More black journalists are needed to tell stories for us, about us and by us

Jordan Sheppard | Staff Writer

On July 14, President Donald Trump went on Twitter, and in a series of tweets, he attacked four politicians of color: Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Ayanna Pressley (D-MA).

He explicitly told them to “go back” to the “broken and crime infested places from which they came.”

Later that day, The Wall Street Journal published an article classifying Trump’s tweets as being “racially charged.” Two days after that, writers for Reuters noted that the comments made by Trump were “racist,” but they had placed the word within quotes.

Many articles that were released in the following days, by various news publications, all had the same problem attempting to characterize Trump’s rhetoric. Many publications failed to call his words for what they truly were: straight-up racist.

The message behind his words was clear to many people of color, many journalists of color and, certainly, by the congresswomen.

This is why it is essential to have more black journalists and non-white journalists at the forefront of reporting on these stories of obvious bigotry.

“When I hear the words ‘racially charged’ in a statement that is racist, I feel as though the phrase downplays the seriousness of the issue of people being attacked because of the color of their skin,” Hampton University senior strategic communication major Whitney Bronson said.

The use of the phrase “racially charged” and placing quotations around the word racism indirectly conveys that while race may have played a major factor in the comments made, they weren’t racist.

Sometimes it takes overt acts of racism for white people to be able to call out racism. When it’s not as explicit, it becomes harder for them to identify something as racist. This further necessitates the presence of more black journalists and many other journalists of color in newsrooms – so this debate of what is racist and what isn’t is ceased immediately.

The lack of black journalists not only creates a problem when it comes to having a conversation about racism, it creates the problem of who is telling our stories.

The National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) has begun to call out big news networks such as CNN and CBS for their lack of diversity. NABJ President Sarah Glover released a statement on the association’s website, saying, “It is unfortunate that we are still having these discussions about diversity and inclusion.”

On major networks such as CNN, MSNBC and CBS, there aren’t many faces of color. It reaches all the way to local newsrooms across the nation.

In a 2016 data report from the American Society of News Editors, black journalists accounted for at least 5.5 percent of the 400-plus organizations that were surveyed.

“We need more black journalists and journalists of color because no one understands us the way that we do,” Scripps senior Bronson Christian said.

No one knows African-American experiences better than we know them ourselves. Therefore, no one can tell these stories better than we can.


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