Light-Skinned Only on New Latino Network?

Some say that Fusion's promise to feature Afro-Latinos is not being met.

Generic image (Thinkstock)
Generic image (Thinkstock)

The new Fusion network, aimed at English-speaking Latino millennials, is following in the footsteps of its Spanish-language counterparts and so far is featuring only light-skinned Hispanics.

Asked whether Afro-Latinos will be on the network, a joint venture of ABC News and Univision, spokesman David Ford told Journal-isms by email, “He’s not an Afro-Latino, but Derrick Ashong will be anchoring a nightly program on Fusion called ‘DNA.’ Born in Ghana and educated at Harvard, Derrick was raised in Brooklyn, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and New Jersey. Derrick previously anchored ‘The Derrick Ashong Experience’ on SIRIUS XM’s Oprah Radio and the Emmy-nominated ‘The Stream’ on Al Jazeera English.”

Ashong is not Hispanic.

Arlene Davila, a professor of anthropology, social and cultural analysis at New York University and an expert on Latino identity and marketing to Latinos, saw the Oct. 9 news release about Fusion’s morning show and wrote on Facebook Monday:

“Remember ABC/Univision ‘Fusion”s promise to represent ‘Latino millennials’?? well get ready for more of the same: super white anchors, no Mexican Americans or Puerto Ricans or US Latinos but same old cast you’d find in any Latin American exportable show — except they speak English! Whoever is heading this thing needs to hit our barrios and get a reality check!! “

One of her Facebook friends replied, “Well, but what can we expect from Blancovision?” and “The other phrase that we used was Uniblanco.”

Davila told Journal-isms by telephone, “the racial blinders are still in place.”

Hispanics can be white, black, Indian, Asian or a combination of those races. A longstanding complaint about Spanish-language television is that only lighter-skinned Hispanics are featured, especially in the telenovelas.

Latin American nations are not monolithic in their approach to race, but a country such as the Dominican Republic has been openly hostile to people of African descent. Blacks are encouraged to call themselves “Indios.” A Dominican court decision recently stripped citizenship from children of Haitian migrants, who are dark-skinned, rendering more than 200,000 people stateless.

Yet of the estimated 11.2 million enslaved Africans who survived the Middle Passage from 1502 to 1866, most were taken to Latin America and the Caribbean, with only 450,000 landing in the United States. About 4.8 million went to Brazil alone, according to figures quoted by Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. in his 2011 PBS series and book, “Black in Latin America.”

In some countries, “white” and “black” are considered social, not racial terms, indicating status. Whites are at the top of the pecking order. In 2000, Brazil counted whites as 53.7 percent of its population, with mulatto (mixed white and black) 38.5 percent and blacks 6.2 percent.

Fusion’s two-hour morning show features Brazilian journalist Pedro Andrade as one of three hosts. The others are Venezuelan-American Mariana Atencio of Univision News and comedian Yannis Pappas, a Greek-American born and raised in Brooklyn, N.Y.

The media play their role in determining racial status. As Damarys Ocaña Perez wrote in 2012 for Latina magazine, “It doesn’t help that despite the high-profile black Latinas making it in Hollywood and other industries, black Latinas are rarely seen as such in movies (many black Latina actresses play African Americans on screen) and in ads, which generally depict Latinos as light-brown hued.” Ocana quoted Yvette Modestin, director of Boston’s nonprofit Encuentro Diaspora Afro as saying, “The effect on Afro-Latinas is the creation of a “very schizophrenic world” in which many are not understood or accepted. . . .’ “

Representatives of Spanish-language Univision, Telemundo and CNN en Español did not respond when asked about participation of Afro-Latinos in their programming.

Journal-isms asked Yvonne Latty, a clinical associate professor in journalism at New York University, for her perspective. She is Dominican and African American, is active in the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and is also a member of the National Association of Black Journalists.

“I am not surprised by the lack of Afro Latinos on Fusion because frankly we are invisible,” Latty said by email, edited here. “The same issues that plague African Americans in terms of jobs on air plague us, but with an unfair twist. If a market is interested in hiring a Latino, they will most likely hire a white Latino, that is why a great number of Latinos on air are white Latinos. And that just dates back to stereotypes on beauty and what is pleasing to a general audience. If a market wants to higher a black reporter they will hire an African American, not an Afro Latino, you can get past that if you have a non-Latino last name.

