MSNBC’s attempt at humor on Cinco de Mayo shows that this country still has a long way to go regarding race relations.
A segment supposedly highlighting a “Mexican Heritage Celebration” featured MSNBC’s Way Too Early host Thomas Roberts telling viewers the history of the holiday. The explanation is cut short of any depth when an Anglo reporter wearing a sombrero staggers on and off screen as he swigs from a tequila bottle while shaking a maraca.
“It’s also an excuse to drink tequila on a Monday morning at work for Louis,” says host Roberts, adding “you have to drink the whole thing and eat the worm.”
They can’t even get their drinks straight: Mescal has a worm in it, not tequila.
This incident comes on the heels of the Donald Sterling fiasco, in which the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers is heard making racist remarks regarding blacks in a recording.
In many ways the MSNBC incident is worse. This is a news organization that is supposed to deliver unbiased news to the public. It is supposed to be accurate in its depiction of people and issues. It is supposed to have the public’s trust.
Instead, it used Cinco de Mayo as an opportunity to poke fun by using props that play to negative stereotypes. Did MSNBC learn nothing from Buzzfeed’s 20 do’s and don’ts of Cinco de Mayo?
Still, the uproar over the MSNBC incident is nowhere near the uproar over Sterling.
This incident demonstrates the need for more diverse newsrooms. The recent recession has been an excuse for many newsrooms to cast aside diversity efforts. The percentage of journalists of color in newsrooms remains stagnant or has dropped, while the percentage of people of color in the country continues to grow.
Many people, especially in those areas of the country that don’t have diverse populations, learn about other cultures through what they see in the media. The issue is exasperated by the fact that much of the mainstream media, especially national media, only cover Latinos on ethnic holiday celebrations and as criminals or “illegal immigrants.”
What makes the incident even scarier is that MSNBC’s parent company, Comcast, wants to take over Time Warner Cable, and capture an even bigger piece of the media pie — and, with that, an even bigger impact on how viewers see Latinos.
MSNBC officials have apologized for the insensitive and racist segment, but CCNMA stands with NAHJ in calling for the people at MSNBC responsible for the segment to be disciplined.