Associated Press Takes Stand In New Guidelines: If It’s Racist, Call It Racist
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The AP Stylebook, a manual followed in many news rooms, has been updated, with guidelines now advising journalists and editors to eschew the use of terms such as “racially charged” and “racially motivated” when “racist” is really the most accurate and honest word. The announcement came during the national conference of ACES: The Society of Editing in Providence, Rhode Island, on March 29. “The terms racism and racist can be used in broad references or in quotations to describe the hatred of a race, or assertion of the superiority of one race over others,” the AP states. This issue has reached a boiling point for some journalists grappling with the best way to describe the inherent white supremacy of the Trump Administration without being accused of using subjective and biased language. Of course, some Black journalists, specifically those who cover race and politics, have long argued that calling a thing a thing—or, to quote Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “getting the language right”—is a critical component of their jobs. Count me in that number. As I stated in the New York Times, when asked to provide a quote on my decision to directly quote Frank Artiles in a report on the Florida state senator calling six black colleagues “ni–ers,” Black journalists have a responsibility to make it plain. We shouldn’t have to speak in code to be considered objective. Editor’s Note: Artiles claimed in the aftermath that the allegations against him were false; that, instead, he was referring to white colleagues as “niggas.” Positioning racism as only a belief system and not an oppressive capitalist power structure is the greatest trick that white supremacy ever pulled—and one of the lies that writers and journalists should expose at every opportunity. But when we, as Black writers and journalists, amplify this truth, these facts, we are often dismissed as “advocacy journalists”—as if advocating for the liberation of Black people, and calling racism racist, is somehow at odds with objectivity. What I know: The coddling of white supremacy, making it more palatable for mainstream consumption and fragile white egos with the use of ambiguous terms like “racially charged” should not be the job of any journalist. That is what media injustice looks like. Now, perhaps, the Associated Press will expand guidelines to include how best to describe state-sanctioned, extrajudicial killings committed by murderous police officers occupying Black communities, so that we don’t have to tap-dance around the truth then, either. One day.


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