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Wednesday 20 March 2013

Setting up gays vs black women

The wonderful writer on HIV, Elizabeth Pisani, points me at a BBC radio journalist, Paul Henley's, piece on Russian homophobia.
Without whining, Henley gives a wonderful flavour of what it is to be hated by people who don’t even know that they hate you. For me, the encouraging thing about this story is that the wall of hostility that Henley is obliged to bang his head against in Russia is new to him. Had he been born even 30 years earlier in the UK (and maybe still now in many parts of the United States) the blanket of homophobia would be woven, consciously or not, willingly or not, in to his life and his soul.
Henley's sexuality is relevant to the story and his sexuality brings a flavour to the story which couldn't come from a heterosexual journalist.

He only brings it up because it is relevant. His listeners would not know, for all mainstream media journalists this would be true. Until it becomes relevant no one would guess.

This brings me to the Salon and MSNBC journalist Steve Kornacki, who came out last year in a piece about being the opposite of a stereotype of a gay man. He's a sports nerd and not the world's snappiest dresser.

On the daytime MSNBC show he's part of the team, the nerd who brings up obscure political history. His sexuality is mentioned only when its relevant. MSNBC star Rachel Maddow, who is lesbian, similarly rarely brings it up but like Kornacki never acts closeted, Maddow will mention her partner where relevant.

Schedule changes opened up the weekend morning slot this week, where Chris Hayes has built a crowd for the intelligent and in-depth Up. Hayes moved on, who would replace him?

Kornacki got the job.

I noticed a lot of complaining on Twitter. People instead wanted the job to go to Joy Reid, who is black and has ably stood in before for Melissa Harris-Perry on her show, which follows Up.

Some wanted Reid on her merits (I actually agree, for the format I'd bet she'd do it better) but the argument which made me grind my teeth, even when it was pointed out that he is gay, was that Kornacki getting the job was a blow against 'diversity'.

Since when were white gay men excluded from notions of 'diversity'? If you want the sort of 'diverse perspective' which something like Henley's piece exemplifies, or which you get from a gay or lesbian presence in choosing what stories to cover, then you actually need a gay presence!

You also need more black and brown people and more women. But the argument that Kornacki represents a 'diversity' negative is wrong and ridiculous and needlessly sets gay men up against black women. 'Diversity' has increased! Now if the next job goes to a white, heterosexual man, and the one after that ... no, that is not 'diversity'. This time it is.

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