The trade organization representing the black press called out Facebook Monday as the latest threat to its existence, declaring that because of its inscrutable choices about stories what to display, "Our readers are at the mercy of powers unheard and unseen as never before."
Denise Rolark-Barnes, chairperson of the National Newspaper Publishers Association, and Benjamin F. Chavis, the NNPA's president and CEO, wrote in an op-ed:
"It is time regulators took a hard look at Facebook and its news aggregation and promotion practices in an effort to bring some much needed transparency to the new media king. The democratization of the media could be on a collision course with decidedly anti-democratic and arbitrary forces. Think of the proverbial tree that falls silently in the forest because no one is there to hear it. Will Facebook have the power to allow entire forests to fall without much notice?"
The protest from the black press followed a kerfuffle created last month after former curators in the social network's influential “trending” news section accused the company of routinely suppressing news stories of interest to conservatives.
"In the wake of reports that the social-media site had been manipulating its 'trending topics' to suppress conservative news outlets and stories, Mark Zuckerberg had a high-profile meeting with leading conservatives, the United States Congress proposed an investigation, and weeks of media attention ensured that the whole world knew about the scandal," Jillian C. York wrote Wednesday for Quartz.
However, she continued, "But conservatives are far from being the only people who feel wronged by Facebook. They’re simply the loudest." York itemized others who have complained: plus-sized women, mothers, "women, generally," sexual health organizations, indigenous groups, journalists, cannabis advocates, Europeans, artists, museums and galleries and "LGBTQ groups and individuals."
Rolark-Barnes and Chavis wrote, "Like many other publishers who have recently written on Facebook’s growing power over the media and what Americans read, we too are alarmed with one company having such dominance in news aggregation. Online hubs like Facebook are able to engineer which stories catch on. And they’re able to decide by algorithmic fiat, which bylines, viewpoints and subject matter is promoted to the masses. . . ."
Facebook did not respond to an inquiry from Journal-isms, but the company on Wednesday published a formal “News Feed Values” document that details how it decides what appears in a user's feed.
Under the new policy, posts from friends and family come first.
"In fact, choosing what appears is getting tougher over time since more users and publishers are joining the social network, and they’re sharing more content," Josh Constine reported Wednesday for TechCrunch. "The competition for space leads to an inevitable decrease in reach for any particular piece of content, stirring allegations that Facebook purposefully picks stories that will earn it money, or that it’s maliciously pushing Pages to pay for ads in order to get seen.
"But in reality, Facebook’s goal first and foremost is to create a feed that keeps people satisfied — both quantitatively in terms of the volume of their engagement measured in clicks and times spent, but also qualitatively according to surveys it’s constantly serving to a sample of users. . . ."
Constine also wrote, "The subtext here is that Facebook puts the benefit of its users above publishers, developers, advertisers, and even its own monetization. . . . Facebook is essentially telling publishers addicted to its referrals that, 'that’s your problem.' "
So where does that leave the black press?
"Well, historically, mediums always complain about the new one on the block until they merge or cut a deal," Todd Steven Burroughs, a scholar on the black press, told Journal-isms Tuesday by email. "Why doesn't NNPA just a) build up BlackPressUSA [its website], then b) cut a deal with Byron Allen, Tom Joyner, WorldStarHiphop or something like that, and/or c) pay them for space and become relevant? I hope this complaining is a way of getting attention to implement this strategy with Facebook.
"Ben Jealous," a former NNPA executive director, "tried to show them the future 16 years ago," said Burroughs, a former NNPA media columnist, editor and national correspondent. "BlackPressUSA.com could have been bigger than Ebony.com, The Root, the Grio, etc. combined, but with the exception of Jake Oliver," publisher of the Afro-American newspapers in Washington and Baltimore, "the newspaper publishers weren't ready.
"(But note how the Black magazines were, because their economic base is national advertising. Where is the Black newspaper equivalent of Jamilah Lemieux or Ta-Nehisi Coates, who were able to build themselves into major online generators of traffic to their respective sites before they shifted to full time print?)
