A hate crime as defined by the Justice Department is “a crime motivated by bias against [perceived or actual] race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or disability.” Since the legal standard for a hate crime is narrow and may be difficult to determine, especially in a breaking news situation, adding hedging language such as “possible” or “alleged” may be necessary until further information is available.
While the US Census Bureau uses “Hispanic,” and Pew Research Center uses “Hispanic” and “Latino” interchangeably, some draw a distinction between the two terms, arguing that Hispanic refers to individuals from Spain or from Spanish-speaking countries in Latin America, while Latino signifies individuals from Latin America regardless of language. Several gender-neutral alternatives to Latino/a have gained use recently, including Latinx, Latin, and Latine, though they are not always popular with the communities they purport to describe. As with any identifier, being as specific as possible and taking into account an individual’s preference whenever possible ensures coverage accurately reflects how someone self-identifies.
Implicit bias is a subconscious bias that includes negative associations about individuals or groups of people. Techniques to counter implicit bias in journalism could include finding as wide a variety of sources as possible, considering everyone as an individual rather than a “type,” and consulting trusted colleagues or third-party inclusivity readers on specific issues.
Inclusion is sharing power by bringing historically underserved groups into processes and decision-making. Inclusivity in journalism can look like using gender-neutral language, featuring people (experts and non-experts) from a wide array of backgrounds, and ensuring stories about historically underserved groups do not only center on trauma.
Indigenous can refer to the original inhabitants of a place, and to their customs, language, and other cultural markers. In the continental United States, Indigenous peoples are also referred to broadly as Native Americans, American Indians, and First Americans. Those who are Indigenous to Alaska are typically called Alaska Natives. There are several Indigenous Pacific Islander populations in the US, including Native Hawaiians, the CHamorus of the Mariana Islands, and Samoans. While Indigenous can be used as a broad category, it’s clearest to specify the population being referred to whenever possible, and to take into account an individual’s preference whenever possible.
Intersectionality is the simultaneous intersection of discrimination and disempowerment that creates overlapping vulnerabilities. Considering intersectionality means remembering that one factor, such as race or religion, doesn’t drive all of someone’s behaviors or opinions. Similarly, one individual cannot “stand in” for an entire group, and no group has monolithic views or behaviors.
“Medical gaslighting” describes situations in which a practitioner minimizes or dismisses a patient’s experience of their own symptoms or disorder. Medical gaslighting is frequently viewed as a symptom of implicit bias, a moment when a physician’s entrenched, unexamined prejudices undermine their ability to appropriately diagnose and provide care. Research has shown that women and people of color are far more likely to be misdiagnosed or have their symptoms dismissed, sometimes with fatal effects. Careful coverage may take into account an “official” diagnosis but will also consider the details of someone’s lived experience and systemic factors and entrenched biases that may affect diagnosis and quality of treatment.
People of color have long faced different types of discrimination within the medical system, which contributes to disparities in health outcomes, treatment, and life expectancy. Mistrust is based not only on historic instances and generational and community information but also on ongoing implicit bias in the health care system that impacts the care received by a person of color. Consideration of the forces that continue to shape the experiences people of color have within the health care system is important when writing about someone’s experience with an illness or disability.
A microaggression is an action, statement, or behavior that communicates derogatory messages to a person or group of people that may be subtle or concealed in everyday language. When relevant to coverage, explaining how microaggressions can manifest, and the negative effects they can have, adds essential context for audiences.
Minority is a term that is often used to refer to nonwhite populations but is vague and not accurate in every situation (for instance, when discussing a neighborhood whose population is majority Hispanic or Latino). Preferable alternatives if discussing in a broader sense may include people/communities of color and underrepresented populations. Whenever possible, it’s best for clarity to be specific about the population(s) being described.
Last updated 01/27/23
Race and ethnicity are critical aspects of people’s and communities’ identities. They have often been viewed as interchangeable but are two distinct identifiers. This section of the Language, Please style guidance aims to help journalists accurately cover the nuances in stories surrounding race and ethnicity, recognize the systemic and interconnected ways that race and ethnicity shape experiences, and write stories with care and concern for the individuals involved.
This resource was informed by questions and discussions from our own newsrooms. It is a living document that will update and expand over time. It is not meant to be comprehensive or the definitive arbiter of language “rules” but instead aims to give context and inform thoughtful decision-making. Have a suggestion for an update, change, or addition? Please get in touch.
How to use: Browse the whole section or search for the term you need guidance on; click into any term for in-depth context, additional resources, and related terms.
Police brutality is the use of excessive force against people by law enforcement. It disproportionately affects Black and brown people. Mentioning racial disparities in police killings in related stories, and linking to a reliable source such as Mapping Police Violence, can help illustrate the scope of the issue.
Collective trauma refers to society’s interpretation of and reaction to a calamity that affects an entire community. Commonly used examples of events that caused collective trauma include the Great Depression, 9/11, the enslavement of Black people, and the Covid-19 pandemic. Exploration of the ways collective trauma can manifest in individuals and communities adds essential context to news coverage.
Black is the racial term used to describe people with roots in the African diaspora; physical markers that may typically be used to distinguish those considered Black from other racial groups include skin tone and hair texture. Though African American and Black are often used interchangeably, the former may be understood as a marker of an ethnic and cultural identity as opposed to a strictly racial one. Following an individual’s preferences when determining if, when, and how to use either identifier, including the capitalization of Black, ensures coverage reflects how a person self-identifies.
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