When lots of white people in the United States were posting videos of themselves on social media dumping ice water over their heads as part of the ALS challenge, many black people were frustrated with the behavior. They recognized that ALS is a worthy cause, and there’s no harm in having a little fun while helping others. However, they were frustrated because this activity was “trending” in the middle of a resurgence of the black Civil Rights movement—protests were mounting in Ferguson, Mo. Many in the black community felt a profound sense of personal and communal grief over the deaths of black men and boys at the hands of police officers. The act of pouring water over one’s head, even for charity, presented our nation with silliness when what so many needed was a recognition of that grief. Actor Orlando Jones captured this frustration in a video in which he dumped a bucket of bullets over his head. I first saw the video on Twitter, and followed a link to an article on The Root. A couple of days later, I saw the video show up in Yahoo! News. Most white people probably hadn’t heard of it until it hit the “mainstream” news—Yahoo!, The Huffington Post, and the like. And that’s a problem.
It’s a problem because it means our news is segregated, and many white people are not aware of the news in communities of color as it is happening—or of the perspectives, needs, and concerns that inform that news. Sure, some news that deeply affects people of color is covered in the mainstream news. But this news is often written or presented from a white perspective, without the context that publications written by and for people of color give. In addition, I’ve seen more than one Twitter conversation in which women of color are pushing back against plagiarism—white writers are reading their work and then presenting it as their own for the mainstream media.
Check out these publications for breaking news that concerns people of color, set within a historical context:
- The Root: Founded in 2008 under the leadership of Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., The Root is “…the premier news, opinion and culture site for African-American influencers.” An online publication and a subsidiary of The Slate Group, The Root often reports news that affects black Americans much faster than white publications do: when the Ferguson protests began, The Root was updating the story faster than mainstream outlets. The publication also carries stories about violence against women of color that are often either not covered or downplayed in the mainstream media. Articles that caught my attention this week include “What’s the Endgame for the Civil Rights Movement, Part 2?” and “The US Injustice System—or How Caribbean Optimism Became Black Rage.”
- Colorlines: Colorlines is published by Race Forward, a national racial justice organization founded in 1981. The publication is “…produced by a multiracial team of writers who cover stories from the perspective of community, rather than through the lens of power brokers.” You can find news and information about a variety of topics related to race, including history (vital, as so much of our history has only been taught from a white perspective), gender and sexuality, immigration, and Native Affairs. And of course you’ll find breaking news, such as the Justice Department’s updates to racial profiling rules—along with inspiration and opportunities for action.
- News From Indian Country: News From Indian Country is published by Indian Country Communications, Inc, an independent, Indian-owned business that also produces IndianCountryTV. Here, you will find national and regional news as well as news affecting particular tribes. There are updates on legislation that affects Native Americans—such as the recent House decision to pass the National Defense Authorization Act, which gives sacred Native lands to a foreign mining company and discussions on relevant issues, such as fracking.
You should also check out Black Twitter: the hashtags #BlackLivesMatter and #ICan’tBreathe have become flashpoints in the conversation about police violence, and feminists of color consistently challenge the white power structure on Twitter. Black Twitter isn’t only about politics, but it has definitely become a political force.
Moving these publications—and the voices that create them—into the mainstream is vital to change. When you spend time with these articles, when you read the voices within their context, you understand the big questions of journalism—what, why, when, where, and how—in a completely different way. That shift in perspective is about power: who has it, who doesn’t, and how a segregated media reinforces the status quo.