"Now a new, economically powerful generation has new habits, and have defined Black media as an individually generated, digitally social media (collective) experience. And the Black press, still an individual, hyper-local 'medium' mired in the early part of the 21st century (!), is having difficulty registering (pun intended)."
Clint C. Wilson II, professor emeritus in the Howard University School of Communications and author of "Whither the Black Press?: Glorious Past, Uncertain Future," told Journal-isms that he saw First Amendment problems in the NNPA's approach on Facebook.
"Unless the information it publishes runs afoul of the usual First Amendment restrictions concerning libel, disregard for truth, obscenity etc., the suggestion that NNPA or any external agency can impose arbitrary standards re what Facebook may or may not publish is problematic," Wilson said Tuesday by email.
Wilson also wrote, "A more likely successful legal tactic would be to persuade Facebook's advertisers and clients that a major social flaw exists in the exclusion of certain minority viewpoints and exert economic pressure to bring about the desired change in content.
"I have argued, however, that the solution lies in development of our own African American version of Facebook with content slanted toward the vital issues and concerns facing our community. While this is certainly a more difficult route to achieve desired results, it harkens back to what was done in 1827 with the creation of the Black press as an alternative to the racist and insensitive white press.
"If today's Black press can harvest its community technological resources — yes, there are many Black digital and software engineers, etc. — and muster the will and financial means to achieve the task, we can create our own 'Black Facebook' that in time will have others seeking to reach our combined economic market as they have in other media platforms.
"The Black press must look inward, not outward, in meeting the community newspaper challenges it faces. In 21st century America it's all about the NEWS not the paper."
Benjamin F. Chavis Jr., National Newspaper Publishers Association: Discover The Unexpected: NNPA Journalism Scholars Are Breaking News (June 20)
Mignon Fogarty, mediashift.org: 4 Tips for Journalists to Master Snapchat Stories
A.J. Katz, TVNewser: How Did Fox News Get So Many Facebook Fans?
Giuseppe Macri, InsideSources: Black Media Say Facebook Should be Regulated
Farhad Manjoo, New York Times: Facebook, a News Giant That Would Rather Show Us Baby Pictures
Benjamin Mullin, Poynter Institute: In a blow to publishers, Facebook tweaks News Feed to emphasize friends over the news
Ian Sherr, CNET: Facebook is training employees to avoid political bias (June 23)
Brian Stelter, CNN Money: Facebook's latest News Feed change may hurt publishers
Marty Swant, adweek.com: Facebook Is Changing Its News Feed Algorithm to Focus Less on Publishers' Content
"Since I’m not a regular viewer of 'Grey’s Anatomy,' I didn’t know who the actor Jesse Williams was until his eloquent rants about the state of race in America popped up in viral internet videos," Clarence Page wrote Tuesday for the Chicago Tribune.
"Now he’s hit the big time. He’s been widely hailed and covered for his 'courage' and "speaking truth to power' in an eloquent speech he delivered after accepting the Humanitarian Award at the BET Awards on Sunday night.
"It’s a stirring speech, a bracing indication of Williams’ theatrical talents, multimedia commentaries and community activism.
"It was also a heartwarming speech. The Chicago-born Williams began with thanks to his parents, as cameras turned to his white mother and black father — stirring symbols of a new era of racial harmony. . . ."
However, Page also offered a contrarian view. "But as an African-American who has listened to more speeches than you can shake a police baton at, I know that it does not take much courage to tell a mostly black audience that their biggest problem is white racism. . . ."
He continued, "Williams rebuked critics even before he has been criticized. 'If you have a critique for the resistance, for our resistance, then you better have an established record of critique of our oppression,' he said. 'If you have no interest in equal rights for black people, then do not make suggestions to those who do. Sit down.'
"That’s a sharp message to the trolls out there. Not surprisingly, the audience loved it. But it also reminded me of the anti-intellectualism that I have witnessed sometimes in campus discussions, where criticism is silenced in the interest of 'safe spaces' for students of color. . . ."
Anthony Berteaux, Huffington Post: Dear BET Awards, Why Did You Think It Was OK To Appropriate Asian Culture?
