White Media vs. Black Power

The Maynard Institute’s Richard Prince (Journal-isms, 3/30/09) has a look at “a two-day conference in Washington called ‘1968 and Beyond: A Symposium on the Impact of the Black Power Movement on America,'” with “hardly anyone from the mainstream media…there to cover it.”

Urging his readers to “think beyond the news media script that often pits a noble civil rights movement against a ‘destructive’ one preaching black power,” Prince quotes some symposium participants:

“The white media just basically attacked us,” Askia Muhammad Toure, activist, educator and poet and one of Monday’s panelists, told Journal-isms. “Very few black people were writing in the white media at the time, and those who did attacked us, too.” He attributed the attacks to fear of black self-assertion….

The activists didn’t always feel so alienated, according to playwright Amiri Baraka, formerly LeRoi Jones. The media “were a little naive earlier,” he told Journal-isms. “But they got wise. You used to be able to hear Dr. King, Malcolm X and Stokely Carmichael,” he said, referring to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. But those voices soon disappeared. Today, “they only put fools” on the air. (And too many, Toure added, are happy to go on.)

Poet Sonia Sanchez assessed the “very important role” of media in the black power movement as “positive and negative, but mostly negative,” and “said most reporters were more interested in creating an uproar than providing context and getting facts right.” In fact, “she said she doesn’t see much difference today, citing recent coverage of Obama’s grappling with the economy.” Prince backs up the idea of an essentially unchanged corporate press with depressingly familiar statistics from “Racial and ethnic minorities make up 34 percent of the U.S. population, yet own just 7.7 percent of full-power radio stations and 3.15 percent of television stations.”