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Race and Ethnicity

police brutality / police excessive force

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.


Prejudice in the context of race is an often damaging attitude directed toward people of color or oppressed people based on stereotypes. Prejudice in media can take many forms, for instance covering the death of a white woman far more than the death of a Black woman in similar circumstances; using coded language to describe certain populations; or choosing images that reinforce stereotypes about a community.


Privilege refers to the unearned benefits and advantages accorded to certain people for belonging to, or being perceived as belonging to, a particular social identity group as compared to others who exist outside of these groups. Acknowledging privilege in news coverage can involve pointing out systemic barriers in place for non-dominant groups, and the oppression and suppression inherent in their maintenance. It can also mean, where appropriate and relevant, being transparent about one’s own positions in social structures related to an individual or population being discussed.

race / racial groups

Race is a socially constructed category that roughly groups people based on, in part, physical traits/phenotype. But it’s not determined by physical appearance alone and is typically a matter of self-identification. Given its significant political and social implications, someone’s race cannot be assumed. If and when race is pertinent to coverage, it’s important that an individual’s racial identity/identities are represented accurately, either by researching how they’ve self-identified previously or simply asking. If you’ve determined that racial identifiers are relevant to coverage, including these identifiers equally avoids giving the impression that one group is the “norm” or “default.”

racial colorblindness

Racial colorblindness is the idea that discrimination can be combated by treating everyone as equally as possible without acknowledging race or ethnicity and the systemic inequalities that stem from them. Explaining the term and the myths around it can be helpful for clarity.

racial profiling

Racial profiling is a practice in which law enforcement, and sometimes institutions or individuals in authority, single out people for suspicion of committing crimes with no evidence, based on their perceived race or ethnicity. A lack of diversity in media can contribute to coverage that reinforces these biases.


Racism in the United States is a system and structure that entrenches a power differential between groups based on race that subjugates, marginalizes, and oppresses people of color while upholding white privilege and white supremacy. Using euphemistic language — calling something “racially charged” or “racially tinged” when it’s clearly racist, like the use of a racial slur — can appear to downplay the negative effects of the actions or words and excuse the offending conduct/party. It’s more precise to put the focus on the actions or words rather than the person; saying someone made racist statements is clearer and in many cases more accurate than declaring someone is “a racist.”


Reparations involve the legal acknowledgment of human rights violations to a person or group of people along with benefits that compensate for loss. Generally in the United States, this refers to the descendants of formerly enslaved people; giving some explanation of the concept adds essential context.


A reservation is land reserved for Indigenous peoples in the United States based on local, state, or federal laws. The terms Native nation and reservation are not interchangeable; the former refers to a political entity, while the latter refers to a Native population’s land base.

restorative justice

Restorative justice is a theory that focuses on repairing harm caused by conflict and crime. The concept in the United States has its roots in Indigenous cultures, though the term “restorative justice” is a Western one. Giving some explanation of the principles — and the concept’s potential benefits and limitations within the existing justice system — provides essential context for audiences.

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. 

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