BET: BET Awards 2016: Jesse Williams Spits Knowledge Like a Seasoned MC (videos)
Kimberly Davis, Think Christian: Jesse Williams’ challenge to Christianity
Jarvis DeBerry, NOLA.com | the Times-Picayune: Will Jesse Williams' acceptance speech increase celebrity support for 'Black Lives Matter?'
Charreah K. Jackson, Essence: Jesse Williams Dishes On Going From High School (Teacher) to Hollywood, #BlackLivesMatter & More (Nov. 20, 2015)
Shaun King, Daily News, New York: What was right and wrong about Justin Timberlake's remarks about Jesse Williams’ powerful speech at the BET Awards
Don Lemon, BlackAmericaWeb.com: The BET Speech Heard Round The World, But Were You Listening?
Soraya Nadia McDonald, Washington Post: Outspoken about Ferguson, Jesse Williams may be this generation’s Harry Belafonte (Aug. 20, 2014)
Sylvia Obell, BuzzFeed: Can We Talk About Jesse Williams, Again? (April 15)
"The National Association of Hispanic Journalists will bestow the NAHJ Presidential Award of Excellence [on] Isaac Lee and Univision for their commitment to journalism affecting Latinos, African-Americans and all Americans with their unwavering support of Fusion and The Root," NAHJ announced on Monday.
“ 'Fusion has proven to not only be an excellent source of journalism in America, but its commitment to stories that represent the Latino and millennial perceptive is invaluable to the American conversation,' said Mekahlo Medina, NAHJ President.
" 'Univision has expanded its reach with The Root, showing its strong commitment to the new American mainstream that values authenticity, truth and fairness. Under your leadership, Univision continues on a strong mission of informing and empowering our communities.'
"Lee will accept the award at Noche de Periodistas Journalism Awards Gala in the national conference #NABJNAHJ16 on August 6th, 2016 in Washington, DC. . . ." He is chief news and digital officer of Univision Communications Inc. and CEO of Fusion.
Ronny Rojas and Maye Primera, Univision: Cruising, a Trip Far From U.S. Law
"The high-profile deaths of Freddie Gray, Tamir Rice, and Eric Garner have led to widespread protests, viral hashtag campaigns, and a heated national conversation about race and police brutality in America," Elizabeth Ross and Eliza Lambert wrote Monday for New York's public radio station WNYC-FM.
"That conversation is front-and-center in Newark, New Jersey — one of the America’s most violent cities and the home to of one of the most controversial police departments in the country.
"In Newark, distrust of the police stretches back decades. The city erupted in riots in 1967 after residents saw police beat a black cab driver and drag him into the precinct, and many residents say these aggressive tactics still exist today.
"In 2014, the U.S. Department of Justice agreed with the concerns of residents and advocates and found that the Newark police were 'engaging in a pattern or practice of unconstitutional stops, searches, arrests, and use of excessive force by officers, which had a disparate impact on minorities in Newark.'
"Jelani Cobb, a staff writer at The New Yorker, hit the streets of Newark with officers and residents for a new FRONTLINE documentary called 'Policing the Police.' He wanted to find out if policing can 'be done in a way that still respects people's rights.'
“ 'You wind up in situations where people’s rights are being violated,' Cobb explains. 'And just so we’re clear what we’re talking about here — we’re talking about stops where officers would pull someone’s waistband away from their body and look down at their genitals to see if they had a weapon. [Some citizens are] just randomly walking down the street and suddenly someone is looking at your private parts.'
"After overcoming some obstacles in accessing the Newark Police Department, Cobb said that his time with officers was eye opening.
“ 'Their conception of people’s rights was so narrow that unless [the officer] had done something egregious, they didn’t believe anyone’s rights had been violated,' he says. . . ."
The program debuted Tuesday and can be viewed online.
Jason M. Breslow, "Frontline," PBS: Policing In America: 10 Questions With Jelani Cobb
Jelani Cobb, New Yorker: Policing the Police in Newark
Brian Lowry, CNN Money: Frontline tackles fraught police-minority relationship in 'Policing the Police'
"Businesses started caring a lot more about diversity after a series of high-profile lawsuits rocked the financial industry," Frank Dobbin and Alexandra Kalev reported for the July-August issue of Harvard Business Review.
