How Race-Studies Scholars Respond to Haters

Academics shared responses to criticisms about their focus on race. Top, from left: Siobhan Brooks Mark Naison, Kirsten West Savali. Bottom: Marlon M. Bailey, Camille Zubrinsky Charles, Matthew Pratt Guterl.
Chronicle of Higher Education

Race-Studies Scholars Share Their Responses to the Haters

Journalists of color are often accused by their readers, viewers, listeners — and sometimes editors — of devoting too much attention to race, even when race isn't their subject. Not surprisingly, a similar dynamic takes place in academia, but also includes white professors who think race is a topic deserving their attention.


Stacey Patton, senior enterprise reporter at the Chronicle of Higher Education, wrote about the haters on Friday:

"Graduate school prepares students for a range of intellectual and professional endeavors. Unfortunately, responding to scholarly insults and academic shade-throwing isn't one of them.

"But for scholars in the fields of race and ethnic studies — including those who work outside the ivory tower — dealing with snide questions, nasty comments, and occasional name-calling is just part of the job description. Over the years, these academics have repeatedly told me that their work is uniquely misunderstood and dismissed by students, fellow faculty, and the general public. The election of Barack Obama, some say, has only made it tougher to defend ethnic studies: Amid declarations of a 'post-racial' America, how do you explain why you study and write about racism?

"Nearly every race-studies scholar — white professors included — can identify a phrase that drives them uniquely nuts: 'Stop playing the race card.' 'What about white studies?' 'Racism is no longer an issue. Why are you beating a dead horse?'

"Some writers and scholars say they feel inclined to track haters down to deliver custom curse-outs. Others offer a simple 'Kanye shrug' and keep moving. Still others say they feel compelled to offer thoughtful responses because they view insensitive questions as teachable moments. Those who take this tactic say they are willing to hand out maps, but they refuse to be racial tour guides.

" 'I promise you, if I had a quarter for every time some fool said, "Why do you make everything about race?" in emails or comments or letters to various publications I've written for in my 20-year career, several dorms full of college students would have laundry money for a year,' says Denene Millner, an Atlanta-based journalist and editor whose work explores the intersections of parenting and race in America.


"So is there a right way to answer this kind of skepticism? I asked almost two-dozen writers and scholars to share the questions or comments they hear most often, and to offer some advice on how graduate students and junior faculty in race and ethnic studies can respond.

"Here are some highlights: . . ."

People of Color Own 3 Percemt of Commercial TV Stations

"Racial minorities owned 41 of the U.S.'s 1,386 full-power commercial TV stations in 2013, up 32% from the 31 they owned in 2011 — but only nine of those stations were owned by African Americans during 2013, down 18% from the 11 they owned two years previously, according to a study [PDF] of station ownership released by the FCC Friday," Doug Halonen reported Friday for TVNewsCheck.


"Whites owned 1,070 full-power commercial TV stations in 2013, up 14% from the 935 they owned in 2011.

"The FCC report also found that Asians owned 19 full-power TV stations in 2013, up 73% from the 11 they owned in 2011. Hispanics or Latinos owned 42 full power TV stations in 2013, up 8% from the 39 they owned in 2011, the report said. . . ."


"Women, according to the report, owned 87 of the full-power commercial stations in 2013, down 4% from the 91 they owned in 2011.

"David Honig, president of the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council, told TVNewsCheck that the 2013 numbers appeared similar to those from 2011. 'This is not surprising since the FCC has refused year after year to rule on almost any of the comprehensive, race-neutral diversity proposals that have been placed before it over the last 10 years,' Honig said. . . ."


The FCC did not name the stations.

Tamron Hall Wears Natural Hair for First Time on Today

"Let's face it: Tamron Hall always looks amazing," Amy DiLuna wrote Friday for NBC-TV's "Today" show. "So on Friday, for the first time ever, when she wore her natural hair on air, she was gorgeous as always.


" 'It looks great,' said Al Roker.

" 'Every two seconds there's a whole thing about your hair, what you're wearing. You rock,' said Carson Daly, referencing the chatter on #OrangeRoom."


DiLuna posted a string of tweets from fellow journalists, including Savannah Guthrie and Gwen Ifill, and from viewers.

