Category Archives: reporting

Race Forward Releases New Report On Media, Civic Activism + Race

By Arturo R. García

Yesterday, Colorline’s publishers, Race Forward — formerly known as the Applied Research Center — released a two-part report covering both the common media mistakes when it comes to approaching race and the impact of racial justice initiatives looking to set the record right.

We’ll have a more in-depth look at Race Forward’s findings in a few days, but for now, here’s the great Jay Smooth with a video preview discussing one of the failings discussed in the report: media outlets’ tendency to talk about race in an individualistic fashion, rather than addressing the systems that enable it to thrive.

The Unsung Hero Of League Of Denial

By Arturo R. García

Dr. Bennet Omalu emerges as a key figure early on in PBS’ special report “League of Denial.” All images via PBS.

Advisory: This post deals in part with suicide and brain trauma

At its core, League Of Denial is a story about hurt. The special report by PBS’ Frontline traces the shameful history of the National Football League’s attempts to stymie, then co-opt research into the increasingly hard-to-hide connection between football, concussions and, ultimately, chronic traumatic encephalopathy — the disease known as CTE for short.

And while the report gives due time to the hurt experienced by not only the players affected but their families, another story emerges: how far the NFL went to hurt the career of Dr. Bennet Omalu, the Nigerian-born pathologist who first discovered the fatal link.
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On That Serena Williams/Steubenville Comment

By Arturo R. García

Serena Williams. Image via imgace.com

Tuesday afternoon portions of a new Rolling Stone profile of tennis star Serena Williams went online, but one section in particular set off red flags and trigger warnings online.

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Watch: Racialicious Contributor Tressie McMillan Cottom on Dan Rather Reports

By Arturo R. García

Always a joy to watch when our contributors get some shine in other media outlets. Latest case in point: Tressie McMillan Cottom, who has shared some great work with us covering, among other topics, Anne-Marie Slaughter and “trickle-down feminism” and young education activist Aamira Fetuga, featured on Dan Rather Reports for this story on for-profit colleges — and how far they go to make that profit.

“Can you serve public and can you serve the public good simultaneously? I don’t think we’ve answered that, as far as education is concerned,” she says.

The report also shows footage from a federal probe in which undercover agents posing as students were lied to and brushed off when they asked to speak to a financial aid expert before signing up for student loans needed to cover their tuition.

“They’ve even said to me, executives from for-profit colleges, ‘No, Tressie, we are motivating them, and a part of motivating them is to hit their pain points,’ and that’s a direct quote,” says Cottom, a former ITT counselor. “If part of motivating them is to hit their pain points, their objective says, ‘That’s fine, as long as it gets them to start school.’”

The segment is just under 15 minutes long and safe for work, but it does provide a disturbing look at what’s apparently going on behind all those smiley commercials many of us have probably seen. Congrats, Tressie!

Open Thread: The Rush To Memeify Charles Ramsey

By Arturo R. García

As both Kat Chow at Code Switch and Slate’s Aisha Harris have pointed out, it did not take long for Charles Harris to join Antoine Dodson and Sweet Brown as the latest figure to be posted on many of our friends’ Facebook pages with notes like “Best. Interview. EVER.” or some variant of “HILAR.”

Like Dodson, what got Ramsey into this spotlight was being the right person at the right time and helping three women escape from a Cleveland home where they had allegedly been held captive for ten years. Three people have since been charged in connection to the crime. But what got peoples’ attention was his interview with a local station in which he described how he ran into one of the women, Amanda Berry:

There’s a lot to unpack in not just his account of not just his interactions with the suspect, but his statement that, “I knew something was wrong when a little pretty white girl ran into a black man’s arms.” (Not to mention the reporter’s cutting the interview at precisely that point.)

But that’s not what’s coming across in many people’s reactions to the story. Take, for instance, this comment I found on a friend’s thread:

I found this funny and I don’t think he’s a joke. It’s just cool the way he told the story. He was funny…not a joke.