"In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Morgan Stanley shelled out $54 million—and Smith Barney and Merrill Lynch more than $100 million each—to settle sex discrimination claims. In 2007, Morgan was back at the table, facing a new class action, which cost the company $46 million. In 2013, Bank of America Merrill Lynch settled a race discrimination suit for $160 million. Cases like these brought Merrill’s total 15-year payout to nearly half a billion dollars. . . ."
Dobbin and Kalev also wrote, "It shouldn’t be surprising that most diversity programs aren’t increasing diversity. . . ."
What works? "In analyzing three decades’ worth of data from more than 800 U.S. firms and interviewing hundreds of line managers and executives at length, we’ve seen that companies get better results when they ease up on the control tactics.
"It’s more effective to engage managers in solving the problem, increase their on-the-job contact with female and minority workers, and promote social accountability — the desire to look fair-minded. That’s why interventions such as targeted college recruitment, mentoring programs, self-managed teams, and task forces have boosted diversity in businesses. Some of the most effective solutions aren’t even designed with diversity in mind. . . ."
"An Iowa television reporter and photojournalist captured footage of themselves being threatened by an unidentified woman while reporting on her son’s death at the hands of police," (video) Arturo Garcia reported Wednesday for Raw Story.
"KCCI-TV said that the reporter, Emmy Victor, and Zachary Hayes were accosted on Tuesday while covering the incident, which occurred on Monday night in Boone.
“ 'Get the f*ck out of here, you stupid f*cking n*gger,' the woman tells Victor, who is black, before backing away.
“ 'Don’t ever,' Victor responds, which causes the woman to walk back toward her and say, 'I f*cking told you he was f*cking dead. So don’t stand there and tell me you don’t know.'
"She then approaches Hayes and appears to tear off a piece of his equipment. Victor and Hayes can both be heard telling the woman they are calling police.
“ 'They gonna shoot me, too?' she asks. 'C’mon, right here. Tell them to come f*cking shoot me'
"The woman’s son, who was identified on Thursday as 28-year-old Michael Disbrowe, was shot and killed by officers after they responded to a complaint that a man was 'threatening people with a gun.' Disbrowe reportedly drew a gun from his waistband when confronted by officers, then refused to obey their orders to put the gun down. . . ."
KCCI-TV reported, "KCCI General Manager Brian Sather issued a statement about the attack saying, 'The safety of our crews is critically important as they cover stories affecting our communities. This morning Emmy and Zach demonstrated the utmost professionalism in the face of a very difficult, emotionally-charged situation.' . . ."
"Bounce TV announced today that production has commenced on Ed Gordon, the network's first entry into the primetime news magazine format, and the show's premiere date has been scheduled for Tues. Sept. 13 at 10:00 p.m. (ET)," an announcement from the network said Tuesday.
"Multiple award-winning and well-respected television journalist Ed Gordon will produce and host the series of one-hour specials in which he'll sit down for revealing interviews with top headline makers, entertainers and pop cultural figures. Ed Gordon will also include investigative pieces, celebrity profiles, current event segments and human interest feature stories.
The announcement also said, "Gordon has been a contributing correspondent for 60 Minutes, The Today Show and Dateline NBC, the host of 'News and Notes with Ed Gordon' on NPR, anchorman for BET and is a weekly contributor to the national Steve Harvey Radio Show. He is also the recipient of an NAACP Image Award, as well as the prestigious Journalist of the Year Award from the National Association of Black Journalists.
"Bounce TV is the fastest-growing African-American (AA) network on television and airs on the broadcast signals of local television stations and corresponding cable carriage. . . ."
"Donald Trump gets a lot of attention for saying offensive things about Mexicans, but on Monday, America's birther-in-chief reminded us that he doesn't discriminate when it comes to attacking opponents about their ethnic background," Margaret Hartmann reported Tuesday for New York magazine.
"In honor of Elizabeth Warren's first campaign appearance with Hillary Clinton, Trump tweeted that the Massachusetts senator 'lied on heritage,' then called her 'Pocahontas' in an NBC News interview. 'She made up her heritage, which I think is racist. I think she's a racist, actually because what she did was very racist,' Trump added. 'She used the fact that she was Native American to advance her career. Elizabeth Warren is a total fraud.'
