GOOD

Why White Men Should Refuse to Be on Panels of All White Men

White media types are always complaining about a lack of diversity on panels and in articles. Why don't they boycott them?


It seems to happen almost monthly: Organizers of a prominent event announce a panel featuring so-called tastemakers that includes nary a woman or minority. A Twitter uproar ensues, and bloggers weigh in on this latest travesty in diversity. After that, the white, male panelists—genuinely surprised to be called out—apologize, saying they had no idea things would skew so white and male. The event organizer also apologizes and tacks on an excuse: “I reached out to women and minorities, but...” There’s mocking and maybe some genuine outrage, but nothing really changes.

Which brings us to this week. When the lineup for I Want Media’s “The Future of Media” panel was announced Monday, the more progressive minds on Twitter let out a collective groan. The annual panel attracts the most elite of media elites—the likes of Nick Denton and Arianna Huffington—and this year there wasn’t a single woman or person of color represented. “The future of media: all white, all male, apparently,” tweeted Irin Carmon, a writer at Jezebel.


Of course, it’s not a problem confined to media, and it’s not just panels. The pattern extends to “trend” stories like The New York Times’ “Washington’s New Brat Pack” article, a profile of a few young white men atop D.C.’s pundit class; a widely lambasted story about “dude-itors” in WWD; and, back at the Times, the “Room for Debate” roundtable about wealth inequality that sought the opinions of only well-educated white people.

After watching this happen again and again, something occurred to me: Why don’t the white men who are asked to engage in this nonsense simply stop doing it? The boycott is a protest with a long history of success. If white, male elites started saying, “I will not participate in your panel, event, or article if it is all about white men,” chances are these panels and articles would quickly dry up—or become more diverse.

“I think it’s ridiculous that this kind of thing goes on in 2011,” says Wired magazine’s Spencer Ackerman, a white guy who’s often written about and asked to be on panels thanks to his vaunted national security reporting. “It’s especially bad when it happens in progressive media, which makes an effort—or at least pays lip service—to promote the idea that media diversity isn’t just an optional thing but a necessity.”

Asked what he thinks about a white-dude panel boycott, Ackerman said it makes sense. “It’s within our power and it’s up to us to say, ‘Why don’t you include my colleague who works on something similar, who has possibly more to say because they’re not listened to as frequently,’” he says. “And if we don’t do it, there’s no incentive for people organizing these things to think more critically about why it is they’re not including these diverse voices.”

David Carr, a media reporter at The New York Times, is one of the white men scheduled to appear on the much-mocked Future of Journalism panel. He noticed a lot of complaints on Twitter, but he didn’t respond. “In Patrick’s defense,” Carr says, referring to Patrick Phillips, the founder of I Want Media, “he’s always been really good, especially about getting women.” Though, Carr adds, “The makeup of the panel, especially with that title, is unfortunate.”

Carr is a perfect example of why white guys should ask these questions. He isn’t a racist. In fact, as editor of the Washington City Paper, he says he worked diligently to change the fact that, in predominantly black D.C., his reporters were predominantly white. “It’s obviously the right thing to do, but it’s also for our self-interest,” says Carr. “I see it as a logic and a business issue.” As for the notion of a boycott, Carr says he’d think about it. “On the one hand, I would be loath to boycott Patrick because he’s got a track record with me,” he says. “But am I going to start analyzing in what context I’ll appear going forth? Yeah, I think so.”

Some event planners are a step ahead of him. Carr says South by Southwest organizers worked with him to ensure his panel was racially diverse and gender balanced. And even more stringent is the progressive media event Netroots Nation. Raven Brooks, executive director of Netroots, says they “pretty much reject out of hand” any panel that’s composed of all white men.

After all the Twitter mockery, CNET writer Caroline McCarthy was added to the “Future of Media” panel, which Carr says makes it “more fair, if not balanced.” But had McCarthy—or another woman, or a black man, or an Asian—been added at the beginning, it would have saved everyone a lot of frantic phone calls and apologetic tweets.

