BBC Journalist Finds Colorism Alive, Well in U.S.

A black British journalist traveled to the United States and found that African Americans are still color-struck, buying into European beauty standards that put dark-skinned women at a disadvantage.


However, Valley Fontaine, a BBC journalist who is dark-skinned, found that the presence of Michelle Obama as first lady went a long way toward boosting the self-esteem of dark-skinned African American women.

Fontaine’s radio documentary, “Michelle Obama: Black Like Me,” keyed to Valentine’s Day, aired this week and last on public radio stations. Not everyone will agree with its conclusions; it seems to deny that the “black is beautiful” movement of the 1960s and 1970s changed attitudes.


Interviewees included singer India.Arie and Washington Post fashion critic Robin Givhan. After recording black women recounting their experiences with hurtful prejudices, the hour-long piece concluded by naming white supremacy as the real villain. The phenomenon is worldwide, it said.

“In terms of reaction, to me personally it has only been positive,” Fontaine told Journal-isms by email. “But I did two Facebook Lives (video) for the BBC where we discussed elements from the documentary and the reaction went from one extreme to the other.”


The BBC offered this description of the piece:

“In 2008, Valley Fontaine was watching the Democratic National Convention on television with a couple of girlfriends in a London pub, when she saw Michelle Obama for the first time. What struck Valley was not Michelle Obama’s words, but her looks — she was a darker-skinned woman married to a lighter-skinned man. In the world of entertainment, sports and celebrity culture, the trend is usually that black men pair with women who are lighter skinned, who have more European attributes.


“The roots of these preferences are long standing. Right after abolition, African Americans in the United States used a barometer to admit lighter skinned people into certain institutions and clubs, excluding their darker skinned peers. Today, this prejudice — ‘colourism’ — lingers.

“For darker skinned black women, finding value and acceptance is often harder when it comes to all spectrums of life, from employment to dating. But could Michelle Obama’s powerful presence change colourism’s contradictions? Could she change the way darker-skinned black women and girls view beauty, power and access to opportunity in their own skin? Valley travelled to the US to explore the history of colourism, its persistence, and the ways it affects women’s lives today.”


Associated Press: Lawsuit: Black cop told to style hair like white officer’s

Ronald Hall, Who counts as black? (Feb. 16)

Today’s Diversity Issues Sound Familiar

If the 1960s epitomized the modern civil right movements, then the 1980s were the golden age of affirmative action,Paul Delaney, a retired New York Times senior editor, wrote Wednesday for Columbia Journalism Review.


“In the wake of deadly riots and widespread civil disobedience that rocked urban America into near revolution in the earlier decade, diversity — nee affirmative action, integration, desegregation — was seen as the workplace answer to the problems.


“Whether from guilt, fear or earnest efforts to correct the damage wreaked by centuries of racism, Americans — well, some of them — went on a tear to repair, even repent. All branches of the federal government, and a few state and local governments, participated in the efforts to turn around the past.

“Some major industries and business leaders joined the battle. My own chosen profession, journalism, became intimately involved, chastised over how media could cover the issue, point finger at others, yet not clean their own house. My career at The New York Times switched from reporting and editing to helping the company to become less white and more inclusive.


“And it worked. For a while.”. . . I never dreamed my chosen profession would be confronting the exact same racial issues in the 21st century as it did in mid-20th century and earlier periods. . . .”

George Abraham, Policy Options, Montreal: Privileging diversity in Canadian newsrooms (Feb. 2)


Jay J. Van Bavel and Tessa V. West, Wall Street Journal: Seven Steps to Reduce Bias in Hiring

Ryan Shepard, the Eagle, American University: Where are the Black editors?

Carlett Spike, CJR: 4 steps newsrooms are taking to boost diversity

Who’s the ‘We’ in ‘We Made This Country?’

In today’s White House press briefing, April D. Ryan, White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief for American Urban Radio Networks, asked White House press secretary Sean Spicer about the lessons that President Trump may have taken from his visit Tuesday to the National Museum of African American History and Culture,” Erik Wemple wrote Tuesday for the Washington Post. “She asked:

“ ‘What did the president gain from his tour today? You talked about where he visited, the exhibits that he visited. Did he also visit slavery? And the reason why I’m asking is, is because when he was candidate Trump, he said things like “we made this country,” meaning white America, and not necessarily black. Did he gain —’


“Not appearing terribly pleased with the premise, Spicer responded, ‘I don’t know why you would say that. What do you mean?’ In turn, Ryan said, ‘No, no, no, he said that. I heard him say that.’ With that, Spicer ventured an explanation of the president’s ‘eye-opening’ tour of the museum.

