John Kasich’s Diversity Dilemma

"Woo-hoo! I hired a Negro!"

When Ronald Reagan defeated Jimmy Carter in 1980, my reaction was, “Now we have a president who has made it clear he doesn’t give a damn about Black people.” For the following eight years Reagan went out and proved how right I was.

When John Kasich defeated Ted Strickland last November, my reaction was déjà vu all over again. Now we have a governor who has made it clear he doesn’t give a damn about Black people. Kasich has only been governor for a month, but he’s already proving how right I was.

This isn’t a post about how Kasich has a Negro problem.   It’s more about the process involved in writing a story about Kasich’s Negro problem.

I’ve wanted to write  about Kasich’s apartheid administration for a publication I contribute to and submitted my pitch to the editor. He responded with a bit of skepticism. “We’ve been wrestling with how to make it a national story. Any thoughts why folks in NY dc or elsewhere would care? “

It is not enough to have an idea for a story.   Often you have to be an advocate for your idea and champion it. You have to sell the sizzle as well as the steak.   Here is how I tried to :
I think this story is easily as important as Virgina Governor Bob McDaniel’s observance of Confederate History Month or Governor Haley Barbour’s good ol’ boy nostalgia about segregation in Mississippi, but people in NY or Washington should care because:

  • Ohio is a major player in presidential politics and a governor who is outwardly dismissive of 12 percent of his state’s population is news.
  • It’s grist for the mill that the Republicans still have a problem with racial diversity and inclusion.   Kasich’s combative reaction only reaffirms it.
  • Kasich’s public proclamation that he admires Dr. King is at odds with his dig-in-your-heels resistance to the suggestion he needs to hire someone other than conservative White men to help him run the state.
  • When the governor of any state tells a group of Black legislators, “I don’t need your people”  no matter how he meant it, its offensive, clumsy, and a racially loaded phrase.

Gov.  Kasich appointed his first minority when he elevated one Michael B. Colbert to head up the office of Job & Family Services (I used to work for the state in that department).   Colbert had served as the interim director.  When asked if he now had enough minority representation, the governor replied,   “Michael earned his job,” Kasich said. “Michael didn’t get this job because of his race. I’m excited that he happens to be an African-American, but he didn’t get it because of that. He got it because of his experience.”

Why was it necessary for the governor to emphasize how experienced his minority hire is?   Did he feel it was necessary to mention that with the 18 White men and five White women he tabbed to help him run the state?  Are we supposed to assume if the White guy gets the job he must have the experience for the job, but with the Black guy you have to throw in that he’s not an affirmative action pick?

Now Kasich has his token spook to sit by the door and can say, Okay, I hired one.  Now get off my back. Does he want a cookie or something?  Diversity doesn’t really count for much when it’s prompted after protest and then only with great reluctance and through tightly clenched teeth.

Putting aside the fact MSNBC, Reuters and Politico picked up on the story, I believe the governor of Ohio in effect needing The Rooney Rule applied to his hiring practices is absolutely newsworthy.   Regardless of what  Kasich meant by the “your people” crack, his argument holds no water.  Kasich has fallen back on the tired old right-wing talking points about how he values diversity, but not quotas.

I know for a FACT there are plenty of Black conservatives here in Ohio.  Last November during a forum I shared the stage  with one and I know several African-American Republicans who would be happy to solve Kasich’s diversity problem.    I could recommend a couple to the governor if he doesn’t know any personally.

The eternal dilemma of the freelance writer is it’s not enough for you to believe in your ideas.   You have to convince somebody else to believe as well.

I was asked the other day if I would take part at the 2011 National Association of Black Journalists convention  in Philadelphia in a workshop on “How To Be  Successful As a Freelancer.”   Any chance I get to run my mouth is one I find difficult to resist, but it’s a hard knock life and not for the easily discouraged.

Still, as long as there are clueless politicians like John Kasich around who welcome racial diversity about as much as an anal probe, I’ll never run out of material.

Kasich's search for a qualified Negro was relentless.