- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 9, 2006

Kanye West’s charge last year that “George Bush doesn’t care about black people” got a lot of attention. Liberals loved it and used Mr. West’s words to slam the president for his failure to respond effectively to the flooding that killed and displaced hundreds of thousands of (mostly black) people in the Gulf Coast. If you read liberal opinion magazines and Web sites that touch on the full range of political and social issues, however, one can amend Mr. West’s statement to read: “White liberals don’t care about black opinionators.”

There is a wide range of issue diversity in many of America’s most influential liberal opinion and analysis magazines and Internet sites. It’s easy to find liberal thought on the war on terror, employment, immigration, the economy, the mess in Iraq, and the larger Middle East. Even Darfur gets a little run — albeit sporadically. That liberals agree, and disagree, on these and other issues and the advancement of liberal principles is all the better for the wide range of commentary. What is rare on those pages and sites, sadly, is a similar diversity among the analysts who provide the commentary and analysis.

Black and brown people provide very little of what is published in those magazines or on those sites. This is a problem that those who run these outlets better fix, or run the risk of being called, rightly, hypocrites by their conservative critics. How can you profess to be open and welcoming liberals when the door appears to be closed to any number of minority opinionists? What’s wrong, we ain’t good enough for you?

Go ahead, I dare you. Try to find more than a handful of minority columnists on these pages. Let’s take the Huffington Post, for example. HuffPo, which I love and read virtually every day, seems to have a hard time finding black people to publish. They can find comedians who moonlight as political analysts, journalists, bloggers, songwriters and musicians, as well as others who can publish almost anywhere they want — just not a lot of blacks and browns. If I didn’t know better, and I do, I’d believe that there were no blacks or browns capable of writing coherent, cogent and caustic commentary and analysis.

[Disclosure: I have sought entry into some of those opinion outlets and, with the exception of a column published by TomPaine.com, I have been uniformly rebuffed. While the disappointment of such luck has, no doubt, informed my beliefs as expressed in this column, they should not be seen as the sole source of my opinion here. The facts are as they are. And I’ll keep trying.]

Like last year’s peace march, which seemed to have more black people at the podium than in the audience, participation by minority columnists and analysts in the most influential liberal opinion organs is, to be kind, wanting. This is sad given that many of the issues on which liberals have the best ideas — poverty and equality to name two — greatly impact minorities. Add to this the fact that African Americans, for example, are among the most liberal people in the country, and one can only wonder what the editors of those media outlets are thinking. Perhaps I should give them the benefit of the doubt, because it appears that they aren’t thinking very much about this at all.

The gatekeepers of America’s liberal opinion organs must find and include a wider range of columnists and analysts if they really want to represent all that is great about liberalism. Failing that, they will never be able to spark the change they seek and will be relegated to the periphery of American political thought. And worse, they will continue to hold themselves open to the charge that they are simply elites satisfied with talking to each other and throwing spit balls at the other side.

Michael K. Fauntroy is an assistant professor of public policy at George Mason University.

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