They followed Hall's own tweets: "Keeping my promise this morning to the Queen of #naturalhair @CurlyNikki This morning on @TODAYshow no flat iron no heat no chemicals :)" and "I was out with @BearGrylls until midnight living in the wild. Got 4hrs of sleep simply too [tired] to blow dry and flat iron my hair."


"Reaction in the studio and elsewhere can be summed up pretty easily: The world is loving on her look," DiLuna wrote.

In a quick viewer survey at the end of the show, approvals using the hashtag #hairtoday, topped disapprovals using #gonetomorrow, 77 to 23.


"Good Hair" on the TV News Set (Oct. 6, 2009)

Tracie Powell, Why NBC's Tamron Hall's Hair Is News

Benjamin Chavis Named Interim CEO of Black-Press Group

"Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. a global business leader, educator, and longtime civil rights activist, was elected interim president and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association at the group’s annual meeting here Wednesday, NNPA Chairman Cloves Campbell has announced," the trade association of black press publishers announced Thursday from Portland, Ore.


Chavis was a member of the Wilmington 10, activists pardoned in 2012 after being falsely convicted and imprisoned in connection with a racial disturbance in Wilmington, N.C., in 1971.

However, as Bob Geary wrote about Chavis in February for Indy Week in Durham, N.C., "he was fired as national director of the NAACP in 1994 and, after joining the Nation of Islam and serving as second-in-command to its leader, the notorious Louis Farrakhan, left that position under a cloud too. In each job, a female associate accused Chavis of sexual harassment. Chavis denied their charges, but each woman was paid — by the NAACP and NOI — to settle her claims."


More recently, in his zeal to defend the black press, Chavis wrote a column for NNPA denouncing this columnist and Howard University Professor Clint Wilson II over a column about Wilson's recent book, "Whither the Black Press?: Glorious Past, Uncertain Future." Chavis falsely assumed that this columnist wrote a headline he criticized. Wilson wrote that either Chavis had not read his book or was guilty of faulty leaps in logic.

Cash Michaels, staff writer and columnist for the Wilmington (N.C.) Journal, led the press crusade to pardon the Wilmington 10 and said he had supported Chavis' election to the NNPA position.


"Ben and i had talked about it [for] weeks, and I agreed that he could make a real difference," Michaels told Journal-isms by email. "Keep in mind that he was already a columnist for the NNPA, and had worked in the Black Press as a teenager with the Carolina Times in Durham. After the Wilmington Ten incident, Ben wrote op-eds in the Wilmington Journal. So yes, i'm looking forward to some exciting things under Ben's leadership, one of them being the marketing of our NNPA documentary, 'Pardons of innocence: The Wilmington Ten.' "

The NNPA story also said, "Chavis is president of Education Online Services Corporation (EOServe Corp.), the premier provider of online higher education for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). He is also president, CEO and Co-Founder with Russell Simmons of the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network (HSAN), the world's largest coalition of hip-hop artists and recording industry executives. He serves on numerous boards, including the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO)."


William Tompkins, named in 2012 to the post of NNPA president and CEO after a national search, told Journal-isms this month he had parted ways with NNPA after the board decided he was costing too much money.

Tompkins has been working since May 7 as vice president of advertising and marketing at the Philadelphia Tribune.


Benjamin F. Chavis Jr., National Newspaper Publishers Association: U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit Long Overdue

National Newspaper Publishers Association: St. Louis American Wins NNPA Best Newspaper Award


World Cup Ratings Put Games Among Elite Sports Telecasts

"The World Cup is enjoying a surge in TV ratings thanks to excitement surrounding the U.S. team's strong performance, putting the tournament among the elite telecasts in all of sports," Amol Sharma, Keach Hagey and Laura Stevens wrote Friday for the Wall Street Journal. "But can soccer sustain its burst in popularity in the U.S.?


"The evidence suggests that some skepticism is in order.

"The U.S. lost 1-0 on Thursday to Germany, but still advanced to the knockout stage of the tournament, having survived this year's Group of Death.


"The surprising run has made for captivating television. Ratings for the Germany match weren't available on Thursday, but it is clear already that this year's telecasts are setting records. The U.S. match versus Portugal on Sunday wasn't just the highest-rated soccer game ever in the U.S. The combined viewership of the game was 24.7 million between ESPN and Univision, making it the most-viewed sporting event of the year so far, excluding American football, a perennial ratings juggernaut. . . ."

