Kennedy Center Honors decides to broaden selection process. Time for mainstream media to sing same tune

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LatinaLista — Today, the Kennedy Center Honors made an announcement that was music to the ears of the Latino community. They announced — after undergoing a very public takedown several months ago — that perhaps their selection process doesn’t consider as broad a range of artists as it should.

Yet, until representatives of the Latino community took the Center to task in a public forum, the lack of diversity wasn’t recognized nor concerned anyone with the influence to do something about it.

It was the very lack of diversity within the ranks of those who selected the honorees that has caused the problem and its public embarrassment. It is finally being impressed upon people that a nation as diverse as the United States can’t truly say it’s honoring the country’s outstanding artists if the majority of those honored only represent one ethnicity.

To continue such a blind practice implies that only artists of a particular ethnicity are truly great artists and those few artists of color who are selected are merely anomalies of their communities.

There is nothing more insulting or disgusting than that implication and it was overdue for the Latino community to speak out about this exclusion.

Unfortunately, it is an issue that remains not just in the forefront of this nation but every time we watch television.

A report released this week by Media Matters examining diversity on evening cable news found the same dismal track record like the Kennedy Center Honors.

According to the report:

While white men enjoyed representation on cable that was nearly double that of their representation in the U.S. population, white women, who represent 32 percent of the population, were only 21 percent of guests on cable. Non-white women fared even worse. While they make up 19 percent of the population, they were only 8 percent of all guests on cable. Non-white men were also underrepresented; only 13 percent of guests on cable were non-white men while they make up 18 percent of the population.

The exclusion of people of color from the airwaves very clearly implies two things: 1. People of color are not smart enough to engage in topics of national debate and 2. The perspectives of people of color are second-rate.

Why else wouldn’t more guests of color be booked? Aside from the fact that producers doing the bookings may not be familiar with experts of color, and that’s not an excuse for not finding those experts, could it be that at the end of the day these same shows think it doesn’t matter to present a diverse panel as long as there is represented diverse opinion?

In this day and age, diverse opinion is not enough.

The exclusion of guests of color from these cable news shows violates the prime objective of journalism — to be balanced and fair. Issues can’t be debated fairly if all the participants come from similar perspectives and backgrounds. Too often, these shows are merely ‘preaching to the choir’ and display a lack of understanding of how communities of color play a part in the national dialogue and overall dynamics of this country.

Just like a lack of diversity among Kennedy Center Honors has achieved only a one-sided view of artistry in the United States, the lack of diversity on cable news shows, TV programs, films and newsrooms across the country presents an off-balance view of who are Americans, their challenges, their successes, their lives… and is reflective of a systemic form of racism that should not exist in the 21st Century.

This country is so much more and it’s about time our media caught up with that reality.

Read (in part) how the Kennedy Center Honors will now conduct their selection process:

David M. Rubenstein, Chairman of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, today announced revisions to the Kennedy Center Honors selection process. The announcement follows a seven-month review by the Kennedy Center board of trustees with input from many members of the cultural community to ensure the Honors program continues to reflect the full range of artistic excellence in the years ahead. The revisions include expanded solicitation of recommendations from the general public and the addition of an advisory committee comprised of artists, former Honorees, and Kennedy Center board members. The process takes effect immediately and will guide the 2013 Kennedy Center Honors selection.

Under the revised selection process, the solicitation of recommendations for Kennedy Center Honorees will be expanded. The Artists Committee, comprised of accomplished individuals in the performing arts and traditionally the source of recommendations to the Kennedy Center board of trustees, will be expanded to assure the broadest representation of outstanding candidates. Additionally, the Kennedy Center website will provide an opportunity for the general public to recommend prospective Honorees. This page is now live and can be accessed here.

From these recommendations, a roster of eligible individuals will be created that will be reviewed by a Special Honors Advisory Committee composed of two former Kennedy Center Honorees, two Artist Committee members, and two members of the Kennedy Center board of trustees. The committee will narrow the roster to 10 to 20 nominees. The Special Honors Advisory Committee is comprised of Kennedy Center board members Cappy McGarr and Elaine Wynn, former Honorees Yo-Yo Ma, and Chita Rivera, and artist committee members Harolyn Blackwell and Damian Woetzel.

From this list of 10 to 20 nominees, the Kennedy Center Chairman, President, and the producers of the Honors will create slates of Honorees. These slates will provide balance and diversity across the various performing arts disciplines and will be submitted to the executive committee of the Kennedy Center board of trustees for discussion and final decision.

The artists committee and the Special Honors Advisory Committees will have fixed terms: members of the artist committee will serve five-year terms and members of the Special Honors Advisory Committee will serve three year terms. The Kennedy Center board of trustees will also establish an Honors committee to provide ongoing oversight to the revised process and to advise the Chairman on all board-related matters of the Kennedy Center Honors. The revised process was unanimously approved by the Kennedy Center board of trustees.

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