John A. Quayle
blueoval at SGI.NET
Thu Jul 15 20:54:32 MDT 1999
July 13, 1999
I AM not a brown jelly bean.
I am more than my skin color. I am more than my parents' homeland. I am
more than the bean-counters' box on a job application. For better or
worse, I want readers to know me for my ideas, ideology and
idiosyncrasies - not for my Filipino heritage.
This is why, after more than a half-dozen years in the newspaper
business, I refuse to join race-based organizations such as the
Asian-American Journalists Association.
The AAJA is one of four major minority journalists' groups that promotes
so-called diversity in the newsroom. Last week, the influential quartet
of Asian-American, black, Hispanic and Native American associations
sponsored a national media confab in Seattle. More than 5,000
"journalists of color" attended Unity '99. Presidential hopefuls Al
Gore, George W. Bush, Bill Bradley and John McCain came, saw and
pandered to the rainbow crowd. Lavish funding for Unity '99 flowed in
from corporations and philanthropic foundations. Many of the events at
the five-day conference were unobjectionable: makeup tips for TV
reporters, resume polishing, and so on. But the fatal flaw of Unity '99
was its unspoken mandate of strict
Ignore the smoke screen platitudes about "valuing differences." Unity
demands unanimity. If you don't accept the left-leaning agenda of
advocacy journalism, you're enabling racism. If you don't support the
pursuit of racial hiring goals as a primary journalistic goal, you're
selling out. If you don't buy the idea that a first-generation Filipina
should feel ethnic
solidarity with a fourth-generation Japanese-American simply because
they share the same hair and eye color, you're denying your "identity."
This pressure to bow and scrape before the false god of skin-deep
diversity was overwhelming at two typical workshops I attended.
"Tracking Hatred" was a session on hate crimes and the media. The
moderator, reporter Gary Fields of USA Today, gained national attention
in 1996 with an extensive series on the purported epidemic of racist
church-burnings in the South. After printing a year's worth of Fields'
fear-inducing pieces claiming an increase in black-church burnings and
blaming "a climate of racial hostility," USA Today debunked the
hate-crime conspiracy theory.
So did the president's National Church Arson Task Force, the New Yorker,
the Associated Press, and investigative reporter Mike Fumento, who noted
the irony that "no media outlet in the country had done more than USA
Today to build the myth in the first place." Yet, no one at Unity '99
questioned Fields' authority.
The session was more of a late-night college gripefest than a
professional forum on providing accurate news coverage. One panelist,
Brian Levin, railed about critics on the "extreme right" who question
the legitimacy of federal hate-crimes legislation. Reporters nodded
approvingly. Levin, an activist academic whom Fields frequently quotes,
glossed over the constitutional perils of punishing people for their
personal biases or political beliefs. Instead of a coherent discussion
on case law, participants shared dubious anecdotes.
When one news reporter complained that her editors wouldn't let her
write a story about an alleged hate crime against a personal friend, the
panel expressed collective empathy without asking for any of the facts
or noting the obvious conflict of interest. The session climaxed with an
emotional appeal from Karen Narasaki, an Asian-American activist whose
organization peddles an annual hate-crimes audit - which the panelists
praised and distributed to the audience.
The second workshop was titled "How to Arrive, Thrive, and Survive as an
Editorial Writer or Columnist." I served on a panel with writers who
were black, Hispanic and Native American. I was not there because the
organizers had actually read my work before inviting me. I was there
because my brown face - not my dissenting opinions - counted first.
My fellow panelists won hearty applause for ridiculing reverse
discrimination and dissing U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
Calmly and civilly, I argued against ethnic pigeonholing and expressed
my opposition to racial preferences. No cheers here.
An editor from an East Coast newspaper who attended the workshop left a
phone message the next day: "I just wanted to say that while I didn't
necessarily agree with what you said, I really admired your arguments
and how you handled yourself in that situation. It takes a lot of guts
and courage to not only hold the views you have but to be able to
firmly and politely in such forums. I was extremely impressed and wish
you all the best." Click.
Why must it take courage to hold my views? Why should it take guts to
question prevailing opinion in a roomful of reporters whose job is to
question? Why does the media's diversity agenda chill the kind of honest
political discourse a free press is supposed to encourage?
Treating minority journalists as trinkets to be tallied and displayed
does not enhance diversity. It fosters cynicism. A newsroom that looks
like America is worthless if it doesn't reflect the diverse and
discordant beliefs of its readers. Journalism doesn't need more
like-minded foot soldiers who march in political unity. It needs
straight shooters who think
fearlessly for themselves.
Michelle Malkin's column appears Tuesday on editorial pages of The
Times. Her e-mail address is: malkin1 at ix.netcom.com. Her web page is at
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