"As Warren embraced the role of Clinton's top anti-Trump attack dog in recent weeks, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee has tried to revive the years-old controversy over her supposed Native American roots. And while Trump's recent attack on a federal judge's Mexican heritage was so clearly offensive that even House Speaker Paul Ryan called it 'the textbook definition of racist comments,' few have leaped to Warren's defense.
"Even in a recent report on how Trump's attacks on Warren have riled Native Americans, the New York Times is vague about the veracity of her claim, saying only that it dates back to her 2012 Senate campaign. The story closes with a quote from a Navajo Republican running for Congress in Arizona, who believes, 'I think Donald Trump is within his full rights to make fun of her for it … It is a scandal.'
"So is this one of those confounding times when Trump is actually right? Not really, but the issue hasn't been put to rest because Warren's heritage is murky. Aside from the obvious racism of Trump repeatedly calling Warren 'Pocahontas' or 'the Indian,' an extremely thorough investigation of Warren's background never turned up proof that she committed 'fraud' by intentionally lying about being Native American, or that she benefited from claiming minority status. And as the senator recently noted, it definitely didn't help her get into Harvard . . .
"The problem is that no one ever found evidence to support Warren's claim that she is part Cherokee and Delaware either. . . ."
Hillary Clinton told the Chicago Defender she would work with the black press if elected president, Kai El'Zabar, Defender executive editor, reported on Wednesday. El'Zabar wrote that she talked with the presumptive Democratic nominee backstage Monday at the Women's International Luncheon at the Rainbow PUSH Coalition 45th Annual Convention.
"Clinton said that she has a personal commitment to working with the Black press and all local press; however, she has noticed in particular the assumption of some in various parts of the country where she has traveled that it is assumed that the Black press will show up.
" 'And that's not always the case, so we want to make sure that we make the effort to reach out, and not only during the campaign, but even in the White House,' Clinton said. 'I see the Black press playing an active role in getting our message out directly to its readers, participating in the various activities such as today's luncheon, and making sure that it has access as well as being included in the advertising buy.' . . ."
Michael Calderone, Huffington Post: CNN’s Hiring Of Corey Lewandowski Shows Little Regard For Treatment Of The Press (June 23)
Josh Feldman, Mediaite: Media Critic on CNN Rips Into CNN for Hiring ‘Snake’ Lewandowski
Suzanne Gamboa, NBC News Latino: At Political Gathering, Whiffs of Hope for a Latino Vice President
Suzanne Gamboa, NBC News Latino: Republican Latinos Opting Out of RNC Convention or Going with Less Backing
The Guardian: Donald Trump calls reporter Ewen MacAskill 'a nasty, nasty guy' (video)
Jonathan Marcantoni, Latino Rebels: Latinos for Trump and the Neocolonial Mindset
Jonathan Martin, New York Times:Trump Institute Offered Get-Rich Schemes With Plagiarized Lessons
Jim Naureckas, Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting: Lewandowski Hire Makes Journalists Choose Between Defending Their Profession and Embracing Its Demise
Mary Mitchell, Chicago Sun-Times: Biggest signal was where, not what, Clinton said
Leonard Pitts Jr., Miami Herald: Killing Donald Trump won’t kill his ideas (June 21)
Alicia Shepard, USA Today: Hiring Lewandowski is a smart move for CNN
Margaret Sullivan, Washington Post: CNN’s hiring of Corey Lewandowski insults the press — and women
Kenneth P. Vogel and Hadas Gold, Politico: Lewandowski loses $1.2 million book deal
David Zurawik, Baltimore Sun: CNN hosts wide-open discussion on its hiring of Corey Lewandowski
Kirsten West Savali, an associate editor of The Root, was presented with the second annual Vernon Jarrett Medal for Journalistic Excellence Tuesday by the Morgan State University School of Global Journalism and Communication.
