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Confronting Issues of Racial Equity as Community Broadcasters

By March 1, 2016August 9th, 2019Organizational Capacity

Last week I had the pleasure of attending The Media Consortium’s  annual conference in Philadephia.  A full day of the conference was devoted to a training facilitated by Race Forward on the topic of racial equity.

Specifically, Race Forward brings systemic analysis and an innovative approach to complex race issues to help people take effective action toward racial equity. Part of the work was to understand and identify implicit bias as I have internalized it, as it plays out interpersonally, institutionally and structurally. The question was not “am I or am I not racist?”  The question was quickly reframed in my mind to “ how am I racist and how am I not?” Racism, like other “isms,” has tremendous power in its insidious nature. I went to work trying to untie the knots…..I’m still working on it and will be for a very long time but it was such a relief to name it and to commit to addressing it.

As CEO of NFCB, I have become somewhat of an expert on how it feels to be representing grassroots media makers serving predominantly non-affluent communities that tend to be systematically marginalized. Here are some of the ugly truths I had to face.

  • Fear of overstepping when I am speaking up for communities of color and am not myself a woman of color. What authentic voice can I bring to my advocacy efforts?
  • Being consumed by plain old liberal guilt…so annoying and so deeply ingrained.
  • Understanding that the nonprofit structure itself is dominated by patriarchal values that lend themselves to exclusion and marginalization.
  • The public media system itself is structured to provide the greatest support for those who need it least and the least support for those who need it most.

As I walked back to my hotel, I was painfully aware of the disproportionate number of homeless people who are people of color. I rode the elevator up to my room with two women of color dragging vacuums and cleaning carts to do the dirty work of keeping the hotel guests satisfied. I turned on CNN to a literal fire hose of coverage of the primary political season where immigrants and people of color are apparently fair game for open rhetorical warfare.

My message to all of you who care about grassroots community media is this: summon all the courage you can muster to tell the stories of the people whose stories are not told. It is your duty and privilege to do so, and there is no one out there who will do it for us.


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