Liz Heron, Huffington Post’s executive editor, recently tweeted a photo captioned: “Notice anything about this @HuffingtonPost editors meeting?” that has sparked some controversy. Why? Well, because not only was there a complete absence of male faces, but also not a single Black woman in sight.
— Liz Heron (@lheron) May 20, 2016
Hailey Wallace, executive editor at Black Enterprise responded with a tweet of her team of editors– smiling, carefree black girls saying, “I noticed the difference between your team of editors and mine #noblackvoices @Iheron @HuffingtonPost.
Commenters critiquing these photos immediately rushed to point out that neither of the photos represent diversity, even noting that the latter photo is actually more exclusionary– featuring only what appears to be Black women– compared to the former, which presumably had White, Asian and Hispanic women.
The absence of men and the segregation of these media spaces should most certainly raise eyebrows and without a question neither of these photos should represent a “diverse” media room. Neither live up to liberal ideas of equality or equal representation despite race or gender. Segregation remains stubbornly omnipresent in the United States of America, and these photos reveal just that. However, we should not confuse these two scenarios as similar. As we have learned from the history of segregation, White spaces– like The Huffington Post— are exclusionary. Whereas, Black spaces are created as an alternative to exclusion.
To label a website like The Huffington Post as a white space is already quite revolutionary in and of itself. Characterized by its politically liberal leanings, the American news aggregator and blog site never labels itself by the demographic it caters to: Mostly young, white readers. It somehow manages to avoid being marketed as a “white” website, though that label would best describe both the readers of the site and its workers (based on the photo provided by the executive editor). Despite this absence of the descriptor “white,” the website does have specific sections for “women,” “queer,” “black” and “latino” voices. This absence of a “white” label inadvertently leads people to believe that the main website, The Huffington Post itself– not merely the section for black folk, or queer folk or women– should be representative of all groups. This false hope fails to consider the intricate workings of White supremacy: That any space left unlabeled, any space for the “mainstream,” is a space for whiteness to be treated as the norm and majority.
This is the marked difference between a publication like The Huffington Post and one like Black Enterprise and the different responsibilities each has to meet the expectations of the public. Black Enterprise was created by Earl Graves, who launched the magazine during the Civil Right’s Movement to offer black entrepreneurs and business people advice and direction who faced constant adversity and discrimination. His life was intricately connected to the black struggle to find a place in the business world and in the country. The Huffington Post was launched under the guise that it represented all Americans, irrespective of their background. Only one of these publications is failing to make good on a promise of diversity and inclusion.
It is about time that “mainstream” spaces that cater to a white audience label themselves as just that. This will ensure that no one is confused about who is represented and included. In this way, the American public can look into a mirrored reflection of the very white-dominated and segregated society that still prevails, despite hopes and dreams of the integration of “mainstream” spaces. Without the confusion of a distorted world of expectations that, in spite of every promise to the contrary, this country is not quite ready to deliver.