With Obama’s election, there was hope that the black media corps would have a much tighter relationship with him. And to an extent they have so far–remember we’re barely a month into his Presidency. Feels a lot longer because Bush pretty much abdicated after the election, but still…

So Essence, BET, and Ebony I think have all had a crack at him. But still we hear “whining.”

From Roland Martin. From the black press corps in general. We need more blacks not only asking questions, but on the team figuring out who is even ALLOWED to ask questions.

Now I’ve already talked about this at the Barbershop. But a conversation at TNC’s spot has changed my mind. During the last administration, which was fairly diverse phenotypically, I argued that I could do without Bush’s diversity. If having someone black meant having someone like Clarence Thomas or someone like Rice in a position of power? Save that.

I don’t think that any longer.

There are at least two reasons why affirmative action, or programs that increase diversity “for diversity’s sake” are beneficial even when there are no substantive differences in the outlook between the various “diverse groups.”

The first is psychological. I don’t think I’ll ever forget my middle son’s response when I asked him why he was going to vote for Obama in the mock election:

Because white people need to know black people can do it too.

He understands at 8 what it takes years for some to understand–this isn’t about black self-esteem, at all. Whites need to routinely be exposed to non-whites (and women) in positions of power, regardless of attitudes, so their conception of power, their conception of (in this case) what it means to be American can change and grow. And we need to see this too, so our own conception of what our country is capable of can change. Note this has nothing to do with US. We routinely accomplish without the need for “role models.” 

But the second thing is material. In order to stave off societal death as long as possible, we need to have our cultural and human capital distributed as widely as possible. Having non-whites in positions of power and authority does that–regardless of the attitudes and policy stances those non-whites take. We cannot solve our current crisis if we continue to rely on a subset of our population for answers to our problems, just as we cannot hope to win any modern war if even 10% of the eligible population is sitting on the sidelines. 

Again, my own mind has changed here. I still have a strong preference for diversity that leads to a richer set of policy options/ideas. But I now have a preference for what some might call “surface diversity.”