This is why I celebrate ABC’s hiring of Alex Perez, an Afro Latino and a rarity in network news, but clearly a case of a talented reporter getting a great job because he is a talented reporter.

“In order for Fusion to put Afro Latinos on air they would have to acknowledge our existence as a group, which until recently has not been acknowledged at all by anyone. They would have had to think about diversity among Latinos and representing that diversity, which they did not. There is a Greek comedian on their morning show, but not an Afro Latino.

“But when I attend NAHJ conferences and conventions, the number of Afro Latinos is low, so to find these candidates would take more work and I can only assume it was not a priority.

“The station is aimed at young Latinos, but in many cases those young Latinos could have a black, white or Asian parent as well. This trend is what I am seeing in grad school applications. Students who say that their father is black or white and their mother is Mexican/Dominican/Puerto Rican/Colombian etc. and they identify as Afro Latino or Latino. These students are craving culture and identity. It seems like bad business not to acknowledge what is happening with the younger generation of Latinos, where children of immigrants marry Americans of different colors.”

Gustavo Arellano, Los Angeles Times: Trying to Change a Bias (Nov. 25, 2007)

Lee Hernandez, Latina: The 25 Most Beautiful Afro-Latinos in Hollywood! (Feb. 21, 2012)

Ezequiel Abiu Lopez, Associated Press: Artists, educators laud black heritage i DR

Jared McCallister, Daily News, New York: A court ruling to deny citizenship to Dominican Republic-born Haitians will be challenged by demonstrators outside the Caribbean nation’s consulate in midtown this week

Bill Meyer, Plain Dealer, Cleveland: Obama’s win inspires Latin American blacks (Jan. 1, 2009)

Miami Herald: A rising voice: Afro-Latin Americans (five-part series) (2007)

Anthony Otero, HuffPost LatinoVoices: Afro-Latinos and Black History Month (Feb. 1)

Roland Roebuck, El Tiempo Latino: Why Do Spanish-Language Media Still Use the Term “Negro”? (April 13, 2012)

Mariela Rosario, Latina: Black is Beautiful: A Celebration of Afro-Latinas (Feb. 11, 2009)

Alicia Anabel Santos, Latina: Today I’m Embarrassed to Be Dominican (Oct. 4)

Marisa Treviño, Latina Lista: For Latinos “being white” is more of a state of mind than skin tone (June 1, 2010)

Karen Lincoln Michel, Native American Gannett Editor, Exits

Karen Lincoln Michel, executive editor of the Gannett-owned Daily Advertiser in Lafayette, La., and the Daily World in nearby Opelousas,  a former president of Unity: Journalists of Color and one of the few Native American editors at a mainstream newspaper, is stepping down, the newspaper reported Wednesday.

“It was a tough decision for me to leave, but it’s the right course,” Lincoln Michel told Journal-isms by email.

Lincoln Michel took the job in March 2012 after having been assistant managing editor at the Green Bay (Wis.) Press-Gazette, that paper’s Madison bureau chief and a staff writer for the Dallas Morning News and La Crosse (Wis.) Tribune. She is also a past president of the Native American Journalists Association.

“I have very much enjoyed leading the news staffs of The Daily Advertiser and Daily World, ” Lincoln Michel continued by email. “I considered each day a gift, realizing that readers in these two communities rely on us to help them make sense of the issues that matter most to them.

“I also am very glad that I got to lead my newsroom with Native American principles and values. At the core of that leadership style is having respect for each person, understanding them as human beings, collaborating with them to get the best performance from them and making decisions on what’s best for the whole, not just a few.

“For me, my job has always been about seeking the truth and raising the level of quality of the journalism. I hope I have instilled that in my staffers, and I trust them to carry that on.

“I am looking forward to the next adventure, whatever that may be. In the short term I will be volunteering my time to some boards that I belong to, including the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism.

“My husband Roberto and I are going to stick around in Louisiana for now. Lafayette is one of the coolest places in the South. I have found an affinity here among the Cajun and Creole people and I want to soak up the culture while I can. They have a joy of life that’s rare to see. As one of my entertainment writers wrote in a blog post last week: ‘… what we celebrate here isn’t a show or a facsimile of somebody’s idea of somebody else’s music, culture or a way of life. It’s real, people. We do this even when no one is watching.’