FIFA: Attendance in FIFA's Global Stadium reaches 230 million

Don Lemon, Blue Eyes and White Balls — Why Are We Tripping?

Brenda Salinas, NPR "Code Switch": Latinos Pledge Allegiance To More Than One Soccer Team


John Smallwood, Philadelphia Daily News: Make no mistake: USA earned spot

Univision President Speaks Out on Child Refugees

"Randy Falco, president of Spanish-language net Univision, is calling on the U.S. government to get private and public groups together to help address the humanitarian crisis of Central American children — reportedly thousands — seeking refuge in the U.S., saying the government treatment of the issue and the refugees 'does not represent our America,' " John Eggerton reported Friday for Multichannel News.


"Falco did not say what Univision's role in the public/private partnership could be, but a source on background said that could include both PSAs [public service announcements] and help coordinating with the Red Cross and others to get information to families about how to connect with their loved ones, as the media would do with a natural disaster. . . ."

Nelson Balido, Fox News Latino: Failed Immigration Policy Rears Its Ugly Head As Minors Stream Across Border


Ruben Navarrette Jr., Washington Post Writers Group: How to define an American

Geraldo Rivera, Fox News Latino: Suffer The Little Children (June 20)

Rick Sanchez, Fox News Latino: The Amnesty Excuse

Bob Ray Sanders, Star-Telegram, Fort Worth, Texas: Show of force won't stop influx of immigrant children (June 21)


Mona Zhang, mediabistro: Why Jose Antonio Vargas Brought 'Documented' to CNN

Foreign-Language Press Thrives; Readers May Not Be Online

"There are close to a hundred ethnic newspapers in New York City with a combined readership of 2.94 million, almost a third of the city's total population, according to the New York Press Association," Devjyot Ghoshal wrote Thursday for the Atlantic.


"Together this collection of monthly, weekly, and daily newspapers are part of a larger ecosystem: More than 270 community and ethnic publications in 36 languages that are published in New York. In the last two years alone, at least 21 new ethnic newspapers have been launched. In contrast, the number of daily newspapers in the United States has dropped from 1,480 in 2000 to 1,382 in 2011.

"But these small publications, often run out of basements . . . are surviving — and occasionally even thriving, riding the coattails of the city's burgeoning immigrant population. More than 3 million of New York's 8.2 million residents are foreign-born, the city's planning department estimates — the highest percentage of immigrants since the European influx of the 1930s.


Ghoshal also wrote, "A 2005 study by Bendixen & Associates, 'The Ethnic Media in America: The Giant Hidden in Plain Sight,' claimed that almost a quarter of America's population read the ethnic press. Of this, 29 million were primary consumers, alongside another 22 million secondary consumers that 'prefer mainstream media but access ethnic media on a regular basis.'

"Two decades of rapid growth in immigration — 13.2 million new arrivals between 1990 and 2000, and 14 million from 2000 to 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau — have strengthened the ethnic press market. . . .


"The foreign-language ethnic press is reaching an audience that isn't necessarily online and doesn't always speak English. . . ."

42 Percent of Top Companies Link Compensation to Diversity Goals

"It's official. White men dominate Silicon Valley," Thomas Lee wrote Friday for the San Francisco Chronicle.


"While that's not exactly revelatory, Google, Facebook, Yahoo and LinkedIn all recently issued reports that say they need more women and minorities in the workforce.

" 'Our intent was to start a dialogue in the industry,' Prasad Setty, Google's vice president of people analytics and compensation, recently told me at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School in San Francisco. 'We can't do this alone. How do we get a girl in middle school interested in coding?'


"Shortly after our conversation, the company said it will donate $50 million to encourage women to pursue the field.

"That might sound like a significant commitment, but if these tech giants really care about employees' gender and race (and by calling attention to their own shortcomings, I assume they do), then they should put real skin in the game by linking executive compensation to diversity goals. . . ."


