So, It’s “In” to Be Black

January 31, 2009

So, Larry King and company have proclaimed, “It’s in to be Black.”  He explained, laughingly (and that’s the part that really got me), on one of his recent shows that his eight-year-old son wants to be Black.

When did it become appropriate for people in the news business to joke about race like bad comedians on cable networks?

So, I guess I wasn’t in before?

First, King is suggesting that being Black was out until he decreed otherwise. As a Black American, I’ve always thought that being Black was in. I either felt sorry for or angry at those pathetic people who acted otherwise — the people that unwittingly helped to galvanize the Civil Rights movement and the centuries-long activism (most of it left out of the history books) that came before it.

Well, I’d sure hate to be out.

Given that this is a strategic communications blog, I won’t spend a lot of time discussing just how in the socio-economic conditions are in many communities of color or how racism is alive and well. (One would think that a journalist at Larry King’s level might know this, but apparently not.) But I do recommend that you read State of the Dream 2009: The Silent Depression, a new report by United for a Fair Economy, which details current racial economic inequity, including poverty rates, wealth and assets and economic mobility.

Like the Queen said, it’s about R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

Respecting and promoting diversity and inclusion are key to any nonprofit’s success within its community. Should communicators and others working in progressive nonprofits just shrug off King’s cavalier attitude, or can we use this as a learning opportunity?

And if we, as progressive communicators, think that a public response to such a statement by an internationally-known journalist is appropriate, what form does that response take? What kind of response would be most meaningful and effective?

Please tell me what you think. I’m looking for a reality check to my own response to King’s statement and ideas that take me beyond my own anger and frustration to meaningful action.

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One Response to “So, It’s “In” to Be Black”

  1. Peter Flynn Says:

    I didn’t see that Larry King moment, but from the quote, it sounds much more like he was using the occasion to parody all the other “It’s ‘In’ to be XYZ” comments that crop up constantly from gurus in every field. Rather ham-fisted though, and not as subtle as the sarcastic “black is the new white” of one writer disgusted at the opportunism of some white journalists here anxiously trying to display their [non-existent] black credentials recently. But I’m a European, and perhaps more accustomed to expecting satire from TV personalities; and I come from a country which until the last decade had rarely seen black people except on film or TV, or perhaps in the person of a visiting doctor, nun, or priest. As to when it became “appropriate for people in the news business to joke about race like bad comedians on cable networks”, I don’t think LK is in the “news business”. AFAIK, he presents a 1-on-1 chat show with people who might have been in the news recently. This is what the TV biz classes as “light entertainment”, not news, and I would take what he says lightly (and not very entertainingly). Your new president has earned everyone’s respect, but I wouldn’t look to find it from TV personalities.


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