The right time to take a stand

There seems to be an undercurrent of opinion in some circles that black people are not allowed to speak on any issue until and unless they address particular issues within their own community. Concerned about police brutality? You can’t address that until you address black on black crime. Distraught that a seemingly clear case of excessive force resulted in (surprise!) a decision not to indict a cop? You can’t address that until you address the dissolution of black families and the raising of black children without their fathers in the home.

Preacher [Click on photo for source]

This patronizing, condescending, paternalistic attitude toward our black brothers and sisters has to end. We do not get to tell people when to voice their concerns. This is not a matter of “You don’t get to go to the movies until you clean your room.” We’re not their daddies. We don’t get to tell them when to talk or what to talk about.

If LeBron James wants to wear an “I Can’t Breathe” shirt, he can and should, and he should be prepared to defend his decision to wear it. The exchange of ideas is how we improve society. Telling him he should wear a shirt that says “Be a better father” is condescending in the worst way. When pro-lifers march for abortion restrictions, do we tell them to take care of the pedophile priest problem first? When the Tea Party marches for limited government, do we tell them to take care of white-on-white crime first? No. Why not? Because it’s irrelevant, that’s why.

Black-on-black crime is irrelevant to police brutality. You don’t have to fix one to opine on the other. White-on-white crime is irrelevant to securities fraud and tax evasion. You don’t have to fix one to opine on the other. Latino-on-Latino crime is irrelevant to illegal immigration. You don’t have to fix one to opine the other.

Let’s call it what it is: It’s non-black people putting black people in their place by telling them when they can protest, what they can protest about, and what hoops they have to jump through in order to earn the moral authority to protest to their moral superiors – the non-black elite.

There’s a word for that.

It pains me on a personal level to see Geraldo Rivera, someone I once considered an ally in the fight for equality in America and for fair coverage of racial issues in the media, become such an apologist for racist attitudes masquerading as deeper social concerns.

No one is excusing black-on-black crime. No one is excusing the deterioration of the family unit (among all races). But no one, NO one, has the right to tell black America “you can’t complain about this until you take care of that.”

Who the hell do you think you are?

Where’s THAT T-shirt?

Note: This post was written on my time and expresses my opinion. It does not reflect on my employer or my previous associations in any way.

Charlo Greene’s Stunt: This Is Why They Call It “Dope.”

I was going to write a post on the Baked Alaskan, but I don’t think I could do a better job than Jeff Winbush. For the record, he and I appear to have come up with the “Baked Alaskan” moniker independently.

Zero Tolerance For Silence

“Gives a whole new meaning to ‘baked Alaskan.’ Get it?”

Perhaps you’ve heard of Charlo Greene , the Alaskan-based, pot-puffing ex-reporter who set her career on fire by disclosing she was the owner of a pro-marijuana “cannabis club” while dropping a F bomb on live television as she quit before she could be fired.

There are two things I wonder about Ms. Greene’s self-exile from the ranks of professional journalism:

1. I wonder if Ms. Greene should send a workshop proposal for the next National Association of Black Journalists convention on How To Leave A Job With Absolutely No Tact, No Grace and No Class and Not Only Burn Your Bridges But Blow Them the Hell Up.

2. By figuratively, if not literally showing her behind, in pulling such a brain-dead stunt does Ms. Greene think she helped her cause or trivialized it by making herself look ridiculous?


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A suggestion for the #UNITYJournalists alliance partners


Congratulations on another UNITY convention receiving high marks from those who attended. I’m sorry I missed it, and I vow to be with you at your next convention.

About that…

What’s say we do this again in 2014? Hear me out. I know this idea has been floated and rejected before, but that was a different time. A lot has changed in the three years since that decision was made, within UNITY and within our profession. We’ve lost one ally and gained another.

I suggest (it’s just a suggestion coming from a lowly member) that each alliance board weighs the pros and cons of coming together under the UNITY banner in 2014 and votes on it this fall. The votes will give the UNITY board direction to begin planning when its new leadership takes office in January.

Realistically, if you do this, NABJ will not be in the mix. You would have to plan the conference with the assumption that our former (and future?) ally will not participate. I submit to you that this won’t pose much of a problem because we’re starting with their presumed absence (unlike the Las Vegas convention).

As another blogger suggested, UNITY would probably need to hire an event planner rather than (or in addition to) an executive director to make it happen on such an abbreviated timetable.

Yes, it would take a lot of work to pull this off, but it’s the same amount of work you would be expending on planning individual or combined conventions in 2014.

Think about it. I think you have a chance to do something great here. I’d love to be a part of it. And I suspect I’m not alone.

UNITY name change was a foregone conclusion, but…

They went ahead and did it. UNITY: Journalists of Color is no more. Long live UNITY Journalists.

