#BlackLivesMatter Activist Trades Places With Colbert (Briefly), Raises Media Diversity Issues (Indirectly)

Concerns about insufficient numbers of speakers and panelists of color at conferences, the need to talk more directly about racism, newsroom diversity (including diversifying sources) and “handing over the microphone” in general have been big issues this past year in education circles, media newsrooms, and the broader society:

I wrote about the BLM-education connection in Scholastic earlier this year (#BlackLivesMatter, Deray McKesson, & Education Reform).

Though opposed on many issues, both EdSec Arne Duncan and AFT head Randi Weingarten participated in #BlackLivesMatter events (Duncan Wasn’t The Only One At Last Weekend’s Protests).

The need for reporters to diversify sources came up last spring on social media (Errant Diversity Tweet Creates NPR Mini-Controversy).

Who can forget this unhappy image from a recent Hartford Connecticut education meeting?

image from www.trbimg.com

And we all remember last year’s Yale Education Summit where an all-white, all-male panel followed a Bruce Fuller speech on race in education? (6 Ways To Diversify That Conference Or Panel). 

And so it was a feel-good moment a few days ago when Stephen Colbert had Deray McKesson on his show, talked about white privilege and structural racism, and even switched seats momentarily with the #BlackLivesMatter leader. (Click this link if the video doesn’t render properly.)

Historically, Colbert has arguably done better than others booking guests of color in the past, including a memorable 2008 segment with Roland Fryer. And Colbert even wore a BLM wristband on the air at one point.

In the eight-minute segment, Colbert asked McKesson to address some concerns about the BLM movement, and asked how white people could be helpful.

What didn’t get addressed in the segment — baby steps, right? — are Colbert (and other late-night hosts’) guest lists and staffing patterns. Women and persons of color are notoriously ill-represented in comedy writing rooms. It’s not clear that Colbert’s is any different — and Deray missed the chance (or was holding back) when he didn’t bring that issue up in response to Colbert’s invitation to help him unpack white privilege.

For Twitter commentary on the appearance start here. For a slew of posts and Tweets about diversity in education media newsrooms look up the hashtag #edJOC [“education journalists of color”].

Related posts: 6 Ways To Diversify That Conference Or Panel (ie, “Pass The Mic”)*Whatever Happened To Roland Fryer (& Cash Incentives For School)?Where #BlackLivesMatter Meets Education (Reform)“I Thought I Knew How To Listen To People”Lessons From The Hartford Selfie Flap.

Alexander Russo

Alexander Russo is a freelance education writer who has created several long-running blogs such as the national news site This Week In Education, District 299 (about Chicago schools), and LA School Report. He can be reached on Twitter at @alexanderrusso, on Facebook, or directly at alexanderrusso@gmail.com.