By Rebekah Spicuglia
NEW YORK (Jan. 23, 2014) — A new report released by Race Forward: The Center for Racial Justice Innovation aims to reshape and reform the way we talk about race and racism in our country.
“Moving the Race Conversation Forward” includes a content analysis of mainstream media, an overview of harmful racial discourse practices, recommendations, five powerful case studies and profiles of five successful campaigns, and an accompanying video.
Part One of the report features a content analysis of mainstream media in 2013, finding that two-thirds of race-focused media coverage fails to consider how systemic racism factors into the story, instead typically focusing upon racial slurs and other types of personal prejudice and individual-level racism.
“We looked at nearly 1,200 articles and transcripts from the highest circulation newspapers and cable TV outlets across the country to better understand the portrait that mainstream media paints of contemporary racism,” said Race Forward research director Dominique Apollon. “The majority of coverage gives readers the impression that racism is simply a personal failing, or even worse, that racism is no longer a problem at all.”
Seven harmful racial discourse practices are identified, which reinforce the common misconception that racism is simply a problem of rare, isolated, individual attitudes and actions:
• Individualizing Racism – concentration attention on thoughts or acts of personal prejudice
• Falsely Equating Incomparable Acts – drawing a parallel between an act or expression of racial bias from whites and people of color, without taking power dynamics into account, encouraging a blanket standard of “colorblindness”
• Diverting From Race – asserting that other social identities (such as class, gender, sexual orientation) are the real determining factors behind social inequity, inhibiting an understanding of compounding effects
• Portraying Government as Overreaching – depicting government efforts to promote racial equity as misguided, unnecessary, or improper
• Prioritizing (Policy) Intent over Impact – focusing on intention and far less on the daily impact on people and communities of color
• Condemning Through Coded Language – substituting racial identity with seemingly race-neutral terms
• Silencing History – omitting, dismissing, or deliberately re-writing history
Part Two of “Moving the Race Conversation Forward” provides case studies and profiles of recent interventions and initiatives advanced by the racial justice field to challenge mainstream discussions of race and racism, and the negative policy impacts that dominant frames and narratives have on people of color. They include: Drop the I-Word, Migration is Beautiful, ALEC on the Run, Fruitvale Station, and Ending the Schoolhouse-to-Jailhouse Track.
The accompanying video, produced by Jay Smooth, breaks down the report in engaging, accessible ways. Smooth is the founder of New York’s longest running hip-hop radio show, WBAI’s Underground Railroad, and Race Forward Video & Multimedia Producer.
Race Forward Executive Director Rinku Sen and Research Director Dom Apollon are available for interview. For media requests or more information, please contact [email protected]
Race Forward advances racial justice through research, media and practice. Founded in 1981, Race Forward brings systemic analysis and an innovative approach to complex race issues to help people take effective action toward racial equity. Race Forward publishes the daily news site Colorlines and presents Facing Race, the country’s largest multiracial conference on racial justice.
Race Forward was formerly known as the Applied Research Center.