“Gannett has given me a lot of opportunity, and I am truly grateful for that. The company brought me here, and that’s been a true blessing.”

Lincoln Michel’s departure further diminishes the number of editors of color at Gannett. Africa Price’s resignation as executive editor of the Times in Shreveport, La., in August left the nation’s largest newspaper company with only two African Americans among its top editors.

NAHJ Leaders Say the Unity of Our Memories Is Gone

Leaders of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists told three dozen members participating in a “town hall” conference call Wednesday that “the Unity that people remember no longer exists” and that dealing with the current Unity: Journalists for Diversity coalition is sapping needed energy from NAHJ’s own work.

The four NAHJ delegates to the Unity board — including President Hugo Balta and Vice President Mekahlo Medina, vice president, broadcast — each outlined reasons why NAHJ should follow the National Association of Black Journalists and leave the coalition, which they described as outdated and financially wounded by NABJ’s pullout two years ago.

“Sweet memories do not pay the bills,” Yvonne Latty, one delegate to Unity, said.

Just two participants on the 95-minute call raised objections, with others merely asking questions. Immediate Past President Michele Salcedo advised the board to be wary of an alliance with NABJ, which she said had a $300,000 deficit as of June 30.

Salcedo was referring to statements made at NABJ’s business meeting at its August convention, in which NABJ’s Finance Committee disclosed that “NABJ ended 2012 in the red, and is headed for possibly a $300,000 deficit in 2013 unless major steps are taken to eliminate the threat.” Balta replied that he and NABJ were discussing a joint convention in 2016, not a permanent alliance. He also said NAHJ and the Asian American Journalists Association had broached the idea of a joint meeting in 2015.

Brandon Benavides, president of the Washington, D.C., chapter, pleaded with NAHJ leaders to return to the table to work out differences. He noted that Washington chapters of the journalist of color organizations had conducted successful mixers drawing 300 people.

Latty responded, “Why do we need an umbrella organization called Unity to have a mega-mixer?”

Particularly irksome to the NAHJ delegates were financial arrangements and a perceived lack of transparency. Balta pointed out that NAHJ was given its share of the revenue (just over $90,000) from Unity’s 2012 convention in December, only to have Unity turn around in March and ask for $11,900 of it back, claiming it had overpaid, as Sara Morrison reported Wednesday for the Wrap. An audit that concluded in August revealed that NAHJ owed Unity just $4,535.

A Unity report on its 2012 convention in Las Vegas showed the decline in attendance since NABJ left the previous year. AAJA brought 493 registrants, the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association 115, NAHJ 473, and the Native American Journalists Association 75. Meanwhile, NABJ attracted 2,586 registrants to its convention in New Orleans.

“What is the point of Unity?” Latty asked. “Who does it serve?” She compared remaining a member with staying in a bad personal relationship. Medina said he took notice when Anna Lopez Buck, a former executive director of Unity who and now does that job for NAHJ, recommended a pullout.

Balta said the NAHJ board would meet next week and make a final decision. The board expects to hear from David Steinberg of NLGJA, newly elected Unity president, and from a member of NABJ.

Balta said members would hear what amounts to “he said, she said,” but added, “Who are you going to trust at the end of the day?” Are members going to listen to a group whose interest in NAHJ is more about its financial impact than in hearing NAHJ’s voice?

Balta said he still believes in the concept of Unity and in the addition of NLGJA, which joined after NABJ departed. He said NAHJ could return to the coalition if Unity reformed itself and that meanwhile, NAHJ could work with Unity on projects.

AAJA is staying with Unity, Morrison reported.

” ‘Like NAHJ, AAJA also [shares] similar concerns regarding UNITY’s governance and business practices,’ AAJA president Paul Cheung told TheWrap.

” ‘But I am confident in working with the new UNITY president David Steinberg to move UNITY forward. The alliance presidents have put together a reorganization plan that will create a more flexible governance structure for UNITY.’

“Said Steinberg of AAJA: ‘They’re not making the same demands that NAHJ is making.’ . . .”

