Mpox (“em-pox”) is a disease caused by infection with the monkeypox virus, which is related to smallpox. It has also been called monkeypox. It is primarily transmitted from human to human through prolonged close physical contact, including sexual contact, though it is not currently categorized as a sexually transmitted infection. To refer to the populations seeing the largest numbers of mpox cases as of August 2022, some organizations suggest phrasing such as “men who have sex with men and those in their sexual networks,” which emphasizes behavior rather than identity. However, being as specific as possible about the population(s) being discussed may be helpful for clarity. Some scientists have criticized the name “monkeypox,” saying it is stigmatizing and has racist connotations; alternatives in use in some places beyond mpox include MPX, hMPX, and MPV. As with reporting on any disease or diagnosis, it’s important to keep people’s right to privacy in mind, and to consider whether disclosing someone’s diagnosis or vaccination status is truly necessary and relevant to coverage.
Multiracial or mixed-race refers to people who identify as having two or more racial heritages. (The term biracial is sometimes used in the context of someone who identifies as having only two racial heritages.) Multiracial and mixed-race are often used interchangeably; someone may identify with one, both, or neither of those terms. The share of Americans who identify as multiracial was over 10 percent as of 2020. Often, multiracial people are assumed to be the race they “pass” as, or look most similar to, and treated accordingly. This can result in identity crises or conflicts. Multiracial people can also face potential prejudices and discriminatory behaviors based on their unique backgrounds or perceived race, so there isn’t a singular multiracial experience. Someone’s racial background or identification can’t be assumed based on appearance; nor can their experiences be assumed based on their racial background. As with any identifier, if necessary and relevant to include, being as specific as possible and taking into account an individual’s preference wherever possible ensures coverage aligns with their lived experience.
Pacific Islander refers to an Indigenous inhabitant of Melanesia, Micronesia, or Polynesia. Though Pacific Islanders are sometimes grouped with Asian Americans when discussing in a general sense, as in the term AAPI, some activists think this grouping can flatten the significant differences among subgroups of Asian Americans and especially ignore the unique experiences and needs of Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders. As with any such identifier, if necessary and relevant to coverage to include, being as specific as possible and taking into account an individual’s preference whenever possible ensures coverage accurately reflects how someone self-identifies.
People of color (POC) and BIPOC (which stands for Black, Indigenous, and people of color) are nonspecific terms used as shorthand to describe nonwhite people. The latter is slightly more specific about which populations are included, but both have been criticized for their vagueness and how they can seem to flatten or erase differences among various groups. As with any identifier, paying attention to an individual’s preferences whenever possible, and being as specific as possible, ensures coverage reflects how a person self-identifies.
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. Aiming for active language that centers the party committing the action is important for clarity.
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 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 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 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.
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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