"Recognized as a Black thought leader for a new generation, her work has been studied in several college courses across the country," the school said in the program accompanying the presentation, which was attended by about 90 people at the National Press Club in Washington. Jarrett, a legendary Chicago columnist known as a "race man," died at 85 in 2004.
"As Black journalists and writers, it is not our job to always to have the right answers, as subjective as 'right' may be, but it is critical that we have the right questions," Savali said in accepting the medal. "Questions that disrupt dangerous narratives and dismantle dangerous institutions fueled by Black oppression and death in this country.
"I often say, if institutionalized racism is the poison, then mainstream media is the IV drip pushing it into society’s veins to distort the humanity of Black people. . . ."
Text of Savali's remarks at the end of this column.
Three black journalists were on the set at the same time Sunday on Cincinnati's WLWT-TV. "I know this is a first for me in nearly 37 years," anchor Courtis Fuller messaged Journal-isms. With him were Derek Forrest, sports multimedia journalist, and Chief Meteorologist Kevin Robinson. He compared the team to the Pittsburgh Pirates' all-black starting lineup in 1971.
"Less than an hour after a coordinated suicide attack on Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport that left dozens dead and many more wounded, Turkey’s government resumed a tactic frequently seen since last summer: a gag order for the country’s media outlets," Efe Kerem Sözeri reported Wednesday for Vocativ, which has offices in New York and Tel Aviv. "Less than an hour later, watchdog groups reported Twitter and Facebook were inaccessible inside the country. . . ."
"I wanted Chaka Fattah to be found not guilty, but I doubted that he would be," Harold Jackson, editorial page editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer, wrote on June 23. "The evidence as outlined in news articles appeared to be overwhelming, while the congressman's defense against federal corruption charges seemed mostly an appeal to the jury to trust someone accused of being untrustworthy. Still, I hoped Fattah would be found not guilty. Like many African Americans of my generation, I take it personally when a black person is accused of a crime, any crime. We cringe at news reports that identify criminal suspects by race; fearing they bolster stereotypes, though we denounce illegal conduct. . . ."
"The Rev. Jesse Jackson invoked slavery in condemning Dish’s decision to stop carrying WGN America, which is home to the critically acclaimed “Underground,” over retransmission fees," Maria Cavassuto reported Monday for Variety. She also wrote, " 'Underground' chronicles the story of the Underground Railroad that helped many African-Americans escape the South, one that Jackson calls 'inspiring' and in need of retelling. . . ."
Twenty editorial employees accepted a buyout at the Denver Post, Michael Roberts reported Friday for Westword. They are: Jim Bates, Suzanne Brown, Jennifer Campbell-Hicks, Vince Carroll, Peter Dettmann, Neil Devlin, Sev Galvan, Carlos Illescas, Eric Lutzens, Meghan Lyden, Vickie Makings, Cyrus McCrimmon, Vikki Migoya, Irv Moss, David Olinger, Joanne Ostrow, Bill Porter, Ray Rinaldi, Steve Shultz and Jordan Steffen.
"The PBS documentary series POV is collaborating with The New York Times to produce a new interactive 'embedded mediamaker' project covering race and ethnicity," the NiemanLab reported on Wednesday. "The goal of the project is to explore issues using new media formats and 'the future of digital documentaries.' . . .”
"More than 70 media organizations in San Francisco plan to saturate online, TV and print publications this week with news stories about an issue that has stumped politicians and residents for decades: The city's homeless," Janie Har reported Tuesday for the Associated Press.
"Earlier this year, the Native American Journalists Association (NAJA) was disheartened by mainstream reporting on several cases involving the welfare of Native American children," NAJA said on Tuesday. "In response to the arbitrary reporting on this issue, the NAJA Board of Directors has collaborated with the National Indian Child Welfare Association to release a media guide to aid reporters and editors when covering cases that fall under the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). . . ."
Alfred C. Liggins III, president and CEO of Radio One, has been named entrepreneur of the year by the Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council, MMTC announced Wednesday. The award is to be presented during its 14th Annual Access to Capital and Telecom Policy Conference, "Thirty Years of Access to Capital: Financing the Platforms of the Future," to be held in Washington on July 13 and 14.
