Leon Harris, a black commentator from CNN who was covering the Iowa caucuses, closed his report with a lighthearted bite: On the eve of the vote, he had been approached by two people who asked if he was a bodyguard.
Bodyguard? He was a professional journalist reporting on the Iowa caucuses. But that is what it is like to be black in America. People think the well-dressed "black guy" is the bodyguard, the carhop or the waiter - but certainly not the VIP.
Another black guy getting the same kind of treatment in the press is Alan Keyes. Yep, he is that black guy... running for president.
The apparent "blackout" in the coverage of Mr. Keyes is all too obvious, even in the black media. I often have spoken to fellow black folks about Alan Keyes, only to hear, "Who is Alan Keyes?" They know Jesse (Jackson) and Al (Sharpton), but they don't know Alan.
They don't know about him because we have media that anoint some blacks - usually politically liberal - as spokespeople for the race and others as aberrant misfits not deserving of our attention.
Well, that "black guy" just placed third in the Iowa caucuses, beating out Gary Bauer and the media's darling Bush antagonist, John McCain.
That "black guy" finished with 14 percent of the vote, and he has a bunch of people excited and energized enough to vote for him.
That "black guy" is the one who many analysts say is the true winner of every Republican debate that has been held.
That "black guy" is the one who is speaking out passionately on what he believes in - school choice, pro-life, lower taxation, traditional family integrity, nondiscrimination and American sovereignty.
That "black guy" is said to be the most articulate of any of the candidates running - Democrat or Republican - with a fiery oratory that grabs you by the heart and challenges your intellect.
That "black guy" is Alan Keyes.
So why isn't such a dynamic African-American personality on the covers of Jet, Ebony, Emerge, Black Enterprise and some of the other top-selling black magazines? Why isn't there better coverage of Keyes' presidential run in the minority newspapers? Why do so many black people respond with, "Who is Alan Keyes?" when asked about him and his views?
Some of us think it is because of the bias fostered by the white elite press that tells America who is worth hearing and who isn't, a white press that even controls the political thinking of the traditionally Democratic black press.
I like how columnist and prize-winning newspaper editor John L. Perry puts it. He says the establishment media have an "occupational prejudice" against people like Mr. Keyes:
"Now, the establishment media are asking themselves what they're going to do. Sure, Keyes is black but... well, he can't really be black, can he? He doesn't act black, not like they have decided blacks should act, or think, black. So, if he doesn't act like their duck or think like what they think a duck should act or think like, then how can he possibly be black? So, he's not their kind of duck. So, they're going to make him swim in the back of the pond."
"Sir, are you the bodyguard?" That is what the asked this big, brawny, black guy who just happens to be CNN correspondent Leon Harris. Two times they asked him. And he had to tell them, "No, I am not the bodyguard. I am Leon Harris, CNN news correspondent."
And what about that black guy over there, the one standing
at the hotel entrance with the nametag that says, "Keyes"?
Well, he is no carhop, either.
(Murdock "Doc" Gibbs is a member of Project 21 and
an entertainer and public speaker in Coppell, TX. He can be reached
at [email protected].)
Note: New Visions Commentaries reflect the views of their author, and not necessarily those of Project 21.
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