Race is becoming a mainstream conversation on account of recent events throughout the country and the relentless activism of folks that are determined to keep the momentum towards change. People of color and their allies have long been aware of the racial divide –I think most people in our country, ally or not, have been aware but the acknowledgement of the issue varies – and for a long time many of these conversations have been had amongst ourselves. Within my lifetime, this is the most I’ve seen media as an active participant in the conversation (part of that as a result of our two-time elected Black president but that’s a discussion for another time) however, I question their motives and as an aspiring writer/journalist I am still trying to understand and configure the media’s role &/or purpose in discussions about race.
The power of the headline stands true today even as print media is experiencing a transition. In our new age of digital media, click-bait holds that power. Having got my degree in journalism well before the #adviceforyoungjournalists conversation, I learned the fundamentals about traditional subjective news delivery and loved every bit of it. Loved it so much, I was too blind to breakdown what my professors meant when they told us we wouldn’t get a traditional journalism job.
As digital media (blogging, Twitter, online publications…) has grown, so has the popularity of the personal essay or “think piece,” and in a time when race is the hot topic, what better way for Black people to create their own narrative of their movement and history than by writing it ourselves? But then one day I read a poorly written personal essay by a member of the Black community on the blog of a larger digital content producer and had to take a huge step back. I had to ask if our plight is being used for good or evil?
There were typos and poor grammar, I was blown away; to be clear, I’m not bashing the writer because I know—at least for me—it takes courage to submit your thoughts to the universe like that, but I was more confused as to why the publication even let that through. Was I just a victim of click-bait?
The optimist in me wants to give big media the benefit of the doubt: there is an understanding of the importance of this conversation and major media feels it is part of their civic duty to facilitate. However, the cynic in me that led me down this path of journalism, can’t help but inquire about the ratings and readership of these bigger publications and news outlets since this conversation “took off”.
I think the media should absolutely be a facilitator for discussions about race and how events and the overall plight of our country is intertwined, but I don’t think they’ve got it yet. Our movement now is not just about combatting police brutality as it has been framed. It’s about reclaiming our identity and defining Black how we want. It’s about our scientists, our artists, our doctors, and our accountants being activists because they went against the stereotype. It’s about trans lives and queer lives that are Black lives. It’s about not thinking any of the aforementioned labels are out of the norm for a Black person to possess, because we are human. But the media doesn’t see that, they still see those fires burning in Ferguson.
I know media, and when the smoke clears the conversation won’t be “newsworthy” as they say and Black people and their allies will be here, continuing this conversation amongst ourselves—at least until we mobilize again nationally and force the media to pay attention like what happened after Mike Brown. But even then, what will we get? A 30-second spot? 10-minutes on Al Sharpton’s show?
There is more to the Black community than controversy and we have a chance to rewrite history our way.
What are your go-to sources for news in the Black community? Leave a comment and let me know, it would be great to put a list together and share!