Another Black Face on MSNBC: Good News For Joy Ann Reid, Not So Much For The Rest of Us
A Black Agenda Radio Commentary by BAR Managing Editor Bruce A. Dixon
“A lot has changed in fifty years, and a lot hasn't, a few things have gotten better and many others have gotten worse.”
Back in 1962, when I was twelve years old growing up on the south side of Chicago, and a black face showed up on TV, I remember my mother going to one of the windows of our apartment and shouting to the neighbors whose windows faced us less than 20 feet away. "Quick, there's one of us on channel 2!" To be fair, sometimes she used the phone for this too, and recall receiving these calls as well as seeing them made.
That's really how it was back in the day half a century ago. We knew we were black, we knew we were here, we knew we mattered somehow, but in the world of corporate-owned television, we had been rendered all but invisible, made to pretty much disappear.
There really were not a lot of black faces on the tube at all, so seeing one was a kind of affirmation, a tangible proof, in a strange way, almost as if the world brought to us by corporate owned broadcasting was more real than our own lives, that we really did exist, that we really did matter somehow in the scheme of things. We were looking for our own faces, our own stories, our own voices in corporate media and public life, and since we'd never even been able to pretend to have these things before they assumed an enormous importance for us that is hard to understand in today's world.
A lot has changed in fifty years, and a lot hasn't, a few things have gotten better and many others have gotten worse. Black unemployment is still double white unemployment, and black wealth remains a tiny fraction of white wealth. Gentrification is still the only model of urban economic development on offer, and the number of black faces in prisons and jails has grown enormously since 1963, the last year whites were a majority in US prisons and jails.
But black voter registration has never been higher, there have never been more black elected and appointed officials on every level from mayors to sheriffs to legislators and generals and even a president. So things are indeed getting better, at least for some of us. Things are certainly looking up for the family and friends of Joy Ann Reid, who's getting her own slot in the MSNBC TV daily lineup, alongside Al Sharpton, Rachel Maddow, weekender Melissa Harris-Perry and the rest of that crew.
Just as Fox News is the propaganda arm of the Republican party, the White House and corporate Democrats, as if any other kind really matter, have MSNBC on lockdown. You don't earn a daily slot on either side of corporate media if you're not a consistent and effective shill for corporate interests – for the privatization of public education, for US imperial interventions and war crimes in Africa, South Asia and the Americas, for fracking, for unfettered police spying, and for only attacking the bad things the other party does. That's Joy Ann Reid to a T, and that's how you earn those slots at Fox or MSNBC and that's how you keep them.
The last real journalist with a daily MSNBC slot was Phil Donahue, who was fired for giving air time to lefty criticisms of the invasion of Iraq. The big boys at Comcast, which owns MSNBC must have a lot of confidence in Joy Ann Reid to use her black face to effectively represent their interests.
A half century ago we imagined that if there were more black faces in more high places, they'd represent our interests. Silly us. We really didn't see this coming.
For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Bruce Dixon. Find us on the web at www.blackagendareport.com.
Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, and a state committee member of the Georgia Green Party. He lives and works in Marietta GA and can be reached via this site's contact page, or at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.