Chicago’s mayor, Lori Lightfoot, has announced that she’ll only be taking interviews regarding her last two years in office from journalists of color. In a letter to Chicago media outlets, Lightfoot wrote, “In the time since I was elected, our country has faced an historic reckoning around systemic racism. In looking at the absence of diversity across the City Hall press corps and other newsrooms, sadly it does not appear that many of the media institutions in Chicago have caught on and truly have not embraced this moment.”
Naturally, social media went into a whirlwind. Right wing media and provocateurs are claiming that Lightfoot refusing to speak to white journalists is racism, but I, and most sensible people, would argue it is anything but. It is not a racist action to attempt to promote equity, especially when newsrooms maintain an environment that only comprises 17% of non-white staff, and 13% of non-white leadership. What is racist? The right wing men comparing Lightfoot’s natural hair to Beetlejuice because you disagree with her policy decisions.
As a Black and Native American writer living in Harlem, I find Lori Lightfoot’s demands to only speak with journalists of color rather reasonable, and more importantly, commendable.
Lightfoot’s decision is a move to showcase journalists in Chicago who understand – or at least can sympathize with – her lived experience as a person of color in the region and who will write accessibly for her constituents. With newsrooms and journalism being so overwhelmingly white, and I mean that literally, to refuse to engage with white, male writers who can not fundamentally understand who she is governing for, is not a radical position. It’s sensible, and the right-wing media’s reaction shows us why.
Black and brown journalists are routinely passed over for major opportunities because of the whiteness of news media, and Lightfoot refused to participate in or allow that in the upcoming interviews about her past two years in office as Chicago Mayor. Lightfoot made her line of thinking clear, saying: “It’s a shame that in 2021, the City Hall press corps is overwhelmingly White in a city where more than half of the city identifies as Black, Latino, AAPI or Native American.” By refusing to speak to press outside of those communities, Lightfoot is assuring that Chicago’s journalists of color are getting the attention and work they deserve.
You can say what you want about Lori Lightfoot. You may not agree with her policies or politics, but she is personally assuring that Black and brown people in the media have a voice, platform, and the opportunity to interact with and interview her.
The issue here isn’t about Lightfoot herself not wanting to speak to white journalists, as right wing media would like you to believe, but the fact that Black and brown journalists are equally capable and equally as deserving as their white peers and counterparts, but get half the attention. This isn’t an anti-white policy, but a pro-POC one.
Media workers of color should be awarded the chance to showcase their skills in a sea of whiteness, as Black and brown media workers have perspectives that have been influenced by racism, discrimination, and living while being a person of color, and the people of Chicago need accessible and attainable information that pertains to their life.
Who better to cover it than their own community?