Skip to main content

Diversity of thought is an imperative, not an option

By Tara Wall
updated 3:37 PM EDT, Wed April 2, 2014
A Twitter debate exploded recently between an editor from Ebony magazine and a Republican spokesman.
A Twitter debate exploded recently between an editor from Ebony magazine and a Republican spokesman.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Tara Wall feels that diversity of ideas is just as important as racial differences
  • She points to the recent uproar over Ebony magazine and one editor's Twitter comments
  • Wall says Republicans have done much to support jobs and black families

Editor's note: Tara Wall is senior strategist for media and engagement at the Republican National Committee and founder of the PTP Foundation for Media Arts. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN) -- I can't remember exactly when I began reading Ebony. I've been flipping -- now scrolling -- its pages as long as I can remember. Like family, it's just always been there and helped form my perspective.

That's why it was so troubling for me when a senior editor of the esteemed magazine, Jamilah Lemieux, recently went on a Twitter tirade against black Republicans, failing to uphold the standards that I'd come to expect from Ebony.

"I care about NOTHING you have to say," she wrote while disparaging conservatives and Republicans in general.

This was not the Ebony I'd grown up with, I thought, the Ebony I'd worked with, that encouraged political discourse and diversity of opinion. To my relief, the next day, Ebony issued an apology for its editor's actions after receiving a letter from Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus.

Tara Wall
Tara Wall

"EBONY strongly believes in the marketplace of ideas," the editors wrote in their response. And we all should. Any good publication allows for diversity of thought. Any good journalist should be able to listen to all sides of an issue. She should not resort to the virtual equivalent of putting her fingers in her ears.

As a conservative black woman, I understand I'm in the minority of a minority. But I challenge all of those who disagree with me to listen to what my party has to say. Are your opinions based on hasty assumptions? Or were they formed after reasoned debate?

We don't have to agree on every issue. We shouldn't. But we can't claim to be informed citizens if we refuse even to hear another perspective.

And it's never been more important for us to be informed than at a time when our political clout as black Americans, especially black women, is growing. In last year's gubernatorial race in Virginia, where I live, black women turned out to vote at a rate higher than other demographic groups, according to exit polls, just as we did in the past two presidential elections. It's in our interest to understand the full spectrum of political ideas.

Most black Americans only need to ask a parent or grandparent to hear stories of when the opinions, views and voices of blacks were silenced, not because of what they said but because of who we are.

'12 Years' a game changer for diversity
Students fight racial bias on campus
Vanity Fair praised for diverse cover

Some of us have experienced that bigotry firsthand. How can any one of us, then, be so quick to refuse to listen to others?

If you take the time to listen, you might be surprised at what you hear. Ask a Republican about education policy, and you might learn that she is fighting to ensure school choice is the right of parents to choose the school that's right for their kids, regardless of their ZIP code.

Yes, Republicans agree with the majority of black parents.

If a black female entrepreneur asked a conservative about economic policy, she might learn that Republicans at every level of government are fighting to streamline regulations so that she can grow her business faster, hire more workers and keep more of what she earns.

Yes, Republicans are fighting for her, too.

If the young black millennial who's looking for work asked a Republican congressman what he'd done for him lately, he'd hear about the 40 jobs bills that the Republican-led House of Representatives has passed but the Democrat-run Senate has refused to consider.

Yes, you might be surprised.

In the course of my career, I've worked as a journalist and held editorial management positions at a number of media outlets. Objectivity and balanced coverage were demanded; personal views could not and did not interfere with a reporter's duty to tell the full story.

That's because journalism and political discourse must make room for a diversity of opinions. The "marketplace of ideas" can sort out what's right, wrong, persuasive and not. And it won't be the same for every person.

But for me and many others, conservative policy solutions offer more financial freedom, greater religious freedom and more economic opportunities.

