- The Washington Times - Friday, August 31, 2001

ORLANDO — "What a curious thing," the outspoken Harry Belafonte said, "Mickey Mouse and black journalists." His remarks were hardly humorous, yet the convention hall erupted in laughter and applause.
The poignant irony, though, is that a number of us, members of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ), had already asked ourselves the same questions Mr. Belafonte posed in his speech as the convention's W.E.B. DuBois lecturer. Were we staying at Mickey's house for relaxation? To wine, dine and dance? To exchange vital information and improve our professional lot? Or were we trapped mice, confused about who we are and where we are headed? But, as Mr. Belafonte pointed out, Disney is not the problem, and neither are the mostly white-owned organizations that employ the vast majority of black journalists. "Children the 20s and 30s, we told the truth about ourselves to one another," he said. "We had a sense of who we were, and we had reasons to be inspirations to others. Our pens flowed freely as the world watched Hitler's machines rise … where destiny was at stake human life was at stake. We were all passionately committed to destroying fascism, restoring democracy."
These days black journalists aren't as much interested in black America, or other peoples of color, or even Africa. These days black journalists like other black professionals, especially teachers are interested in who's handing out the biggest pay checks.
Indeed, as Mr. Belafonte said, much of black America in general and black journalists in particular seem to have missed the boat. Whereas the black journalists who founded NABJ concerned themselves with how many of them were in a newsroom as well as how black America and culture was covered, the voices of interest these days are fleeting far away from community, family and tradition.
Perhaps that is because we let others not only lead us astray but also do the talking for us. We let the Rev. Al Sharpton, who seems to want to be the Rev. Jesse Jackson more than anything else, get us all riled up about legitimate Navy exercises on an island-state where the citizens don't even pay federal income taxes, while black children in Harlem are trapped in failing schools. We let Mr. Jackson, who seems to want to be the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. more than anything else, egg us on about black murderers on death row, while law-abiding black men are dying of diabetes, hypertension and prostate cancer. We encourage media man extraordinare Bob Johnson to wean our youngsters on violent and misogynistic videos, while there is news to be spread. We allow all manner of black "leaders" goad us into crying out for reparations for that peculiar, but lawful, institution called slavery, while we are breeding a generation of youths who don't know the difference between master and Mr. Rogers.
In other words, black journalists have become so dependent on liberal ideologists, whose politics are deeply rooted in an America that no longer exists, until, as Mr. Belafonte put it, most of us can't tell the difference between "misinformation, disinterest and calculated mischief."
What's even more is the same journalists fawn over black siren Lauryn Hill, who sings about the joy of her world being in Zion, but try to shame two of America's most remarkable firsts Secretary of State of Colin Powell and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice for not attending the much-talked-about U.N. conference against Zionism, racism and intolerance, which convenes today in Durban, South Africa.
Interestingly, the U.S. boycotted such conferences held in the 1970s and the 1980s and for the same reasons (anti-Semitic text). Yet both of those conferences can be construed as nonetheless successful, if you will. For example, the 1983 U.N. confab helped galvanize international pressure against white-ruled South Africa.
To be sure, the wannabes and their entourages stayed in the United States long enough to get plenty of pre-conference press play from the usual black (and white) media suspects. In short order, they said it is unconscionable that the Bush administration will sit this one out, considering America is the lone superpower, can show the rest of the world how to overcome racism and so on and so on.
They said that out of one side of their mouths. Out of the other, however, cries of institutional racism and bigotry are louder.
You can bet, though, Americans have much to say about racism and intolerance and their voices will reach into Durban and beyond. The thing is, the absence of Mr. Powell and Miss Rice speaks volumes about racial hatred far louder and indeed longer than can be expressed at a week long confab.
What will be far more interesting, though, will prove to be the coverage by those people who missed that boat Mr. Belafonte talked about the boat that the civil rights movers and shakers peacefully protested for. The boat that was built sometime between Nelson Mandela being imprisoned in South Africa and Mickey Mouse building his new home in Orlando.


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