Truth is, the name change was a foregone conclusion from the moment the UNITY board opted to allow the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association to become a part of the coalition. In embracing that bold change, the alliance expanded its mission in a way that requires reflection and analysis from members of each partner in the group. The president of NABJ (no longer a coalition partner) believes the name change indicates the group has lost focus. I don’t fully agree, but no one can dismiss his critique lightly. Supporters of the name change (I count myself among you in principle) can argue that expanding the mission does not equal a lack of focus.

I liken it to a camera: One lens may work perfectly in a given setting, but the same camera in a different setting requires a different lens. The setting has changed. So UNITY changed the lens.

It’s called adaptation, and every coalition partner must realize by now that if we don’t adapt, we won’t survive. It’s true of our careers. It’s true of our employers. It’s true of our associations. And it’s true of the coalition.

NABJ is in a difficult position now: it must decide whether to rejoin a coalition that responded to its departure by making drastic changes that call attention to the very points of contention that led to the split. If NABJ comes back, it will be to a very different coalition. If NABJ stays away, it does permanent damage to a powerful message it helped craft [that when we join forces, we do not dilute our voices; we magnify them].

NABJ’s return is pivotal to the future of UNITY. Reunification is an imperative for the strength of the message that all coalition members are sending to the profession we love. But for NABJ to come back, its issues must be addressed and resolved.

I believe the name of UNITY had to change. But I also think it should have happened after NABJ’s return as a full partner.

We who preach diversity to the profession are being watched. What message do we send when we say that we cannot resolve our differences?

I wish the best to all who continue working on this situation. I look forward to its resolution.

UNITY should welcome NABJ members to Las Vegas

Some of the discussion about what will happen now that NABJ has pulled out of the UNITY: Journalists of Color coalition centers around whether NABJ members will be welcome at the UNITY conference in Las Vegas next year. One answer that was floated around (not an official UNITY answer, but an educated presumption) was that NABJers could pay the non-member registration fee to attend UNITY or join one of the remaining groups (NAHJ, AAJA, NAJA) to get the membership registration rate.

This is just a suggestion: NABJ members should not have to join another association to get the membership rate at UNITY 2012.

NABJ members who choose to attend UNITY 2012 will either be doing so in addition to the NABJ convention that year or instead of it. While I would encourage NABJ members to support their association by attending NABJ 2012, I would also encourage them to support UNITY.

A strong NABJ membership showing at UNITY 2012 is a concrete way to show that support. UNITY should do whatever it can to encourage it.

Would NABJ members attend two conventions? It wouldn’t be unprecedented. I know Black and Latino NLGJA members who make room for two conventions a year (and I’m sure there are those in NAJA and AAJA who do so as well: I just don’t know them).

The bottom line is that this is no time to nickel and dime NABJ members who might want to attend UNITY 2012.

We are still allies.

Dis UNITY: NABJ split avoidable, regrettable… reversible?

Like many others, I have been watching the unraveling of the UNITY coalition with increasing dismay over the last few weeks. I was concerned about weighing in too heavily because I thought my uninvited observations might not be articulated or received in a constructive manner. With yesterday’s action by the NABJ board to pull out of the UNITY coalition, I can’t imagine my views could have made matters much worse. So here goes nothing.

The withdrawal of NABJ from UNITY was avoidable. Borrowing a line from Bill Clinton’s first inauguration speech, I wrote recently that there was nothing wrong with the UNITY coalition that could not be fixed by what was right with the UNITY coalition. This alliance survived tougher existential questions in the past. Its formation overcame more obstacles than its undoing. It should not have come to this. NABJ could have made just as strong a statement passing a resolution declaring that it will withdraw from UNITY after the 2012 conference.  Such a move would have sent the same message without putting the former partners in the position of staging a competing conference.

The withdrawal of NABJ from UNITY is regrettable. When we formed this coalition, we did not add the strengths of NABJ, NAHJ, AAJA and NAJA. We multiplied them. But what NABJ warned against, it has now made a reality through its action: NABJ and UNITY will now be in direct competition for dwindling sponsorship dollars. Not that we should let our media sponsors dictate our direction, but they were urging us to work together more frequently, not less. Now news organizations that planned to attend UNITY’s convention in 2012 (looked FORWARD to it, from a financial perspective) will either have to attend two conferences or choose one. From that standpoint, there won’t be many winners in 2012.

Another reason I find the split regrettable is that, in my opinion (and I hope I’m wrong), it diminishes our moral authority to preach diversity to the profession when we show an inability to work through our differences and achieve a consensus.

The withdrawal of NABJ from UNITY is reversible. UNITY should extend membership registration rates to NABJ members who sign up for the UNITY convention in 2012.

It should turn this crisis into an opportunity to rebuild UNITY from the bottom up. Create a new framework for the alliance that includes rotating 2-partner conventions and a more focused mission. NABJ should be a part of that discussion.

NABJ may no longer be a UNITY partner, but it will always be an ally.

Don’t let it end like this.