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Los Angeles Times, Tim Rutten, “African-Americans at the top: Where is coverage and context?” (via Romenesko’s Media News)

[…] Maybe these individual achievements don’t add up to what one would hope. When you connect the dots, you don’t get a picture that signifies the end of social discrimination in these strikingly individual successes. Maybe the dots are still too widely separated by the divisions of class and race that continue to exist.”

Republicans need to take this to heart. I’m hopeful, but I don’t expect context on prominent blacks; one of the reasons I blog the way I do is to take that on. I haven’t been all that disappointed. There’s little context in stories about Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice. They’re George W. Bush’s living proof that his administration is inclusive; they come off like “air quotes.” Their presence lets people stop thinking about issues of race and class, but it doesn’t stop those issues from being germane. They’ll still be the elephants in the room, even (and especially) if William Rehnquist’s retirement should elevate Justice Clarence Thomas (or White House counsel Alberto Gonzales) to the Supreme Court’s top spot, or if a path is somehow cleared for Rice to become (notice how I don’t say which) Bush’s vice president. It’s trompe l’oeuil “affirmative access.” It’s power, not representation (skim Gary Younge’s “Always in the shadows”).

[…] Notwithstanding the casual, culturally ingrained bigotry that emanates from Conservative party associations, the right embraces equality to the extent that it believes everyone should have the right to exploit anyone else. It seeks neither to redress the imbalances of the past, nor to address the lack of opportunities of the present. So when it promotes minorities and women it promotes only individuals. Those who emerge under its banner do so free from the baggage of history and community. And since they are travelling light they can also, when the opportunity arises, travel fast. […]

You could argue that this is less of a factor for Chennault, O’Neal, Raines and Parsons (at least two of whom I’ve seen lauded this year, even if Rutten hasn’t, on the cover of Black Enterprise as recently as this year).

African American Publications, “Richard Dean Parsons”

[…] “There are a number of other black executives who have elevated positions in corporate America,” said Parsons in Black Enterprise. “The process is rolling forward, even if it isn’t moving as fast as some of us would like.” Despite his distinction as a high-ranking black in business, Parsons downplays the racial aspects of his success. He has claimed that race was never a “defining character” in his life. “I don’t do anything differently than I would otherwise because I have that responsibility to my family,” he told the New York Times in 1994. “Whether I was an African-American, an Arab- American, a Jewish-American, or some other American, there are a lot of people who I cannot let down, so you have to live your life a certain way to be a role model to the people who are important to you.”

You could argue it. For now, I won’t.

Bonus round: Billy Cheng (with “In the Black” author Gregory S. Bell), BW Online, “A Slow Walk Up Wall Street for Blacks”

[…] I don’t think any community looks down on an African American for simply for choosing to work on Wall Street. I think they only look down on successful African Americans if they have made it on Wall Street but fail to use that knowledge and other power to give back to the community. So I think that today, it is not the act of going to Wall Street that people examine, but rather what one does after achieving success in the business, and if that success is used to help others. […]

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