By Ray Hanania | February 28th, 2007
There was a news story about 10 days ago about a 16-year-old aspiring journalist, Emily Smith, who was accepted to the Urban Journalism Workshop at Virginia Commonwealth University and then was booted out when the program organizers found out she was White. Her family sued and there was a settlement in which the news groups agreed not to use race as a factor in their programs. Here’s the link to the Henderson Daily Dispatch editorial on the controversy:
The editorial concluded: “If professional newsroom diversity is the goal, then a homogenous journalism workshop isn’t the right path, even if that homogeny was the result of trying just a little too hard to help the students you most want to include and encourage.”
What interests me is the above conclusion. The emphasis is correct in describing most diversity efforts as seeking to help specific students “you most want to include.” Change that to specific “minorities” and specific racial groups. In otherwords, “specific” is about exclusion. It doesn’t just mean seeking to bring in students who are non-White, but seeking to bring in non-White students who are Black, Hispanic and Asian. And that means to me “Not the others.”
I like being one of “The Others.” It happens I am Arab. I didn’t choose it. I also didn’t choose the fact that the Arab World happens to consume a large majority of our journalism time as a profession. It’s one of the biggest news stories we face and yet, do we properly cover it.
Here’s a little tidbit. I’ll go on a limb here.
The fact is there are terror cells operating in the Chicago area. And one reason we can’t identify them is because:
the criminal investigators AND the journalists whoc over the topic are non-Arab with no experience in what the late Chicago Mayor Harold Washington described as the “lack of Hood experience.” Washington, in 1983, told the all-White gaggle of reporters who covered his new administration that they couldn’t possibly cover him properly, completely or accurately because none of them understand his community nor the experience of “the hood.” When he did something, his actions were interpreted by hood-deprived reporters who couldn’t possibly recognize what was or wasn’t important about his decision process, only the results skewered from their limited experience perspective.
The journalists have no idea how to distinguish between one Arab and another Arab. We’re all the same. Shi’ite and Sunni. God. If President Bush had only understood the divisions that did exist between Sunni and Shi’ite prior to invading Iraq, maybe things would be different. (Shi’ite are mainly a Muslim sect focused on religion as a way of life. They see the Palestine-Israel conflict as one battle over their religious beliefs. Sunnis, on the other hand, view the Palestine-Israel conflict as an issue of justice, not religious ideology for the most part. Sunnis are generally considered the “Arab” Muslims while Shi’ites are considered the Muslim Muslims. Generally. I don’t want to stereotype. )
So, investigators and journalists can’t really see the terrorists because they can’t distinguish between the people they are looking at. Jabha, Hamas, Fatah and Jihadists all look the same. That benefits the terrorists because they end up hiding in that “vanilla” — well, how about an Arab term for “vanilla” called “tahini” perspective. We all look the same. You can’t see the trees for the forrest!
Meanwhile, terrorists are raising money in Chicago, targeting innocent civilians, building a network and the only thing the US Government can do is arrest anyone who says something that challenges the mainstream political views, and the media doesn’t report on anything until it rises above the “Tahini” Line — the arbitrary radar screen demarcation between what is and isn’t news in the Arab American community.
This sin’t about politics. It’s about seeing how diversity is failing in professional journalism because we have defined it too narrowly.