"Josh Thomas no longer works at Tampa, Fla., NBC affiliate WFLA," Kevin Eck reported Friday for TVSpy. "Thomas, who went from being weekend anchor to reporter last year, has been gone from the station for a couple of weeks. There’s no word why he left or where he’s going. His move off the anchor desk, along with morning anchor Rod Carter being replaced by Eugene Ramirez, was questioned by the Tampa Association of Black Journalists which at the time told the station 'Historically, there has been a dearth of African-American male anchors in the Tampa Bay market.' . . .”
Remarks of Kirsten West Savali Accepting Vernon Jarrett Medal
National Press Club, Washington, D.C., June 28
Thank you to President David Wilson, faculty and staff of Morgan State University, with special thanks to Dean DeWayne Wickham of the Global School of Journalism and Communication, and to those who nominated me for this prestigious award. As a graduate and supporter of HBCUs, it means so much to me that I’m being recognized here, in this space, by all of you.
And a huge thank you to the Black women who have opened doors for me and loved on me and believed in me throughout my career. I stand on the shoulders of so many.
As Black journalists and writers, it is not our job to always to have the right answers, as subjective as “right” may be, but it is critical that we have the right questions. Questions that disrupt dangerous narratives and dismantle dangerous institutions fueled by Black oppression and death in this country.
I often say, if institutionalized racism is the poison, then mainstream media is the IV drip pushing it into society’s veins to distort the humanity of Black people.
And Zora Neale Hurston taught us that if we are silent about our pain, they will kill us and say we enjoyed it. So we can not be silent about a country that pushes “equality” while ignoring pervasive racial inequities — or worse, acknowledging them but asking us to ignore them.
We can not be silent when our children’s bodies are stacking up in war zones across America.
We can not be silent when Black women are being raped by police officers sworn to protect and serve them.
We can not be silent when southern states where Black women have the most restricted access to reproductive healthcare, coincidentally have extraordinarily high rates of incarceration in for-profit prisons.
Fact: ‘The Old South Still Lives’ through mass incarceration and wealth disparities, but racism is not nor has it ever been quarantined in the Deep South. We can report and discuss and provide commentary on the Confederate flag, but we, as Black writers and journalists, can not allow the atrocities committed under the U.S. flag to go unchallenged.
Positioning racism as only a belief system and not a capitalist power structure with tentacles in every corners of society is the greatest trick that white supremacy ever pulled and one of the lies that us writers and journalists should expose at every opportunity.
But when we, as Black writers and journalists, make that plain we are often dismissed as “advocacy” journalists — as if advocating for the liberation of Black people is somehow at odds with fairness and objectivity.
Analyzing and reporting on systemic and institutionalized racism– from subpar healthcare and mass criminalization, to corrupt education systems and underemployment, to the state-sanctioned terrorism that Black people face at the hands of police officers across the country — reporting on those realities is fair and balanced. It is fair and balanced to ensure that we report on violence against Black trans women, and that we discuss domestic violence and sexual assault in our communities.
It is fair that we discuss how the war on drugs got real gentle when white people became the face of it, but that Black people are still disproportionately getting arrested.
But in all of this, we can not forget to seek joy both internal and external. We can not stop expecting it. We are beautiful and brilliant and Black, and as Lucille Clifton said, “everyday something has tried to kill us and has failed.”
Let’s continue to report that.
Before I sit down, I have to bring my father, Theodore “Bubber” West, into this space. He died 5 years ago and but he remains the original blueprint for all that I am. He taught me about the Mississippi Sovereignty Commission and surveillance tactics that have always been in place to police our freedom. As a city councilman in Natchez, MS for almost 20 years, he taught me that the best way to lead is in service to Black people.
Perhaps, most importantly, he instilled in me his life’s motto passed down to him from his father: What you do for yourself, dies with you, what you do for others lives on forever. And I am very much aware that my work is being recognized today because I use my voice, as so many of my colleagues do, in the service of Black people—always in all ways and twice on Sunday.
And this responsibility, this honor, especially one named after a stellar journalist and unapologetic race man like Vernon Jarrett, is one that I do not take lightly.
Thank you so much.
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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