And if you can't understand why, well, that's all the more reason why we need to engage in meaningful political discussion.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook.com/CNNOpinion.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 4:06 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Timothy Stanley says Lewinsky is shamelessly playing the victim in her affair with Bill Clinton, humiliating Hillary Clinton again and aiding her critics
updated 9:02 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Imagine being rescued from modern slavery, only to be charged with a crime, writes John Sutter
updated 12:00 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Tidal flooding used to be a relatively rare occurrence along the East Coast. Not anymore, write Melanie Fitzpatrick and Erika Spanger-Siegfried.
updated 7:35 AM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Carol Costello says activists, writers, politicians have begun discussing their abortions. But will that new approach make a difference on an old battleground?
updated 9:12 AM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Sigrid Fry-Revere says the National Organ Transplant Act has caused more Americans to die waiting for an organ than died in both World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq
updated 2:51 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Crystal Wright says racist remarks like those made by black Republican actress Stacey Dash do nothing to get blacks to join the GOP
updated 6:07 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Mel Robbins says by telling her story, Monica Lewinsky offers a lesson in confronting humiliating mistakes while keeping her head held high
updated 9:29 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Cornell Belcher says the story of the "tea party wave" in 2010 was bogus; it was an election determined by ebbing Democratic turnout
updated 4:12 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Les Abend says pilots want protocols, preparation and checklists for all contingencies; at the moment, controlling a deadly disease is out of their comfort zone
updated 11:36 PM EDT, Sun October 19, 2014
David Weinberger says an online controversy that snowballed from a misogynist attack by gamers into a culture war is a preview of the way news is handled in a world of hashtag-fueled scandal
updated 8:23 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Julian Zelizer says Paul Krugman makes some good points in his defense of President Obama but is premature in calling him one of the most successful presidents.
updated 10:21 PM EDT, Sun October 19, 2014
Conservatives can't bash and slash government and then suddenly act surprised if government isn't there when we need it, writes Sally Kohn
updated 8:05 AM EDT, Wed October 22, 2014
ISIS is looking to take over a good chunk of the Middle East -- if not the entire Muslim world, write Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider.
updated 9:00 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
The world's response to Ebola is its own sort of tragedy, writes John Sutter
updated 4:33 PM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
Hidden away in Russian orphanages are thousands of children with disabilities who aren't orphans, whose harmful treatment has long been hidden from public view, writes Andrea Mazzarino
updated 1:22 PM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
When you hear "trick or treat" this year, think "nudge," writes John Bare
updated 12:42 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
The more than 200 kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls have become pawns in a larger drama, writes Richard Joseph.
updated 9:45 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
Peggy Drexler said Amal Alamuddin was accused of buying into the patriarchy when she changed her name to Clooney. But that was her choice.
updated 4:43 PM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
Ford Vox says the CDC's Thomas Frieden is a good man with a stellar resume who has shown he lacks the unique talents and vision needed to confront the Ebola crisis
updated 4:58 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
How can such a numerically small force as ISIS take control of vast swathes of Syria and Iraq?
updated 9:42 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
How big a threat do foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq pose to the West? It's a question that has been much on the mind of policymakers and commentators.
updated 8:21 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
More than a quarter-million American women served honorably in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Now they are home, we have an obligation to help them transition back to civilian life.
updated 4:27 PM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
Paul Begala says Rick Scott's deeply weird refusal to begin a debate because rival Charlie Crist had a fan under his podium spells disaster for the Florida governor--delighting Crist
updated 12:07 AM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
The longer we wait to engage on Ebola, the more limited our options will become, says Marco Rubio.
updated 7:53 AM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Democratic candidates who run from President Obama in red states where he is unpopular are making a big mistake, says Donna Brazile
updated 12:29 AM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
At some 7 billion people, the world can sometimes seem like a crowded place. But if the latest estimates are to be believed, then in less than a century it is going to feel even more so -- about 50% more crowded, says Evan Fraser
updated 12:53 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Paul Callan says the Ebola situation is pointing up the need for better leadership
updated 6:45 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Nurses are the unsung heroes of the Ebola outbreak. Yet, there are troubling signs we're failing them, says John Sutter
updated 1:00 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Dean Obeidallah says it's a mistake to give up a business name you've invested energy in, just because of a new terrorist group
updated 7:01 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Fear of Ebola is contagious, writes Mel Robbins; but it's time to put the disease in perspective
updated 1:44 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Oliver Kershaw says that if Big Tobacco is given monopoly of e-cigarette products, public health will suffer.
updated 9:35 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
Stop thinking your job will make you happy.
updated 10:08 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says it's time to deal with another scandal involving the Secret Service — one that leads directly into the White House.
updated 7:25 AM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Americans who choose to fight for militant groups or support them are young and likely to be active in jihadist social media, says Peter Bergen
updated 9:03 AM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Stephanie Coontz says 11 years ago only one state allowed same sex marriage. Soon, some 60% of Americans will live where gays can marry. How did attitudes change so quickly?
updated 4:04 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Legalizing assisted suicide seems acceptable when focusing on individuals. But such laws would put many at risk of immense harm, writes Marilyn Golden.
updated 9:07 AM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Julian Zelizer says the issues are huge, but both parties are wrestling with problems that alienate voters
updated 6:50 PM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Mel Robbins says the town's school chief was right to cancel the season, but that's just the beginning of what needs to be done
updated 11:43 AM EDT, Sat October 11, 2014
He didn't discover that the world was round, David Perry writes. So what did he do?
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT