Last week I attended a NAMIC chapter event on diversity, and as I sat there I found myself shifting in my seat because I could feel it coming. My stomach was churning, my palms were sweating and my mouth grew dry because I sensed it was inevitable. In fact I knew it. I could feel it in my gut, but I was powerless to stop it. I’d been to enough of these events to recognize the signs: a bunch of people on stage – many of them white – talking about why the upper management of this industry isn’t more diverse. Invariably one of them heads down a path that takes the debate to the edge of a very slippery slope. Then it comes; the admission by a panelist that one of the biggest hurdles standing between his/her company and full-frontal diversity is the fact that there are not enough qualified minority candidates. They’ve tried to find them, the panelist will say, but they’re just not out there. That’s when I go into complete meltdown; my patience stretched as thin as that specious argument. This time, however, the stakes were raised. I heard a variation on cable’s blackface routine. This time it was argued that because we’ve not been able to find enough qualified minority candidates in cable, we’re contemplating looking outside the industry. Really? I’ve got three words for that: what’s stopping you? First, let’s forget just how disingenuous it is to say that there aren’t enough qualified candidates in the industry. In the D.C. area alone we have virtually the entire management team of BET, many of whom would bend over backward for a shot at a high-level position with an established company. Let’s also forget that this industry can’t seem to shake itself of the annoying habit of hiring people who look, act and talk like those doing the hiring. Let’s even forget that this issue is older than half the networks on basic cable and yet still is no closer to being resolved than it was a quarter of a century ago. Let’s instead focus on the idea of going outside of this industry to find quality minority candidates for senior positions. My simple question: what’s wrong with that? Who’s against bringing in qualified people from outside cable if it serves the desired end of placing a talented and valuable candidate in a key position? NAMIC is not about protecting the rights of only minorities in cable, no more than Cable Positive exists just to support those in this industry with AIDS. NAMIC was created to breed diversity, tolerance and cultural understanding in cable. Cable Positive’s mission also includes breeding diversity, tolerance and understanding. Sometimes a minority candidate with cable experience will lose out to a better-qualified outsider. That’s fine. Things are supposed to work like that on a level playing field. And speaking of NAMIC and Diversity Week, I have a modest proposal for next year and beyond. Instead of jamming Kaitz Week full of events that have nothing to do with making this industry more diverse, let’s consider making the week truly dedicated to advancing diversity. Let’s have diversity be the theme for the week and make sure it plays a role in determining each organization’s agenda. Let’s pledge that a certain percentage of the senior management team of every company in this industry will attend the annual NAMIC conference, if only for a few hours. And, most important, Symonds says let’s have NCTA convene a CEO-level meeting once a year during Diversity Week to create and execute a long-term plan that will, once and for all, kill an issue that just won’t die. Curtis Symonds can be reached at curtissymonds@yahoo.com

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