The National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) has apparently had enough. The group announced recently that it is splitting off from UNITY, an organization designed to bring together groups of minority journalists. The NABJ has cited the financial decisions of UNITY as the primary reason for the departure.
"NABJ board members concluded that as a business model, UNITY no longer is the most financially prudent for NABJ and its membership,” according to a statement released by the NABJ.
UNITY was founded in 1994 and was designed to coordinate the activities of journalists of color. The group was comprised of the Asian American Journalists Association, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, the Native American Journalists Association and the NABJ. UNITY held a conference every four years, while each group holds its own national conference annually.
It’s hard to know the details of the reasons that the NABJ split from UNITY, but the bottom line is that the divide is an unfortunate one. If it is the case that UNITY is not sharing its convention revenues with the NABJ fairly, then I applaud the move. I hope it’s not a matter of NABJ leadership being greedy, so I’d love to hear more about their perspective (I am not, by the way, a member of the NABJ).
My initial thinking is that this divide might be similar to many others that occur whenever African Americans are melted into broader liberal groups. In far too many cases, our agenda gets pushed to the back of the bus in favor of an agenda that simply blends the plight of black folks into the experience of anyone who isn’t white. This happens on many college campuses across America, who have decided that affirmative action should apply to anyone who isn’t a white man, leaving thousands of African Americans without access to education, jobs and other necessities for success.
But if you weren’t enslaved by whites for 400 years and subject to the devastating social, psychological and economic impact of Jim Crow, it’s difficult to understand what we’ve had to overcome. While America can be disrespectful to most ethnic minority groups, no group of people has had the White American foot on its neck more than the black community. The NABJ understands this, and hopefully UNITY understands this as well.
But then again, this dispute might be simpler than most of us speculate. It could simply be a matter of money not being shared properly, without any deeper context. Either way, the NABJ might be better off operating on its own, for its rare to see a truly independent black institution (especially in media).