Pessimists see the difficulty in every opportunity, optimists see the opportunity in every difficulty.
Discrimination was on display at a recent White House press conference. President Donald Trump raised hackles with his answer to black reporter April Ryan who demanded to know when he would meet with the Congressional Black Caucus. Trump abruptly tossed it back to her and cavalierly asked if she could arrange it. That was perceived by many blacks as “a galling presumption” and based on the old racist idiom, “They’re black so they must all know each other.”
Trump’s faux pas was presuming that a White House correspondent could simply pick up the phone and arrange a meeting with congressional leaders. Though she actually could done what Trump asked, Ryan alleged she was “shocked” by the question.
It was an opportunity Ryan could have used to her own advantage, but alas, me thinks the lady protested too much and turned the event into a crisis. Surely when Trump made the suggestion that Ryan get black political leaders to meet with him, while she considered it “not her place,” Ryan’s predecessors would have jumped at the chance to make that hookup.
Ryan’s haughty approach to the matter disservices those that went before. Alice Dunnigan and Ethel Payne were the first two African-American women to hold White House press passes. Dunnigan (1906–1983) was the first African-American female correspondent to receive White House credentials, and first black female member of the Senate and House of Representatives press galleries. Payne was an African-American journalist, first for the Chicago Defender and later for Johnson Publishing’s Jet Magazine. Ms. Payne was known as the “first lady of the Black Press.”
Bob Ellison spent 14 years as White House correspondent for the Sheridan Broadcasting Network (later known as the American Urban Radio Networks). He covered the Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Clinton administrations, with reports for a primarily black audience.
American Urban Radio Networks (AURN) is “the only African-American-owned network radio company.” AURN was created in 1991 as the result of a merger between National Black Network (NBN), founded by Unity Broadcasting, and Sheridan Broadcasting Networks (SBN), founded by Pittsburgh-based Sheridan Broadcasting. AURN provides a variety of programming to African-American targeted radio stations. AURN broadcasts news, entertainment, sports and information programs to more than 300 radio stations nationwide.
While the average White House Correspondent’s salary is $56,550, April freelances for AURN. Ryan is a 27-year journalism veteran and has been AURN’s White House correspondent since January 1997, covering three presidents. Prior to AURN, Ryan worked as news director for Baltimore’s WXYV-FM. The Baltimore native is a second-generation Morgan State University graduate.
Ryan has “known her place” and capitalized on it. One of the books she’s authored is “The Presidency in Black and White: My Up-Close View of Three Presidents and Race in America.” April’s hauteur got her shot in the foot. Cartoons show the character sawing off the branch they’re sitting/standing on and when the saw completes the cut, gravity takes over and both the branch and character fall to the ground.
Almost certainly President Trump will eventually meet with the caucus. But due to the intolerance blacks, including Ryan, are showing Trump, April inadvertently sawed off her unique White House press room perch. Trump called on her intentionally, but when he went to what he assumed her forte, Ryan went ballistic, claiming to be ‘shocked” at “being stereotyped” and “discriminated against.”
The question blacks should be asking is, “who will be talking for and about us?” If African-Americans take the initiative to work with Trump they, and the CBC, could work on combating urban crime, creating and boosting business and urban commerce and expanding charter schools and vouchers. During the Trump era, blacks and the CBC will need to play key roles in job creation and skills training programs.
Haughty can be costly. Ryan’s tantrum may have lost her place in the White House’s press pecking order. Many expect Trump’s communications official Omarosa Manigault to put a stop to her being called on.
William Reed is publisher of “Who’s Who in Black Corporate America” and available for projects via Busxchng@his.com.