New York media power couples are almost all white and straight

The New York Observer posted a slideshow of forty-eight New York media power couples (including our very own Jessica Valenti) but there were two very obvious omissions from the list. People of color and members of the LGBT community.

On a list of 48 couples total, one couple was black and one was a same sex couple. I also think I spotted an Asian man in slide 42! It’s like if “Where’s Waldo” were black.

Really, guys? You would think a list this large could stand to be a little more diverse, right?

Apparently, the original version of this list of power couples included zero black faces and no members of the LGBT community. I guess the Observer wanted to sprinkle them on top like the end of a vanilla ice cream sundae.

Can you help The New York Observer diversify their list? Who would you add to the list to make the list a little more colorful?

Join the Conversation

  • Dan

    How about Former Governor Paterson and his wife?

  • Steven Olson

    I just skimmed the list, but it seems everyone works in the media, so the former Governer doesn’t fit the criteria to be on the list.

    Not being from New York, I recognized 2 people from the list only. My question is this, is there a problem with the list itself not having diversity and missing power couples that are of minorities, or is it accurate as far as power couples and just illustrating an actual problem? The answer to this is certainly not clear from anything written here. By the sub title “The Varsity lineup and incoming class” I would imagine that they are trying to list the most influential media couples, though maybe its just a ‘random’ sampling?

    The reason I ask this isn’t to try and say that nothing is wrong, but to try and find out where the wrong doings are occurring. If this article is missing many power couples who aren’t white or straight, it means the editors at The New York Observer need to get a clue (I hope this is the case), but if this list is actually accurate about the power couples, it suggests a much bigger problem that is keeping people who aren’t white or straight out of powerful positions in the media in New York. But if the list is accurate, then the New York Observer hasn’t done anything wrong and is just highlighting (although that wasn’t their goal I am sure) a much larger problem within all of the media, not just the New York Observer.

  • Brittany

    Implicit in the statement “I also think I spotted an Asian man in slide 42! It’s like if “Where’s Waldo” were black” is the idea that Asian people are unaffected by racism, or don’t constitute a ‘significant’ person of colour merely because they happen to sit closer on the colour spectrum to the idealized white norm. This is not only erroneous, but extremely alienating. It also suggests a tiered hierarchical system of racism where one racism is worse or more significant than another, which undermines the experiences of many.

    Although I absolutely recognize the merit in deconstructing this list and recognizing it as the heterocentric and racist piece it is, we must bear in mind that black people are not the only subject of racism nor are they the only racialized people. We must seek to unlearn our views of racism as only a “black” versus “white” issue.

    • zerlina

      I assure you I wasn’t implying that it is a black white issue only. I wanted this post to be a lighter tone and threw in some things that were not necessarily supposed to be a deep contextual analysis of race and power in America LOL. I think it sucks that the list was not diverse and simply wanted to call them out on that.

      • Kaitlin

        You have every right in calling them out on the lack of diversity in their list, however you do not have the right to throw in underhanded, subtle racist remarks! I’m of the opinion that ‘lighthearted racist jokes’ are inherently racist, as they all have racist roots. The mention of a vanilla sundae, which included an Asian man (Asians, who are very clearly not Caucasian), is not funny and adds nothing to your argument. Making a passing remark that an Asian man was included only undervalues the representation of coloured people in the list- yes, there definitely needs to be more people of colour, but let us not take for granted that an Asian man WAS included in said list, and that this Asian man is in fact, a person of colour!

  • Kaitlin

    As much as your criticism of a heterosexist and racist compilation of ‘power couples’ is completely warranted, I find your commentary to be offensive.

    As a bi-racial, half Chinese woman, I find your comment ” I also think I spotted an Asian man in slide 42! It’s like if “Where’s Waldo” were black.” to be quite disheartening. What precisely did you mean by that? Simply because it is perceived by society that racism is a mere black vs. white issue, it is far from the truth. The sentiment underlying in your comment, is that racism cannot and does not exist where Asians are concerned. Making light of the fact that an Asian man was included in this list seems to infer that he is not a man of colour, or that he is not the ‘right kind of person of colour’. Racism occurs to all people of colour and simply because Asians may be considered more socially acceptable in a world framed by a Eurocentric lens, where ‘white is right’, it is not okay to downplay the fact that an Asian man was included.

    Furthermore, the comment about a black Where’s Waldo creates a hierarchy, wherein one form of racism (towards a particular group of peoples, in this case, those of African descent) is deemed more relevant and real, and therefore more legitimate. Thus this alienates other racialized groups insofar as it marks their plights and struggles with racism as less than, and subsequently illegitimate. Not only does this alienate, but it also permits racism to permeate and thrive within these communities, as the larger issue is of the racial discrimination they face is not discussed in society and in turn becomes invisible, much like the privilege of white, heterosexual males.

    Moreover, I find your commentary, although subtle, to suggest that people of colour should be confined to dating, marrying, and reproducing within their own racial group. Granted, this is an article about power couples, however you seem to make light of the fact that an Asian man was included on the list. Not only does your aforementioned comment infer that the Asian man is not the ‘correct type of racialized’ individual, but also makes light of the fact that he was included in the list altogether. Essentially, it implies that those individuals of colour should only court those of the same racial background, as those who do not adhere to this rule are betraying their race, and subsequently are stripped of their racial identity. Merely because an individual of colour dates or marries a white person does not make illegitimate the discrimination they face, nor does it imply that they will not and do not encounter racism, or that they are somehow deserving of racism. On a personal level, this is offensive as my existence would not be possible were it not for my white mother and Chinese father reproducing.

    Finally, the closing paragraph itself was what solidified the underlying racist rhetoric in this article; “Apparently, the original version of this list of power couples included zero black faces and no members of the LGBT community. I guess the Observer wanted to sprinkle them on top like the end of a vanilla ice cream sundae“. So you critique the fact that originally there were no LGBTQ members, and no black members include in the list? What about all of the other racial minorities that weren’t included on the list? Once again, you have successfully insinuated that black individuals are the most relevant, and essentially the sole members of society who are discriminated against, due to race. What about the many Hispanic peoples in the United States, or perhaps the many Indigenous people, who continue to be discriminated against, due to the colonial legacy, and colonial sentiments? Moreover, your remark also includes the Asian man as part of the ‘vanilla sundae’ (as he was originally included in the list, before the ‘black faces’ and the LGBTQ couple were added), implying yet again that the Asian man’s skin colour is close to that of white people’s, and therefore he is not a racialized individual.

    Ultimately, your article is laden with racist rhetoric, towards any individuals who happen not to be black people of colour. Deferring racism onto other individuals not only negates the entire reason for the critique of the list of power couples, but also permits racist attitudes and sentiments towards any non-black, racialized individuals to become normalized. Unfortunately, racism occurs to all individuals of colours, and this should be recognized.

  • B.

    Although I’m sure you had no malicious intent in writing the article, I was simply stating that societally, we must rethink what constitutes race (and subsequently racism) by rejecting the dichotomous view of race that pervades society. Your article, unfortunately, substantiates this claim by presenting racism as ‘black’ versus ‘white’. I simply wanted to point out the gaps in the article which may leave many individuals feeling alienated and unrepresented.

    I’m not convinced that statements like the vanilla sundae analogy (which lumps the Asian man in with the rest of the Caucasian individuals) can simply be brushed off as lighthearted illustrations meant to detract from the serious tone of this entry. To borrow from Foucault and his discourse on power, knowledge and discourse, language is power, and I would argue that this applies even more so when discussing racism (since racist attitudes and opinions are often portrayed via language, verbal, non-verbal or otherwise).