With its new white-dude "Ideas Arena," The Economist is just the latest publication to ignore the realities of our diverse world.
In late May, prompted by a panel on the future of media that was composed solely of white men, I suggested that perhaps powerful white men should take it upon themselves to not participate in those kinds of "so homogeneous as to be useless" exercises. The New York Times' David Carr agreed. So did Wired's Spencer Ackerman. Apparently, venerated global politics publication The Economist did not.
With its terse, witty prose and worldliness, The Economist is considered by many to be the most sophisticated newsmagazine going. Which is why it was surprising when the publication yesterday declared that the opinions of white men are pretty much all that matters. Not that any Economist editor or spokesperson technically said those words, but what else is one supposed to glean from the mag's new "Ideas Arena" section on the news industry, in which only one of five "invited experts" is not a white man from America or Western Europe?
Take a look for yourself here to behold the masters of the "future of news": Ken Doctor, Dan Gillmor, Larry Kilman, David Levy, and Ying Chan, a Chinese woman and the only thing keeping the Economist's expert list from reading like the guestbook at Augusta National.
The Economist is a good magazine that does important work, but that doesn't put it above criticism when it does something stupid, and this is very stupid. Not only is most of the world not white and Western, but even in places like the United States, where whites are the majority, people of color will eventually be the largest community. To continually and intentionally ignore that fact by omitting nonwhites from intellectual forums isn't just offensive—offensive would actually be much easier to deal with!—it's also so blind to reality that it makes me question anyone's expertise who would participate in such nonsense.
Take heed, white "experts": Negligence toward racial realities makes smart people look dumb.