Lee also wrote, "Linking pay to diversity is not as audacious as it sounds. Verizon, Dell, Coca-Cola and Kraft base top managers' pay on diversity initiatives, as do several hospitals and nonprofits. According to a report last year by Calvert Investments, 42 percent of the companies in the Standard & Poor's 100 index link executive compensation to diversity goals. . . ."

As noted earlier in this column, tying compensation to progress on diversity goals was a strategy successfully used by the late Al Neuharth, CEO of the Gannett Co., and supported by Gary Knell, former CEO and president of NPR.


However, Jarl Mohn, a veteran media executive and investor who is NPR's incoming leader, disagreed with the idea. "I'm doing this job not for the money. I haven't made this little money for 25 or 30 years," he told Journal-isms last month. Money "is not why people work there. I don't think people are [incentivized] to change their behavior for money."

Network News Says "Billionaire" 4 Times More Than "Poverty"

"Poverty continues to be a pressing social problem — but it's hardly mentioned on the network newscasts, according to a new study," the media watch group Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting said Thursday.


"The study looks at ABC World News, CBS Evening News and NBC Nightly News for a 14-month period (1/1/13-2/28/14) in the wake of the 2012 elections. FAIR examined stories in the Nexis news database that included and discussed the terms 'poverty,' 'low income,' 'food stamps,' 'welfare' or 'homeless.'

"According to the study:

"An average of just 2.7 seconds per 22-minute nightly news program was devoted to segments where poverty was mentioned.


"Only 23 segments discussing poverty appeared over the 14-month study period.

"Less than half of the 54 segment sources — 22 — were people personally affected by poverty. That means, on average, someone affected by poverty appeared on any nightly news show only once every 20 days.


"Over the same period, the network news shows aired almost four times as many stories, 82, that included the term 'billionaire.'

"ABC discussed poverty in just three stories in the 14-month period. . . ."

The June 1 FAIR report noted, "There are 482 billionaires in the US, compared to nearly 50 million living in poverty, according to Census standards, which some scholars say greatly undercount the poor . . ."


Short Takes

Wendell Smith, a sports writer and civil rights advocate who was widely credited for playing an integral role in the integration of Major League Baseball, was honored posthumously Friday with the prestigious Red Smith Award by the Associated Press Sports Editors at its annual conference in Arlington, Va. Presenter Larry Lester, a Negro Leagues baseball researcher, author and lecturer who co-founded the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, accepted the award on behalf of Smith's family. About 150 attended the conference, APSE President Tim Stephens told Journal-isms.


"Journal-isms" was named one of "Our 15 Most Share-Worthy Black Blogs and Sites" Friday by NewsOne. Under "Why You Should Bookmark," the news outlet said, "The comings, goings, and power moves of media professionals of color – reported out the old-school way — interest you."

"Hispanic activists like to couch their fight for immigration reform in the language of the African-American civil rights movement," Esther J. Cepeda wrote Wednesday for the Washington Post Writers Group. Discussing Ta-Nehisi Coates' Atlantic magazine essay on reparations for blacks, she added, "Make no mistake: Hispanics have historically experienced much bigotry, roadblocks and flat-out cruelty. But it doesn't help to compare or piggyback those injuries onto a discussion about the nature of black racial discrimination that deserves what Coates calls an 'airing of family secrets, a settling with old ghosts.' This makes sense — Coates notes America won't truly understand its diverse population until it has had an honest reckoning with its original sin of slavery." Meanwhile, Coates continued his bibliography for readers interested in the topic.


"On June 25, when 18 journalists from Ethiopia's state-run Oromia Radio and Television Organization (ORTO) arrived to start their scheduled shifts, they learned their employment had been terminated 'with orders from the higher ups,' " Mohammed Ademo reported Friday for Columbia Journalism Review. "The quiet dismissal of some 10 percent of the station's journalists underscores the country's further descent into total media blackout. The firing of dissenting journalists is hardly surprising; the ruling party controls almost all television and radio stations in the country. . . ."

"Isabel González Whitaker, former features editor at InStyle, has been named deputy editor of Billboard magazine, the magazine announced on Thursday. The announcement also said, "González Whitaker, whose writing has appeared in numerous publications including The New York Times and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, was previously the editor-in-chief of Tu Vida/Your Life magazine, and also held positions at Teen People and Atlanta CityMag."


