I had my say about the problematic lack of diversity when the presidential and vice presidential debate moderator selections were announced. So did the NAACP and Univision's president on behalf of the Latino/a community.
It was appalling that in an election year which will feature the most diverse electorate ever in American history and has an African-American president running for re-election, those October debates with have no African-American, Latino/a or Asian journalists posting questions to the 2012 presidential and vice presidential candidates. .
In case you're wondering, the last African-American male journalist to serve as a presidential debate moderator was CNN's Bernard Shaw in 1988.
Former ABC News anchor Carole Simpson was the last African-American female to moderate a presidential debate, doing so in 1992.
Gwen Ifill of PBS has moderated two vice presidential debates in 2004 and 2008.
The National Association of Black Journalists are definitely not happy about the vanillacentric debate moderator selections whitewashed by the Commission on Presidential debates either, and here's what they had to say about it on August 17:
NABJ is disappointed that the journalists chosen to participate in the presidential debates don't reflect what has become the most diverse electorate in U.S. history.
While we commend the selection of the first woman moderator in 20 years, we find it unacceptable that no journalists of color will be involved. The Commission on Presidential Debates, which announced the selections this week, blamed the omission on "debate arithmetic." Frankly, the math doesn't add up.
There is no absence of qualified journalists of color, or those with experience as debate moderators, such as NABJ Hall of Fame member Gwen Ifill, of PBS.
By excluding journalists of color, the commission failed to satisfy an important public interest given that racial and ethnic minorities will contribute roughly one quarter of the votes cast on Election Day. Any credible analysis has shown that their turnout, or lack thereof, will be a decisive factor in the presidential contest. This year, both presidential campaigns and their parties are devoting more resources than ever to reaching non-white voters.
Yet the commission has minimized the significance of our nation's changing identity, as well as the role of minority journalists in informing an increasingly diverse public. We believe the commission wasted an opportunity to use its unique platform in a manner that encourages more citizens to participate in the democratic process.
"The commission had a chance to embrace the racial kaleidoscope that the American electorate is fast becoming, and chose instead to remain blind to it," Sonya Ross, chair of NABJ’s Political Journalism Task Force, said. "It is time to end this cyclical charade of treating equally deserving, equally capable journalists of color as if they are invisible, unqualified, or both. I would like to invite the commission, along with leading entities in political media, to join the task force in making a concerted effort to ensure a truly diverse set of presidential debate moderators for 2016."
So why is this lack of debate moderator diversity a big fracking deal to POC's? In addition to the fact there has never been an Asian or Latino presidential debate moderator of either gender, non-white voters will be the decisive voting blocs in several swing states.
We need to hear the presidential and vice presidential candidates answer debate questions that are geared toward our policy concerns and issues as people of color.
As NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous stated, “The lack of diversity among this year’s debate moderators is representative of the overall lack of diversity in news media. Whether it’s as primetime news anchors, debate moderators, or commentators on the influential Sunday morning political talk shows, people of color — and African Americans specifically — are strikingly underrepresented.”
That is what we POC Americas are complaining about, the lack of representation.
A debate setting is one of those times Republican candidates, who avoid non-white media outlets on a routine basis because they don't want to answer those tough questions from POC journalists, have to do precisely that, especially if the moderator is a person of color.
Some of those issues and policy concerns (let's be real here) white journalists aren't culturally fluent in or it wouldn't immediately occur to them to ask those types of questions from our non-white points of view because we do live in two vastly different American realities.
If you are going to run for president of the United States, then you have to be president for ALL Americans, not just a vanillacentric 63% slice of th population. If you are setting up debates to ask the people running for the highest political offices in the land questions, the journalists asking those questions also need to reflect the diversity of our nation.