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How People of Color Should Be Covered

by on December 14, 2016

As you all obviously know, whether because you attended, you heard me speak of it in class, black student organizations within the Five College area gathered together in October for a Black Lives Matter vigil.  In the beginning it went well, but after there were complaints by black students about journalists from university publications taking photos of them without their permission.  Then one student of color asked out loud, “Why are white people even here?” After this, a significant amount of white people left the vigil.

Some friends of mine later told me that a professor then walked into their class in order to talk about how people of color should be covered in stories.  One friend, who is black, said this professor made her feel invisible, pretending she did not understand when the students of color would say something but would coincidentally wake up when a white student would say the same thing.  A packet was passed out in another friend’s (who is white) with instruction on how to effectively cover stories that feature people of color without implementing bias in the stories.  He said he felt the guidelines were restrictive, but rather, they were only teaching journalists how to be sensitive when it comes to marginalized groups in society.  The friend then brought the packet to a white male professor, who also felt it was “strange” for reasons of apparent limitation.

Not only does this make me upset, but this to me, clearly illustrates that the vulnerability   of marginalized people, particularly in media, is not only overlooked, but perceived as nonexistent.  And this makes me feel as though minority students are literally seen as not present in some discussions even when they’re very present and aware.

Should racial coverage be a required course in journalism departments?  If so, what elements should be taught?  How should students be made aware of why covering POC is so important and what history should we teach them to provide background on how negative images of certain groups of people have been created?

Also, should journalism professors be required to take training courses on how to interact with students of color?  It may sound ridiculous, but you would be surprised to learn how some professors are just as ignorant as students when it comes to race and what is not acceptable when discussing it.  A good example is the situation that happened with my friends, and another is that my sister recently told a white professor she was reading what she thought to be a good book by a Latino author, and he asked her if she only thought it was good because it was “ethnic.” The idea that only minorities have ethnicity (when, in reality, we all have an ethnicity) comes from an idea that having ethnicity means being “other” and in his view, apparently being “other” was synonymous with some form of inauthenticity.

Overall, should colleges and universities, particularly journalism departments, take the first measure in eradicating bias by teaching courses that acknowledge its existence?



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