I would widen Coates' point here (Important: Please read the whole post to understand his context):
"With respect due, I am so heartily tired of reading certain white writers talk about what's wrong with us [Black people]. It's like watching a terminal cancer patient with, a few months to live, talk shit about another patient, with mere weeks."
I think one of the problems with our American debate is that we base our decisions and opinions on what hegemonic voices (ie. white males, but obviously can and does incorporate voices of other genders and races) tell us. My dad used to ask me, "Why is it that if I wanna know about Indians, or Africans, or black people or any colored people I have to ask a white guy or read a white guy's book?" Understand that my dad is 72 years old so he sees these things slightly different than we may. We may rightly say, well now we can read books on other cultures by people from those cultures, but in our mainstream media are those sources really getting through to us? Remember our march to war in Iraq? Wolfiwitz telling us that our troops would be met with roses and honey? Think maybe we could have gotten some better info if we asked an Iraqi? And I don't mean those dudes on the US payroll like Chalabi, but some less biased guys? We do have some in America you know?
You know why the Daily Show's coverage of Iran was so good? Because they went there and spoke to them.
Now we have a situation in Honduras--how much do you want to bet that on CNN and FOX and MSNBC we're going to have an influx of "experts" where most will not be Honduran, telling us what the Honderan people want? I recently taught a class with a Honduran woman who wrote a paper on the enviromental and social damage done to the Honduran people by the timber interests that are empowered by American and European companies. These timber companies have huge control within the government. Think that information will come out in our "weekly roundtables" as they tell us why Honduras doesn't have a stable and efficent democracy?
If we truly want to have a just and effective foriegn policy that protects American interests without alienating and offending indiginious populations we must give these populations voices to present their issues and then listen to their grivences with good faith.
PS: I do not mean, of course, that a person outside of a community cannot write on that community. If that was the case academics would cease, or would be incredibly hindered. But good scholarship means gathering as much first hand information as possible and then fleshing out arguments from that information. Much of what passes in the media for commentary doesn't seem to go through this process. Rather first hand information is either cherry picked, or is imagined. This is how we get people like Bush telling us that terrorists hate us "because of our freedom." Or, better yet, Ahmadinjad telling is that there are no gays in Iran.