“The exchange left folks wondering precisely what material Ryan was sourcing for her claim about the president. Over at Mediaite, Alex Griswold put this question in a headline: ‘April Ryan Accuses Trump of Saying White People Made America. What Is She Talking About?’


“So the Erik Wemple Blog rang her up. She cited remarks that candidate Trump made in mid-March 2016, such as this quote from a Ohio rally: ‘We’re people that work very hard. We’re people who’ve built this country and made this country great. And we’re all together and we want to get along with everybody, but when they have organized, professionally staged wise guys, we’ve got to fight back, we’ve got to fight back.’ . . .”

Robin Abcarian, Los Angeles Times: President Trump is a ‘world class narcissist,’ but he’s not mentally ill, says the psychiatrist who helped define narcissism


Daniel J. Levitin, Boston Globe: Forget the tax returns; show me his brain scans

Tony Norman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: The awakening effect of a Trump reality

E.R. Shipp, Baltimore Sun: Fixing the fixable under Trump

Lee Siegel, Columbia Journalism Review: Avoiding questions about Trump’s mental health is a betrayal of public trust


Mychal Denzel Smith, New York Times: Why Donald Trump Doesn’t Understand Black Life

Erik Wemple, Washington Post: Trump administration rule on anonymous sources: Okay for us, not so okay for you


How to Tell Rumor From Fact: A Refresher

With cries of ‘fake news’ coming from all sides, schools are stepping up — teaching media literacy to help students distinguish rumor from fact, hoax from reality,” Margaret Sullivan wrote Tuesday for the Washington Post.


“As President Trump’s bizarre suggestion of a recent terrorist attack in Sweden proved last weekend, he needs a crash course.

“We’re here to help. . .”

Sullivan also wrote, “So let’s review some basics. . . .”


‘Your Heroes Are Not Necessarily Our Heroes’

There was once a painting by a young Indian woman that was exhibited at an Oklahoma art show,” Native Sun News Today editorialized on Feb. 15. “The title of her painting was ‘Your heroes are not necessarily our heroes’ and the painting advised white people to try to see that Indians do not accept all of their heroes as our heroes.


“This painting is especially poignant this year as America celebrates [Presidents] Day, a day that honors all of America’s past presidents.

“There are four faces of past presidents carved in the side of a hill in the Sacred He Sapa (Black Hills). As we have done in the past it is important that some of the warts on those faces be known. . . .”


Editorial, News & Observer, Raleigh, N.C.: On Presidents’ Day, may Trump contemplate what it means to be presidential

Dissenters Held as Most Pipeline Protesters Leave

Most of the Dakota Access pipeline opponents abandoned their protest camp Wednesday ahead of a government deadline to get off the federal land, and authorities moved to arrest some who defied the order in a final show of dissent,” Blake Nicholson and James MacPherson reported Wednesday for the Associated Press.


“The camp has been home to demonstrators for nearly a year as they tried to thwart construction of the pipeline. Many of the protesters left peacefully, but police made some arrests two hours after the deadline.

“Earlier in the day, some of the last remnants of the camp went up in flames when occupants set fire to makeshift wooden housing as part of a leaving ceremony. . . .”


Society of Professional Journalists: Groups urge officials to allow journalists to do their work at Standing Rock

Sandy Tolan, Daily Beast: Taxpayer-Funded Horror at Standing Rock


To Its ‘Shame,’ L.A. Times Recalls Internment

Seventy-five years ago today, President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, declaring parts of the United States to be military zones from which particular groups of people could be ‘excluded’ for security reasons,(accessible via search engine) the Los Angeles Times editorialized Sunday.


“The order set the stage for the relocation and internment, beginning the following month, of 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry, most of whom were American citizens living on the West Coast.

“To our lasting shame, here’s what The Times editorial page had to say about the matter at the time:

“ ‘This is war. And in wartime, the preservation of the nation becomes the first duty. Everything must be subordinated to that. Every necessary precaution must be taken to insure reasonable safety from spies and saboteurs so that our armed forces can function adequately and our industrial machinery may continue to work free from peril.’


“And this:

“ ‘The time has come to realize that the rigors of war demand proper detention of Japanese and their immediate removal from the most acute danger spots. It is not a pleasant task. But it must be done and done now. There is no safe alternative.’ . . .”


Jenny J. Chen, NPR “Code Switch”: First-Ever Tracker Of Hate Crimes Against Asian-Americans Launched

John Smelcer, NPR “Code Switch”: The Other WWII American-Internment Atrocity

Short Takes


A 7-year-old Lester Holt fan whose local news interview went viral got to meet the ‘NBC Nightly News’ anchor Tuesday at NBC News headquarters in New York,” Sarah Amer reported for NBC.

