Tag Archives: journalism

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.

Race + Journalism: New Data Shows Lack of Diversity in American and British Newspapers

By Arturo R. García

Newspaper stand in downtown Chicago. Image by Chris Metcalf via Flickr Creative Commons.

This week has seen two developments underscoring the lack of advancement for journalists of color in the print world — and on two continents, even.

In the U.S., as The Atlantic reported, the American Society of News Editors’ (ASNE) latest study of newsroom diversity revealed a slight decline, with POC making up 12.37 percent of editorial staffers. Consider, though, that the high bar, set seven years ago, was 13.73 percent.
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Quoted: 100 Questions Toward Cultural Competency

100 Questions About Indian Americans

Last summer at age 83, my mother downsized from a four-bedroom home to a two-bedroom apartment. She loves that her eight-unit cluster includes black, Indian, Middle Eastern and Jewish neighbors.

One day, she noted that someone — she thought it was the Indian couple upstairs — had bought a new car, and that someone had vandalized it. There was a swastika on it, she told me on the phone. She wanted to show her support or call security. She felt uncomfortable that creeps might be hanging around the complex.

When I visited her that Sunday, she showed me the car. Sure enough, there was the swastika, smack in the middle of the hood. I leaned in close and saw grains of rice in the symbol.

I stood up and used my phone to look up “Hindu, blessing, car.”

“Mom,” I told her, “when you see your neighbors, tell them that you see they have a new car and that you see that it has been blessed.”

I had heard about the Hindu blessing ceremony, or puja, at a temple as part of the work by my Michigan State University journalism class on a new guide titled “100 Questions & Answers About Indian Americans.”

The guide is the first in an MSU School of Journalism series on cultural competence. The class is called “Bias Busters.”

The idea is that, if we can answer 100 very simple questions about a culture, religion or ethnicity, we have taken the first small step toward greater understanding.

–Joe Grimm, “‘Bias Busters’ Class Publishes Cultural Competence Guide,” Maynard Institute 5/23/13

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

Uncommon Ground: Why Did The Media Treat Marathon Bomb Victims Differently Than They Do Victims Of Urban Violence?

By Guest Contributor Chris Faraone

CNN correspondents report live from Boston during the search for suspects in the Boston Marathon bombings. Photo by Chris Faraone.

It’s been nearly a full day since the marathon was bombed. A few dozen reporters from various news outlets mill around the Park Plaza Castle–a grandiose stone reception hall on the edge of Boston’s theater district that’s connected to a Smith & Wollensky steakhouse. Inside, race organizers and emergency workers have styled an impromptu relief center; runners and their families are dashing in and out, retrieving items they lost track of after two explosions ripped through Copley Square, just blocks from here. Others are collecting their medals, while a few people are discussing housing for the night with volunteers.

Outside, a cameraman from a local television station is waiting, patiently, for someone to come out wearing a race jacket or some other cue to signify the tragic dynamic. From what I can tell, the plan is for him to shoot video while his colleague–a female broadcaster dressed in business casual for street reporting–ambushes the subject at a vulnerable exiting moment. It’s wholly inappropriate, but this duo is determined. Their chance for a dramatic interview presents itself. A petite woman wielding a shiny marathon medallion exits the castle sobbing, with family members in tow. Her husband, an incredulous gaze over his face, intervenes: “Please–not now!?!”
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Voices: Roger Ebert (1942-2013)

Roger and Chaz Ebert. Image via Chicago Sun-Times.

How can I begin to tell you about Chaz? She fills my horizon, she is the great fact of my life, she has my love, she saved me from the fate of living out my life alone, which is where I seemed to be heading. If my cancer had come, and it would have, and Chaz had not been there with me, I can imagine a descent into lonely decrepitude. I was very sick. I might have vegetated in hopelessness. This woman never lost her love, and when it was necessary she forced me to want to live. She was always there believing I could do it, and her love was like a wind forcing me back from the grave.

Does that sound too dramatic? You were not there. She was there every day, visiting me in the hospital whether I knew it or not, becoming an expert on my problems and medications, researching possibilities, asking questions, making calls, even giving little Christmas and Valentine’s Day baskets to my nurses, who she knew by name.
–Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times, July 17, 2012.

