Throughout most of the 2008 Presidential race, I’ve had to go out and do some homework on a lot of things that I don’t know much about such as sniper fire and bitterness.
But I’ve gotta thank former Vice Presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro for allowing me to do something on a topic that I actually know something about—being a black journalist.
According to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, a group comprised of daily newspaper editors, the number of people of color working in the daily press is 13.62 percent. Of that 13.62 percent, 5.36 are black. That doesn’t include folks like me who freelance, write for weeklies, blog, teach and are otherwise off the daily grind.
The numbers in broadcast journalism are a little better. A study done by the Radio and Television News Directors Association, says that of the 21.5 percent of journalists of color currently working in television, 10.1 percent are black.
Now you’re probably saying to yourself, “That’s a bunch of really interesting information, but what’s it doing here?”
Well, according to Ferraro, if Sen. Hillary Clinton isn’t the Democratic nominee for president, this relatively small group of media professionals is the reason why.
You see, because Sen. Barack Obama has the advantage of being black, and don’t even get me started on that, he has the advantage of having black journalists who parrot his talking points, Ferraro said.
Because there’s only one place where she could say this without being looked at as if she had two heads —Fox News—Ferraro made her case to Shepard Smith, an anchor for that august news organization, citing this as another example of sexism in the campaign. Play the above video if you want the whole scoop.
First of all, I’m starting to believe that in the minds of Clinton’s most hardcore supporters anything less than a total endorsement of their candidate constitutes sexism. Just like I don’t think that every fight between two people of different races is a racist fight, I don’t think that everyone who isn’t supportive of a specific woman is sexist.
And secondly, if Ferraro had been paying attention to the entire campaign, she’d know that she was talking out of a place from where speech doesn’t usually generate…namely her ass.
When Obama announced his candidacy, my friend Vince, who is a political consultant, said he’d have more trouble getting black folks to support him than whites.
Why? Because blacks in America have been down for so long that when someone has a legitimate shot of moving up, they’re afraid that they won’t make it. So why bother, he says.
I saw that first hand when the National Association of Black Journalists met in Las Vegas last year and Obama came to speak to the group. He arrived 15 minutes late and joked about how such lateness is commonly referred to as “colored peoples” or CP time.
(I also call it Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell Time, but that’s just me. Man is late for everything!)
Obama then asked if by doing so, was he now ‘black enough’. He then went on to chastise the group for ‘lazy reporting’ by allowing that phrase to even escape their pens.
Also, if you remember correctly, Clinton had roughly 90 percent of the black vote before black voters started to consider Obama seriously.
So I had no idea where Ferraro was coming from. Neither did Barbara Ciara, president of the NABJ.
“NABJ is outraged that a former vice presidential candidate would suggest that all black reporters are mouthpieces for the Obama campaign,” she said in a statement. “To suggest this shows not only a stunning lack of judgment but also her unapologetic bigotry. Ms. Ferraro used her appearance on Fox News to reinforce stereotypes that suggest that black reporters can’t be trusted to cover another person of color without bias and favoritism.”
And it’s that assumption on the part of Ferraro and what it’s going to mean to my brothers and sisters in the black journalistic fraternity that sent Denise’s Pissed Off meter into the red.
Without actually being an African American female journalist, it’s kind of hard for you to understand what I’ve had to go through to have a career in this business.
Unless you’ve walked even a centimeter in my shoes, you don’t understand the askance looks I’ve gotten when I’ve asked questions like “Are you sure this is the picture you want to run?” when it’s the front page and said photo is of some young black man in handcuffs.
You don’t have a clue of how I feel when I have to explain to my fairly educated colleagues why I might have reservations about interviewing the local Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan by myself. You don’t get how sad and angry it made me when a colleague said to me “You’re only here because you’re black and they needed to make their quota,” thus totally dismissing my talent.
Multiply my experiences by 50 and you may come close to understanding how black political reporters are probably feeling right now. Here are people who have worked hard to get a plum job—the chance to cover an historic presidential campaign—and because of some woman who’s clearly lost her damned mind, their objectivity is being unfairly questioned.
Now I’m going to say this to Sen. Clinton’s supporters and I hope that they listen good and listen tight because I’m only going to say this once and I’m not going to say it again.
Hillary is the reason why Hillary is losing. Not black journalists. Not those mean old sexist men. Not the media as a whole. Not Barack Obama. Hillary.
When she didn’t lock up the nomination on Super Tuesday like she had assumed she would, Clinton and company didn’t have a good plan B. She had a lot of bad ones, and she’s used almost all of them, but she didn’t have a good one.
Plus, as my friend Vince says, “People vote for the candidate, not the staff.” Or, to put it more succinctly, people just like Obama better.
I knew that something was up when Obama sold out the Free Library of Philadelphia last fall. I don’t know if it was the little old ladies who were ready to sneak into the library to see him like groupies sneaking into a rock concert or the couple that came all the way here from Chicago and tried to bribe a guard to let them in, but I sensed a change in the weather.
Why Clinton’s supporters didn’t catch it at the time, I don’t know. But it’s obvious that they get it now.
Otherwise, they wouldn’t be so in search of external forces to blame.
Just lay off of journalists of color, okay? We have enough things to fight as it is.