Vladimir Duthiers has been named a CBS News correspondent, CBS announced on Thursday. "Duthiers joins CBS News from CNN, where he was an international correspondent based in Lagos, Nigeria. While in the region, he has covered the ongoing military intervention in Mali, the terrorist attack on the Amenas gas plant in Algeria, the trial and sentencing of the former Liberian warlord Charles Taylor at the [International Criminal Court] in Sierra Leone, the crash of Dana Air flight 992 and President Barack Obama's visit to Senegal." After the 2010 Haitian earthquake, Duthiers, 40, went to to the devastated nation to find his family's crypt where, among others, the grandparents he never knew were buried.

"Chicago magazine Publisher and General Manager Richard Gamble is leaving to take a position as senior vice president at the Chicago Zoological Society, which operates the Brookfield Zoo, according to sources familiar with the departure," Lynne Marek reported Thursday for Crain's Chicago Business. 


Journalists Danyel Smith and Elliott Wilson, who launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $30,000 to create HRDCVR, a hardcover, book-shaped culture magazine, raised $67,230 by Friday's deadline from 516 backers.

"In the United States today, the names Apache, Comanche, Chinook, Lakota, Cheyenne and Kiowa apply not only to Indian tribes but also to military helicopters," Simon Waxman wrote Thursday in the Washington Post. "Add in the Black Hawk, named for a leader of the Sauk tribe. Then there is the Tomahawk, a low-altitude missile, and a drone named for an Indian chief, Gray Eagle. Operation Geronimo was the end of Osama bin Laden. Why do we name our battles and weapons after people we have vanquished? For the same reason the Washington team is the Redskins and my hometown Red Sox go to Cleveland to play the Indians and to Atlanta to play the Braves: because the myth of the worthy native adversary is more palatable than the reality — the conquered tribes of this land were not rivals but victims, cheated and impossibly outgunned. . . ." In 2011, some Native Americans were outraged by use of the name of the legendary Apache leader Geronimo as a secret code word during the raid that killed bin Laden.


"Cliff Edwards, a former business reporter at Bloomberg News who covered Netflix, is now its director of corporate communications and technology," Chris Roush reported Thursday for Talking Biz News. "Previously, he was a correspondent in BusinessWeek's San Francisco bureau, where he covered Intel, the semiconductor industry, handheld- and consumer-electronics companies. . . ."

"Daniel Alarcón, an accomplished investigative journalist and novelist, has been named Assistant Professor of Broadcast Journalism," Columbia Journalism School announced on Wednesday. It also said, "Alarcón began working as a journalist in 2004, first in print for Latin American outlets such as Etiqueta Negra, and later for American and European publications including Harper’s, The New York Times Magazine, El País, and Granta, where he was named a Contributing Editor in 2010. In 2012, he co-founded Radio Ambulante, a groundbreaking Spanish-language podcast, the first of its kind covering Latin America with long-form narrative radio journalism. . . ."


"A blog is the unedited voice of a person," Dave Winer wrote Friday for Scripting News, continuing the debate over the appropriate use of the term. "The lack of editing is central, because it's one person who's responsible for every word. When you click the Publish button you should feel butterflies, at least sometimes, because there's no one to pass the buck to. If someone else wrote the headline, or did a copy edit, or even reviewed what you wrote and critiqued it before it went out, it's still writing, but it is not a blog. I wrote that in 2003. Later, when reporters started erroneously claiming to be blogging, I tried to explain that bloggers are their sources, going directly to the readers. Blogging doesn't eliminate what reporters do, but it changes it. . . . "

In Somalia, "Haatuf, a Somali-language newspaper based in Hargeisa, the capital of the breakaway northwestern territory of Somaliland, has had a tough time this year," Reporters Without Borders said on Wednesday. "It has been raided by the police and prevented from publishing. And now its owner and editor have been given illegal jail terms. A Hargeisa court today sentenced owner Yusuf Abdi Gabobe and editor Ahmed Ali Egeh to three years in prison on charges of spreading false information and defaming government officials. It also fined them 25 million shillings (4,000 US dollars) each and withdrew the licence of Haatuf Media Network, the group that publishes Haatuf and the English-language paper Somaliland Times. . . ."


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Journal-isms is published on the site of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education ( Reprinted on The Root by permission.