Skip to main content

Diversity of thought is an imperative, not an option

By Tara Wall
April 2, 2014 -- Updated 1937 GMT (0337 HKT)
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
September 22, 2014 -- Updated 1259 GMT (2059 HKT)
You could be forgiven for thinking no one cares -- or even should care, right now -- about climate change, writes CNN's John Sutter. But you'd be mistaken.
September 21, 2014 -- Updated 2132 GMT (0532 HKT)
David Gergen says the White House's war against ISIS is getting off to a rough start and needs to be set right
September 22, 2014 -- Updated 1300 GMT (2100 HKT)
John Sutter boarded a leaky oyster boat in Connecticut with a captain who can't swim as he set off to get world leaders to act on climate change
September 22, 2014 -- Updated 1917 GMT (0317 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says making rude use of the Mexican flag on Mexican independence day in a concert in Mexico was extremely tasteless, but not an international incident.
September 22, 2014 -- Updated 1359 GMT (2159 HKT)
Michael Dunn is going to stand trial again after a jury was unable to reach a verdict; Mark O'Mara hopes for a fair trial.
September 22, 2014 -- Updated 2315 GMT (0715 HKT)
Is ballet dying? CNN spoke with Isabella Boylston, a principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre, about the future of the art form.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 2147 GMT (0547 HKT)
Sally Kohn says it's time we take climate change as seriously as we do warfare in the Middle East
September 22, 2014 -- Updated 1927 GMT (0327 HKT)
Laurence Steinberg says the high obesity rate among young children is worrisome for a host of reasons
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1302 GMT (2102 HKT)
Dean Obeidallah says an Oklahoma state representative's hateful remarks were rightfully condemned by religious leaders..
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1922 GMT (0322 HKT)
No matter how much planning has gone into U.S. military plans to counter the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the Arab public isn't convinced that anything will change, says Geneive Abdo
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1544 GMT (2344 HKT)
President Obama's strategy for destroying ISIS seems to depend on a volley of air strikes. That won't be enough, says Haider Mullick.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1303 GMT (2103 HKT)
Paul Begala says Hillary Clinton has plenty of good reasons not to jump into the 2016 race now
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1501 GMT (2301 HKT)
Scotland decided to trust its 16-year-olds to vote in the biggest question in its history. Americans, in contrast, don't even trust theirs to help pick the county sheriff. Who's right?
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 0157 GMT (0957 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says spanking is an acceptable form of disciplining a child, as long as you follow the rules.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1547 GMT (2347 HKT)
Frida Ghitis says the foiled Australian plot shows ISIS is working diligently to taunt the U.S. and its allies.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1958 GMT (0358 HKT)
Young U.S. voters by and large just do not see the midterm elections offering legitimate choices because, in their eyes, Congress has proven to be largely ineffectual, and worse uncaring, argues John Della Volpe
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 0158 GMT (0958 HKT)
Steven Holmes says spanking, a practice that is ingrained in our culture, accomplishes nothing positive and causes harm.
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 1831 GMT (0231 HKT)
Sally Kohn says America tried "Cowboy Adventurism" as a foreign policy strategy; it failed. So why try it again?
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 1427 GMT (2227 HKT)
Van Jones says the video of John Crawford III, who was shot by a police officer in Walmart, should be released.
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 1448 GMT (2248 HKT)
NASA will need to embrace new entrants and promote a lot more competition in future, argues Newt Gingrich.
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 2315 GMT (0715 HKT)
If U.S. wants to see real change in Iraq and Syria, it will have to empower moderate forces, says Fouad Siniora.
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 0034 GMT (0834 HKT)
Mark O'Mara says there are basic rules to follow when interacting with law enforcement: respect their authority.
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1305 GMT (2105 HKT)
LZ Granderson says Congress has rebuked the NFL on domestic violence issue, but why not a federal judge?
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1149 GMT (1949 HKT)
Mel Robbins says the only person you can legally hit in the United States is a child. That's wrong.
September 15, 2014 -- Updated 1723 GMT (0123 HKT)
Eric Liu says seeing many friends fight so hard for same-sex marriage rights made him appreciate marriage.
ADVERTISEMENT