August 16, 2012
By Tavis Smiley
Special to the LAWT
It is apparently easier for a person of color to be President of the United States of America than it is for a journalist of color to be selected to moderate a presidential debate.
The four journalists who have been selected to navigate the upcoming debates are more than capable. My issue is not with them, per se, rather with a selection process that at best, periodically trades and swaps a journalist of color for a woman — or at worst, ignores journalists of color all together. To be clear, this is not about my personal interest in wanting to moderate a presidential debate. One, I already have (The All-American Presidential Forums on PBS); and two, my critical commentary about the mediocrity of both campaigns clearly disqualifies me from being on stage.
The Obama and Romney campaigns could have and should have INSISTED on at least one journalist of color to moderate one of these debates. In truth, the campaigns really call the shots on these decisions, not the presidential debate commission. So we are left to assume that neither side put up a fight demanding that a journalist of color be chosen. Of course, I’d love for either campaign to prove me wrong about this assumption. I just don’t think they can.
In the most multi-cultural, multi-racial and multi-ethnic America ever, the absence of a journalist of color on the stage moderating one of these debates is shameful and ought to be an embarrassment to the nation. Not to mention the issues in this campaign that disproportionately impact Americans of color: think poverty, unemployment, immigration, education reform, social security and, yes, gun violence.
I, for one, have had it with this exclusionary nonsense. So voters are supposed to accept that a person of color is qualified enough to be the leader of the free world, but not qualified enough to ask important and incisive questions?
We’re better than this. It’s time to set a new standard.