In the foreign reporting category of the George Polk Awards in Journalism for 2016, announced on Sunday, Nicholas Casey and Meridith Kohut of the New York Times won for their portrayal of the effects of Venezuela’s economic crisis on public health, Winnie Hu reported for the Times. Also, the sports reporting award went to Rebecca R. Ruiz of the Times “for revealing that a Russian state-run doping program for athletes had swapped test samples and engaged in a cloak-and-dagger scheme at the 2014 Winter Olympics. . . .”


Four members of the National Association of Black Journalists and “several members of the NBC News leadership team” met for about 90 minutes on Feb. 15 to discuss diversity issues, as promised in the wake of the departure of “Today” co-host Tamron Hall three weeks ago. An NBC spokesman said Craig Robinson, executive vice president and chief diversity officer for NBCUniversal was present. Drew Berry, executive consultant for NABJ, told Journal-isms that he could not say which NABJ members attended because the meeting was “off the record,” but that more sessions are planned. “Face-to-face meetings are also on the horizon with other media companies,” NABJ said on its website.

Though the electorate is divided, both Republicans and Democrats polled in a new survey said they support federal funding for public television . . .” April Simpson reported Friday for


Public radio’s “The Takeaway” “has embarked on a series of road trips, traveling to cities and towns across the country where [President] Trump won handily,” Arwa Gunja, executive producer of the show, wrote Tuesday for “Our goal is to speak with as many Trump supporters as we can . . . .”

NPR has “created an entirely new initiative to cover possible conflicts of interest” of President Trump,” Melody Kramer reported Monday for the Poynter Institute. “They tapped veteran business editor Marilyn Geewax to lead the Conflicts Team, which has three full-time staffers and an intern. . . .”


“Appearing on Fox News’s Outnumbered on Friday, former United Nations ambassador John Bolton blasted NBC’s Chuck Todd for taking to Twitter on Thursday to attack President Trump’s ‘un-American’ criticism of the media during a press conference,” Kyle Drennen reported Friday for Host Harris Faulkner agreed with Bolton, saying, “Preach it.”

Gary Stokes, president and general manager of KSPS Public Television in Spokane, Wash., discussed discussed “Downton Abbey,” the Canadian dollar and rabbit ears Sunday with Michael Guilfoil of the Spokesman-Review as the station celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.


Reporters John Eligon and Rachel Swarns of the New York Times’ “Race/Related” newsletter are conducting Facebook Live chats every Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET. “Most recently, they discussed whether American institutions and the government should pay reparations to the descendants of enslaved African-Americans,” the Times said Sunday.


Morning meteorologist Mike Woods of New York’s WNYW-TV was ranked first in a BuzzFeed listing of the world’s 50 hottest news anchors. “What makes him hot: Sometimes he does the weather forecast shirtless,” Matt Stopera reported Friday for BuzzFeed.

“San Bernardino Community College District announced today that Alfredo Cruz, general manager of KVCR — Inland Southern California’s National Public Radio (NPR) and Public Broadcast[ing] System (PBS) station — will not seek to renew his contract when it expires on June 30,” the Highland (Calif.) Community News reported Saturday. Cruz “led the broadcast expansion of First Nations Experience (FNX), the first and only nationally distributed television channel exclusively devoted to Native American and World Indigenous content, through a partnership with the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians. . . .”


In Sudan, journalist Shamail Alnour is being accused of apostasy for an article explaining how condoms can help stem the rising cases of HIV/AIDS infections in the predominantly Muslim state, Mohammed Amin reported Saturday for the East African in Nairobi, Kenya. “The crime is punishable by a death sentence in Sudan. . . .” Reporters Without Borders is among the journalist groups coming to her defense.

Politicians wielding a toxic, dehumanizing ‘us vs them’ rhetoric are creating a more divided and dangerous world,” Amnesty International said Tuesday as it launched its annual assessment of human rights around the world.


“He’s the only columnist consistently writing about issues pertaining to journalism and diversity. He has quite a following, and he has helped shape coverage. . . .”


— The late Dori J. Maynard, left, then president of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, speaking in 2008. She commissioned “Journal-isms” as an online column in 2002. Dori is shown with Arlene Notoro Morgan, now assistant dean for external affairs at Temple University’s School of Media and Communication. She is presenting Prince with a “Let’s Do It Better Award” at Columbia University in 2007. (Credit: Rebecca Castillo/Columbia University)

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Richard Prince’s Journal-isms originates from Washington. It began in print before most of us knew what the internet was, and it would like to be referred to as a “column.” Any views expressed in the column are those of the person or organization quoted and not those of any other entity.


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