Carr says that years ago he was on a panel with Jack Shafer, who is now a writer for Slate, when someone pointed out to them that the panel was mostly white men. Shafer joked, “But the entitled white male perspective is such an interesting perspective,” and everybody laughed. When Carr told me this, I laughed, too. But I think the time for laughter has passed. It’s now time for the likes of Shafer and Carr and Ackerman to get serious about this subject. We know people will listen—there’s a million white-dude panels in history to prove it.

Articles
Julian Meehan

Young leaders from around the world are gathering at the United Nations Headquarters in New York Saturday to address arguably the most urgent issue of our time. The Youth Climate Summit comes on the heels of an international strike spearheaded by Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden, who arrived in New York via emissions-free sailboat earlier this month.

Translated from Swedish, "berg" means "mountain," so it may feel fated that a young woman with Viking blood in her veins and summit in her name would be at the helm. But let's go out on a limb and presume Thunberg, in keeping with most activists, would chafe at the notion of pre-ordained "destiny," and rightly so. Destiny is passive — it happens to you. It's also egomaniacal. Change, on the other hand, is active; you have to fight. And it is humble. "We need to get angry and understand what is at stake," Thunberg declared. "And then we need to transform that anger into action."

This new generation of activists' most pernicious enemy is denial. The people in charge — complacent politicians and corporation heads who grossly benefit from maintaining the status quo — are buffered from real-life consequences of climate change. But millions of people don't share that privilege. For them, climate change isn't an abstract concept, but a daily state of emergency, whether it comes in the form of "prolonged drought in sub-Saharan Africa…devastating tropical storms sweeping across Southeast Asia, the Caribbean and the Pacific…[or] heatwaves and wildfires," as Amnesty International reportsare all too real problems people are facing on a regular basis.

RELATED: Greta Thunberg urges people to turn to nature to combat climate change

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet

Millions of people in over 150 countries across the globe marched for lawmakers and corporations to take action to help stop climate change on Friday, September 20.

The Climate Strikes were organized by children around the world as an extension of the of the "Fridays for Future" campaign. Students have been walking out of classrooms on Fridays to speak out about political inaction surrounding the climate crisis.

"We need to act right now to stop burning fossil fuels and ensure a rapid energy revolution with equity, reparations and climate justice at its heart," organizers say.

There's no doubt the visual images from the marches send a powerful message to those on the ground but especially those watching from around the world. GOOD's own Gabriel Reilich was on the scene for the largest of the Climate Strikes. Here are 18 of the best signs from the Climate Strike march in New York City.

Keep Reading Show less

September 20th marks the beginning of a pivotal push for the future of our planet. The Global Climate Strike will set the stage for the United Nations Climate Action Summit, where more than 60 nations are expected to build upon their commitment to 2015's Paris Agreement for combating climate change.

Millions of people are expected to take part in an estimated 4,000 events across 130 countries.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
via Apple

When the iPhone 11 debuted on September 10, it was met with less enthusiasm than the usual iPhone release. A lot of techies are holding off purchasing the latest gadget until Apple releases a phone with 5G technology.

Major US phone carriers have yet to build out the infrastructure necessary to provide a consistent 5G experience, so Apple didn't feel it necessary to integrate the technology into its latest iPhone.

A dramatic new feature on the iPhone 11 Pro is its three camera lenses. The three lenses give users the the original wide, plus ultrawide and telephoto options.

Keep Reading Show less
Health
via I love butter / Flickr

We often dismiss our dreams as nonsensical dispatches from the mind while we're deep asleep. But recent research proves that our dreams can definitely affect our waking lives.

People often dream about their significant others and studies show it actually affects how we behave towads them the next day.

"A lot of people don't pay attention to their dreams and are unaware of the impact they have on their state of mind," said Dylan Selterman, psychology lecturer at the University of Maryland, says according to The Huffington Post. "Now we have evidence that there is this association."

Keep Reading Show less
Health