 Shutdown Over, So Is Ted Cruz “Unendorsement”

For all the world, it looked as though the Houston Chronicle was taking back its endorsement of Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who led the fight to defund the Affordable Care Act in a chain of events that led to a partial shutdown of the federal government. The shutdown ended Thursday as “a chastened Congress approved a bill to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling until Feb. 7,” in the words of the Washington Post.

Cruz’s actions led to record levels of public disapproval of the tea party, which supported him.

Does anyone else miss Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison?” the Chronicle asked in an editorial on Tuesday.

“We’re not sure how much difference one person could make in the toxic, chaotic, hyperpartisan atmosphere in Washington, but if we could choose just one it would be Hutchison, whose years of service in the Senate were marked by two things sorely lacking in her successor, Ted Cruz.

“For one thing, Hutchison had an unswerving commitment to the highest and best interests of Texas at all times. This revealed itself in a thousand different ways. Hereabouts, we miss her advocacy for NASA, the Port of Houston and the energy industry. And we know she worked just as hard for Dallas, San Antonio and a hundred smaller Texas cities and towns.

“And dare we say it? We miss her extraordinary understanding of the importance of reaching across the aisle when necessary. Neither sitting Texas senator has displayed that useful skill, and both the state and the Congress are the poorer for it. . . .”

That led Tal Kopan to write for Politico on Wednesday, “The Houston Chronicle editorial board expressed remorse over its endorsement of Sen. Ted Cruz in the Senate race last year, saying he has failed to live up to their expectations. . . .”

But wait! On Wednesday, the Chronicle wrote a short piece headlined, “Did we un-endorse Ted Cruz? No.”

“It is not unusual, and certainly not extraordinary, for newspaper editorial boards to constructively reflect on the tenures of elected officials whom the panel has endorsed and criticize their performances when we deem it necessary,” the Chronicle said. “Our evaluation of elected officials’ work is an active, ongoing process. An endorsement does not preclude sharp criticism.”

Some commenters preferred their original interpretation. “The bigger question is: Why DIDN’T you pull your endorsement, then?” wrote someone signing in as NativeFan. “In shutting down the federal government, Cruz and his lackeys have succeeded where Al Qaeda failed. What height of irresponsibility does it take for you TO retract an endorsement?” What Would Slaves Say About Dr. Ben Carson’s Obamacare Comments?

James Carr, the Shadow League: Congress Made Mo’ Money, Gave America Mo’ Problems

Ben S. Carson, Washington Times: Did you really hear what I said?

Ta-Nehisi Coates blog, the Atlantic: What This Cruel War Was Over

Stanley Crouch, Daily News, New York: The Tea Party’s own hate will eat it alive

Joe Davidson, Washington Post: Feds seeking unemployment show shutdown’s hit

Jarvis DeBerry, | the Times-Picayune: America hates almost all of Congress (Oct. 10)

Jarvis DeBerry, | the Times-Picayune: Dr. Benjamin Carson’s Obamacare and slavery analogy won’t help GOP diversify

Jarvis DeBerry, | the Times-Picayune: Readers’ responses to Obamacare as slavery analogy

Rick Horowitz, Huffington Post: Oops! Here Comes the Obamacare Rollout! (video)

Colbert I. King, Washington Post: Where are the arrests over the World War II Memorial protest?

Michel Martin, “Tell Me More,” NPR: Michel Martin’s Movie Suggestions For Politicians

Roland S. Martin, Creators Syndicate: Obama Can’t Bow Down to Pathetic GOP Antics

Media Matters for America: On Fox News Sunday, Juan Williams Criticizes The Conservative “Media Bubble”

Courtland Milloy, Washington Post: You can still buy lottery tickets, you just can’t win — for now

Phillip Morris, Plain Dealer, Cleveland: Welcome to the 2013 United States of Shame

Charles Ornstein, ProPublica: Here’s Why Broke Down

Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune: A sad way to salute veterans

Leonard Pitts Jr., Miami Herald: America held hostage by extreme tactics (Oct. 8)

Barry Saunders, News & Observer, Raleigh, N.C.: Carson’s slavery comment a leap too far

Mark Trahant blog: Fiscal Yahoo Caucus will make life tougher for every American with any debt … all of us

DeWayne Wickham, USA Today: Arizona governor’s grand bargain

Armstrong Williams blog: No Compromises on a Ship of Fools