at least three "minority" candidates for the city council, two blacks and a Hispanic who once served on the school board.

This is news?


In case the newspaper's editors missed it, there are blacks on the city council, county board and school board and long before anyone ever thought twice about it a Hispanic, Eugene Llanas, served for many years as a city alderman. Ditto for Pleasant Prairie where Esteban (Steve) Kumorkiewicz is a veteran village board member.

But the newshounds seem to want to enslave "minorities" by putting an asterisk beside their name, much as how the newspaper insulted Captain Kristine Fonk of the Kenosha Police Department when columnist Bill Guida opined that it's high time the city had a woman police chief.

It was certainly a mixed blessing for Captain Fonk that she didn't get the job because if she had her service would be attenuated by the label of "woman police chief."

The late Dr. Martin Luther King, jr., longed for the day when people would be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

In a perverse way this breed of journalism may serve to perpetuate judging people by the color of their skin. They need to wake up and understand that in the 21st century we don't elect black aldermen or Hispanic school board members or hire a woman police chief. The trail has been blazed long ago.

In a mature society, we look at people by whether they are the most qualified person for the job regardless of race, national origin or gender. True, it's a work in progress, but the real test of success is when we we are able to judge a person on his or her character and qualifications, not on trivial modifiers.

True, it's a work in progress and one we all have to commit to. But we've come a long way and we can't turn back.

True, nobody here is hiding behind white sheets with sawed off shotguns tucked inside but still this approach to "news" serves to insult blacks and Hispanics by not allowing them the ability to be judged solely on merit alone. In the 21st century a "minority" candidate for public office isn't news.

What is news is that the Kenosha News doesn't tell you how many blacks are employed as journalists at the Kenosha News. The answer: zero. I believe there is perhaps one Hispanic reporter. Before the newspaper gets on its high horse about ostensibly improving "minority representation" in the community it ought to clean up its own house.


Anonymous said...

Well said.

RAG said...

I heard from a friend at the Kenosha News who was concerned that the tone of the post incorrectly creates an impression that the newspaper had racist intentions. (He obviously also wasn't all that thrilled about the reference to "nitwit newshounds" although my "nitwitness news" moniker is a parody on the dumbing down of journalism beginning with the "eyewitness news" hype prompted by electronic media consultants.)

Upon reading the post from a different perspective his concern is understandable because some folks may misconstrue the question of whether "seems like Jim Crow journalism" wrongly implies that there was a racial motivation. If that's the case that perception would be absolutely incorrect.

The concern here is that we've reached a point in this century where, thankfully, we have a diversity of people serving (or seeking to serve) in public office. That's a good thing.

Toward that extent it's old news to say that we have a black/Hispanic/female candidate because the day has come when it's no longer necessary to point that out. Those of us who labored in the civil rights movement longed for the day when it would no longer be necessary to insert a modifier.

Of course, there is a difference between dumb and evil. True, at the end of the day there arguably isn't much difference when the end result may be to deny someone else unqualified acceptance and participation in society. And thus the question was raised whether in the 21st century it's akin to "Jim Crow journalism" to continue to refer to "minority" candidates with a modifier ("Jim Crow" referring to a system of separation based on race) even in the absence of malicious intent.

It's an academic argument and, I think, a darn good one. But it's also one capable of possibly being misconstrued and that wouldn't be fair when no malicious intent was ever discerned.

So, the above post was edited to hopefully eliminate the possibility of confusing well-intentioned but dumb with malicious.

And I apologize to my friend for any confusion here.

Arjay said...

I don't know if the newspaper is racist but maybe closer to Uncle Tom because some of the articles sure patronize people of color.

RAG pegged it on the nose that maybe the newspaper should look in a mirror and improve its own diversity before it goes out and tries reforming others.