He fought a courageous fight. I’ve lost the love of my life and the world has lost a visionary and a creative and generous spirit who touched so many people all over the world,” she said. “We had a lovely, lovely life together, more beautiful and epic than a movie. It had its highs and the lows, but was always experienced with good humor, grace and a deep abiding love for each other.
–Chaz Ebert, quoted in People Magazine, April 4, 2013.

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EBONY.com Shows Andrea Plaid Some Love

Racialicious.com Associate Editor Andrea Plaid

As we begin the week, let’s send up a cheer for our own Associate Editor, Andrea Plaid, for being named one of 8 Dynamic Black Women Editors in New Media by EBONY.com, alongside movers and shakers from outlets like BET, Colorlines, The Grio, and others.

The full list–and Andrea’s words on the kinds of black women editors the publishing world needs–can be found here. And don’t forget to check out her weekly look at The R’s Crush of the Week and visit the Racialicious Tumblr, which she runs with frequent updates every day. Congratulations, Andrea!

The Racialicious Links Roundup 3.14.13

When we talk about Native American mascots, we are talking about the entanglements of race and gender. It is easy to forget this, to prize race and racism over gender, sexuality, and (hetero)sexism. In fact, most media coverage and nearly every public conversation about the subject let gender slip, typically narrowing the focus to issues like intention, honor, offensiveness, and sentiments. I say this, I know this, and I even slipped at a recent symposium devoted to the use of Indianness and sport held at the National Museum of the American Indian, failing to make plain, let alone raise, the centrality of these entanglements.[1] This, then, is a reminder and a rejoinder, a small insistence on the importance of intersectionality.

My assertion should not surprise, for mascots (whether anchored in Indianness or not), like sport more generally, have long prized masculinity, celebrating physical prowess, aggression, and dominance. In the USA, moreover, sport has always pivoted around discourses of white supremacy and thus has had a place in broader struggles over race and power. The play of sport and its replay in fan banter, media coverage, corporate marketing, and so on have taken the white man as its defining and ideal subject, rendering racial others as lesser, expendable, and transgressive and women as abject, supplemental, and misplaced. Recent happenings at the NFL offer glimpses of this pattern: the rather overt interrogation of male sexuality, rumors and reportage of suspect character, and the mocking of the first female to participate. White men remain the default subject in sport worlds—actor, interpreter, and audience. And mascots reflect this.

Two Asian students reported that they were walking in the dining hall at the college’s ’53 Commons student union Wednesday when a white student “walked by them, made eye contact and verbally harassed them by speaking in gibberish seemingly meant to mock Chinese,” college spokesman Justin Anderson said in an email.

The incident is under investigation, Anderson said.

A forum for members of the Dartmouth community to discuss the incident is scheduled today from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. It is closed to the public.

The allegations come just days after racist graffiti was discovered in a campus dorm over the weekend; somebody had scrawled the “n word” on a student’s whiteboard, Dean Charlotte Johnson reported earlier this week. The college held a forum in response to the graffiti on Monday.

The Dartmouth reported that Safety and Security director Harry Kinne said during the forum part of the message “appeared to be directed towards that individual, and it was a racist statement.” (The Valley News was asked to leave that event because it was closed to college outsiders.)

I’m only telling you this to make it clear that there’s no such thing as a “view from nowhere” — that weird mainstream media orthodoxy that holds that the perfect journalist, the ideal journalist, can only discover truth by adopting a posture of invisibility, that the perfect journalist should be little more than a human recorder himself — always himself, because this perfect reporter is invariably imagined as male, usually as a middle-class white dude from an English-speaking country. Those are the only people whose race and class and gender and nationality ever get to be “invisible,” whose views get to be from “nowhere,” because they are everywhere.

That’s just one of the reasons that in-the-field investigative journalism jobs are still given mostly to white men — even if they’ve never visited the country in question and don’t speak the language, editors still trust those people to tell the story over and above local reporters. The net result of all this is that anyone who isn’t a white, heteronormative Western man has to fight doubly hard not to get stuck in an office rewriting press releases — on this, trust me.

