Thinking Out Loud - Power and the way I don’t want to be
As the editor of a magazine I often am privy to all kinds of fascinating information, some of which, for various reasons, never comes to the attention of the general public. Make no mistake, the power of the press by no means is to be taken lightly. By filtering information—choosing what to run and what to kill; where, when and how often to run a story; whom to quote and whom to ignore, etc.—we in the media can make or break a career, a business, even a country. We can cast an entire ethnic group in a positive light just as easily as we can make it synonymous with any and every social scourge we choose. Witness, for example, the plethora of media references to young Black males in America as “an endangered species,” or “an embattled species” or “an embittered species,” often followed by incarceration statistics.
“They beat you over the head with it so much that you risk buying into it. Maybe that’s just what they want you to do,” one young Black male in America mourned.
In a country where such power is protected by a doctrine of inalienable right—freedom of speech, the public’s right to know, and so forth—the optimists among us expect the innate decency of human beings to take over and give us that which is just. Not that which is “right,” which is based on manipulated references, but that which is “just,” which is based on the purity and innocence of a higher law.
It is especially because we so often are disappointed in that expectation that The Network Journal has made a point, for the last nine years, of bringing to our readers each June the amazing stories of 40 African-Americans who have not yet reached the age of 40. These Black men and women are high-level achievers in the public, private and nonprofit sectors of the U.S. economy. So inspired have we been by the willingness of these achievers to strike hard and sure to reach their goals, as the late philosopher-economist-entrepreneur-writer Marcus Garvey exhorted in his poetry, that we adopted those very words as the magazine’s motto: “Striking Hard, Striking Sure.” We used it for the first time when we presented our 2005 class of 40 Under-Forty achievers.
We take pleasure in parading these men and women before all who read TNJ, knowing that each reader will recount their stories to at least one nonreader. That means the news of these individuals will reach at least 170,000 people, according to our most current readership survey numbers. This is the power of the press, on a humble scale, but power nonetheless. The combination of power—be it the power of the press, money, physical strength, military might, or professional standing—and arrogance is as lethal as it is ugly. It is a thief of peace, a robber of productivity, a purveyor of enmity. It incites nothing good, nothing just.
If all this talk about power and arrogance sounds odd, pay me no mind. I’m just thinking out loud about the times we live in; about some of the powerful people I know; about the way I don’t ever want to be.
By Rosalind McLymont