Claims of black homophobia split UNITY minority journalist convention
Tension flared this week between gay and black journalist organizations at the UNITY convention in Las Vegas, after a member of both groups accused the National Association of Black Journalists of homophobia in a years-long effort to keep the LGBT journalist group out of the UNITY coalition.
The National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association first applied to join UNITY shortly after the minority journalists coalition was founded in the late ’80s, and again in the mid-2000s. But each time NLGJA was rebuffed without an explanation. Some gay journalists believed that it was the National Association of Black Journalists–NABJ–that vetoed NLGJA’s application to join UNITY–and that discomfort with gay people–as well as resistance to changing UNITY’s mission–was behind it.
After NABJ left UNITY last year in a dispute over finances and governance, the remaining Hispanic, Asian American and Native American groups almost immediately invited NLGJA to join UNITY–confirming in some gay journalists’ minds the suspicion that the black journalists had been behind NGLJA’s exlcusion all along. Then on Wednesday, at the opening panel of this year’s UNITY, CNN and ESPN commentator LZ Granderson said in front of hundreds what so many had thought privately. Granderson tells OutQ News he brought up the ‘uncomfortable topic’ in order to move beyond it.
Granderson: “Homophobia has played a role in this tension, race has certainly played a role in this tension, money has played a role in this tension. And ALL of those things need to be talked about and hashed and on the table, not just the ones that are P.C.”
But NABJ President Gregory Lee angrily denies the accusations that homophobia motivated his group’s position on NLGJA’s membership in UNITY. He says no UNITY organization has veto power and that NABJ was just one vote among four.
Lee: “I’m sick of everyone jumping on our organization and saying that we’re homophobic. We’re not. We’ve been pioneers; we have our own gay and lesbian task force. It’s wrong, and I’m sick of it.”
Lee and NABJ’s leaders are particularly upset that soon after NLGJA joined UNITY, the latter group’s board agreed to change its name from UNITY: Journalists of Color to, simply, UNITY Journalists. Lee says that essentially changed UNITY’s fundamental mission without an adequate discussion among its constituent groups and members.
Granderson agrees that UNITY’s mission has changed–but he says it’s time to do so.
Granderson: “What we talk about’s different now. (The) understanding of diversity is different now. And I think that they’re right. NABJ is absolutely correct. UNITY has changed its mission, it’s changed its focus. For the better. Because it needed to to represent the country that’s covering today.”
Still, Lee says he doesn’t think NABJ should re-join UNITY until the coalition addresses all of his group’s concerns–including an open debate and a vote on changing UNITY’s mission to include NLGJA’s continued participation.
Full disclosure: Several OutQ staffers, including the author, are members of NLGJA. None are members of NABJ.