The whole notion of the “view from nowhere,” the idea of completely objective reporting that’s supposed to be the gold standard of journalistic practice in America in particular, is of course utter hogwash. Every view comes from somewhere, and who you are as a writer, reporter, filmmaker or blogger changes how people behave in your presence. It changes what they say to you; it changes whether they speak to you at all. That’s as true for your average white dude reporter as it is for anyone else, and it matters even if you don’t care a bit about equal representation in the media industry. It matters because the fallacy of bland and faceless reporting hurts journalism, by allowing bias and prejudice to masquerade as hands-off objectivity, by giving reporters license not to be honest about how their outlook affects their output.

A recent Time article titled “The Pay Gap Is Not as Bad as You (and Sheryl Sandberg) Think” suggests that women are either somehow at fault or to blame for earning less than a male for the same job with the same skills, citing that women make poor career choices– choosing jobs that pay less than ones selected by men. Women on average earn less than men for comparable jobs – 77 cents in 2012 for every dollar a man earns. Past studies account for job choices and compare similar jobs in citing the pay differences between men and women. The reason that women are paid less than a man for equal work and experience is discriminatory and for no other reason. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, women’s salaries are outpaced by men almost everywhere from the highest paying occupations to the lowest paying occupations. Everywhere from doctors and lawyers to cashiers and lesser positions, women earn less than their male counterparts.

Even more disturbing in the pay equity debate is the fact that women of color earn even less than their white counterparts. Time ‘s article fails to discuss that women of color are at an even greater disadvantage in terms of pay equity. African-American women earn 64 cents to the dollar of what men earn. And Hispanic women make only 55 cents to every dollar a white, non-Hispanic man earns. The focus should be on those at the bottom of the ladder and not the ones with a college education. The loss in income for all women due to the pay gap means less money to support a family, with housing, food, education and health care. But for women of color, closing the pay gap is of even greater importance.

I cringed when I saw that you “dressed up as a Native American.” While some have called your decision “risqué,” I’d call it deeply offensive. Still, I was going to ignore your foolish costume until I saw a recent interview in which you shared your inspiration for Oz the Great and Powerful. In it, you compared Natives to Munchkins, and I knew then that this letter was necessary. What you’ve said and done is not only disrespectful—it’s dangerous. I hope you’ll read through this letter and think twice before once again choosing to participate in actions that preserve deeply racist convictions in popular culture.

By wearing a braided wig and donning feathers, and calling that “Native American” in a photo shoot, you’re perpetuating the lazy idea that Natives are all one and the same. Because you were born and spent your childhood in Montana, I expected more from you. Montana is home to seven reservations, where Natives from more than a dozen state or federally recognized tribes and nations reside—each with its own history, culture and language.

The United States federally recognizes and has established government-to-government ties with nearly 600 Native nations. And while these nations share in common that they constitute the people who descend from the continent’s original inhabitants, they are otherwise unique (and not one of those nations wears braided wigs and feathers as if to represent their people). By dressing up as an imaginary Native, you’re working to conceal both the history and the presence of real ones.

Even decades after San Francisco’s late disco icon Sylvester made the entire world feel mighty real, he’s still capable of pulling in observers with his sheer magnetism. In fact, he was the initial draw for curator Byron Mason when he volunteered to put together the exhibition “Legendary: African American GLBT Past Meets Present” for the GLBT Historical Society‘s museum.

“I didn’t know much about the historical society, but I knew they had some of Sylvester’s estate,” says activist Mason, 40, who also works at the Center for AIDS Prevention Studies at UCSF as the research partnerships director. “I thought to myself, ‘If I could see some of his stuff, that would make the exhibit well worth it.’ ”

Sylvester, who died in 1988 at 41 of AIDS-related illness, does take center stage in the small, artifact-laden display, in the form of one of his sequined, custom-made performance ensembles – the cloak bedazzled with burgundy pinwheel fireworks, the beret bedecked with jaunty feathers.