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updated: 1/27/2011 10:57 PM

The curse of good intentions

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When the subject is race or ethnicity, conservatives usually flunk the course. Their modus operandi is to use minorities as foils, all to get the votes of white people.

Think Willie Horton. Or the debate over what the right calls reverse discrimination. Consider the immigration issue, much of which is guided by xenophobia. Or the schoolyard bullying of Sonia Sotomayor by Republican senators because she dared to suggest that white males might be at a disadvantage without the insights of a "wise Latina."

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Alas, the alternative isn't much better. Despite polls that show most Americans give the left higher marks on race relations, the truth is that liberals usually don't get better than a "C" -- for condescending.

While this bunch has welcomed minorities into the workplace through affirmative action and other opportunity programs, it has also established unwritten rules on how they must behave and limits on how far they can go. They prefer to use minorities to serve their own interests rather than empowering them as equals. And then, if those minorities start to think for themselves, their liberal benefactors will pull the rug out from underneath them by reminding them that without their support, they'd be picking peaches or parking cars.

Ask Justice Clarence Thomas or Sen. Marco Rubio.

And sadly, even when liberals try to do the right thing and be more inclusive, they still can't seem to surrender the need to maintain control, which leads them to open the door only a crack and remind everyone just how exclusive their club really is.

Case in point: Plans by the unabashedly left-leaning Huffington Post to launch a special section of the website devoted to African-Americans and another section for Latinos.

What's the next trend in cyberspace? Segregated lunch counters? As the Internet age sprints forward, is it also going backward? Are the new media picking up old bad habits?

The New York-based Huffington Post is developing its African-American section -- called "HuffPost GlobalBlack" -- with Sheila Johnson, the co-founder of Black Entertainment Television. The new section is scheduled to launch in March.

Arianna Huffington, the website's co-founder and editor-in-chief, has described the goal of this enterprise as simply "to cover more stories of importance to the black community."

There's the hitch. Shouldn't this be the goal of every media company in the country? If you want to cover the United States, then you should cover it in all its color and complexity. Otherwise, your product -- newspaper, magazine, website, radio or television network, etc. -- will soon become outdated and irrelevant.

Besides, the "black community" is an inseparable part of the American community. African-Americans have earned their spot in the nation's tapestry. First brought to these shores as slaves, they have fought and died in every war since the American Revolution, helped build the country by taking jobs that no one else wanted, put up with humiliation and mistreatment, and been victimized by homegrown terrorism. And through it all, they've loved America even when it wasn't clear that America loved them back.

By the way, according to Huffington, what exactly are these "stories of importance to the black community"?

It's true that Latinos care a lot about an issue such as immigration, especially when they're on the hotplate and politicians turn up the temperature on the stove. But polls over the years have shown that the top three issues for Latinos are always the same: education, jobs and health care. Those aren't Latino issues but American ones.

The same is true for African-Americans, who care about not just hot-button issues such as racial profiling and discrimination but also about education, jobs, health care and other issues of importance to all Americans.

If Huffington wants to bring more nonwhite voices into what is still the predominantly white world of online journalism, more power to her. But instead of relegating African-Americans and Latinos to the back of the bus in the form of special sections, what she should do instead is publish more African-Americans and Latinos on the main website where all the traffic goes. There are a few there now, but not as many as there should be given the fact that, in less than 30 years, nonwhites are expected to account for most of the U.S. population.

Huffington might have meant well, but her latest journalistic endeavor deserves a correction.

Ruben Navarrette's e-mail address is ruben@rubennavarrette.com.

$PHOTOCREDIT_ON$ 2011, The Washington Post Writers Group$PHOTOCREDIT_OFF$

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