And even as people are (justly) applauding Ramsey’s actions, authorities are already seeking to minimize his involvement. And the story of at least one of the kidnapping victims, Michelle Knight, is also getting far less attention than the other two.

So, this story is only just beginning to be told. But for now, let’s get your take on how Ramsey has been represented.

Shade And Faith: On ESPN’s Burial Of The Jason Collins Story

By Arturo R. García

NBA center Jason Collins in an April 29 interview with ABC News.

The statement from ESPN on Tuesday was predictably, almost disappointingly dry, given what prompted it. After willingly being the media equivalent of the person at somebody else’s celebration who tries to upstage the host’s announcement, this is what the network had to say for itself:

We regret that a respectful discussion of personal viewpoints became a distraction from today’s news. ESPN is fully committed to diversity and welcomes Jason Collins’ announcement.

If you missed it, here’s what that “respectful discussion” about Collins public declaration of his sexuality, making him the first active gay player in one of the country’s more lucrative/”major” sports leagues turned into:


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The New York Times Refuses To Drop The I-Word (VIDEO)

By Andrea Plaid

You would think that 70,000 people asking for the exact same thing would change someone’s mind, right?

Not if you’re the New York Times.

On April 23, members of Applied Research Center’s Drop The I-Word (DTIW) Campaign (in full disclosure: I work as the campaign’s new manager), its partners, and its supporters gathered at the newspaper’s headquarters in Times Square with the 70,000-strong petition asking the Grey Lady to get with the times and eliminate using the word “illegals” and “illegal immigrant(s)” in its reporting of undocumented immigrants. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, co-founder of partnering organization Define American, and Fernando Chavez, son of the late Cesar Chavez, delivered the petition that was started by Chavez’s widow, Helen, at MoveOn.org (another DTIW partner). The petition’s delivery took place on the 20th anniversary of the social-justice activist’s death.

Video activist Jay Smooth captured the action and explains the context of the campaign:

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Quoted: Al-Jazeera On Coverage Of The Boston Bombing Suspects

Muslims face prejudice, but Muslims from the Caucasus face a particular kind of prejudice – the kind born of ignorance so great it perversely imbues everything with significance. “There is never interpretation, understanding and knowledge when there is no interest,” Edward Said wrote in Covering Islam , and until this week, there was so little interest in and knowledge of the Caucasus that the ambassador of the Czech Republic felt compelled to issue a press release stating that the Czech Republic is not the same as Chechnya.

Knowing nothing of the Tsarnaevs’ motives, and little about Chechens, the American media tore into Wikipedia and came back with stereotypes. The Tsarnaevs were stripped of their 21st century American life and became symbols of a distant land, forever frozen in time. Journalist Eliza Shapiro proclaimed that Tamerlan Tsarnaev was “named after a brutal warlord”, despite the fact that Tamerlan, or Timur, is an ordinary first name in the Caucasus and Central Asia. Her claim is equivalent to saying a child named Nicholas must be named in honour of ruthless Russian tsar Nicholas I – an irony apparently lost on New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, who made a similar denouncement on Twitter (to his credit, Kristof quickly retracted the comment).

Other journalists found literary allusions, or rather, illusions. “They were playing the nihilists Arkady and Bazarov in Turgenev’s Fathers and Sons ,” explained scholar Juan Cole, citing an 1862 Russian novel to explain the motives of a criminal whose Twitter account was full of American rap lyrics. One does not recall such use of literary devices to ascertain the motives of less exotic perpetrators, but who knows? Perhaps some ambitious analyst is plumbing the works of Faulkner to shed light on that Mississippi Elvis impersonator who tried to send ricin to Obama.

Still others turned to social media as a gateway to the Chechen soul. Journalist Julia Ioffe – after explaining the Tsarnaevs through Tolstoy, Pushkin, and, of course, Stalin -  cites the younger Tsarnaev’s use of the Russian website VKontakte as proof of his inability to assimilate, then ranks the significance of his personal photos.

- From “The Wrong Kind Of Caucasian,” by Sarah Kendzior