The school-to-prison pipeline is a term used to refer to students, often Black students, being pushed into the juvenile justice system through disciplinary actions. If using the term, some explanation is important for context, including the factors such as systemic racism that exacerbate the imbalances among who ends up in the pipeline.
A slur is biased language that is offensive toward a person or group based on identity, such as race or ethnicity, gender, sexuality, or disability, or class. Some words once considered slurs have been reclaimed in certain contexts by the populations they were once used to disparage. Still, given the historically offensive nature of terms such as these, caution is warranted when deciding to repeat them in full, especially outside the context of someone’s self-identification. Keeping repetition to a minimum helps avoid unintentionally desensitizing audiences to the use of such terms. If someone uses a particular term to self-identify, making sure it’s clear that is their stated preference adds necessary context.
A stereotype is an idea or attitude about a person or group of people that overgeneralizes based on incomplete and inaccurate information. Countering stereotypes in media coverage can include consulting as wide an array 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.
The historical and systematic disenfranchisement of groups of people while simultaneously advantaging others on the basis of identities such as gender, race, class, sexual orientation, language, religion, or national origin. Acknowledging the role systemic racism plays in such disparities adds essential context to coverage of institutions and policies.
Some stylebooks and organizations, including the National Association of Black Journalists, have moved to capitalize White to signify its reality as an actual racial category as opposed to a “neutral” space or the norm. However, opponents point to the history of white supremacist groups capitalizing the term. Understanding the historical context and current debate around capitalizing this term is important when determining how to style it in your coverage.
Historically in the United States, the term white supremacy refers to an ideology that holds that white people and culture are superior and thus should be dominant forces in society, supporting white power and status, supporting structural racism, and suppressing opposition, people of color, and certain religious groups. When determining whether to use the term white supremacy, consider how an audience may perceive it given the context: in the broader, societal sense, or in the narrower sense related to the extremist ideologies of white supremacist groups.
The “model minority” myth refers to members of an underrepresented group who are seen as more successful than other underrepresented groups in the United States. (Historically in the United States, this myth has been associated with Asian Americans.) The term ignores variance among populations within that larger group and downplays the role systemic factors such as racism play in socioeconomic status. If mentioning in coverage, giving some explanation of this myth and the ways it can serve to excuse or elide the role systemic racism plays in disparities among and within racial groups provides essential context to audiences.
The term “post-racial” describes a society in which racial prejudice has ended and its related social implications are no longer a factor. Including a definition and interrogating the concept, for instance mentioning the continued disparities and structural inequities between white Americans and those of other racial groups, provides essential context.
Reverse racism is a myth used to deny that certain people in the United States are privileged based on their race or ethnicity. It negates the material social, economic, and other benefits of white supremacy in the United States and can be used as a way to deflect or refute accusations of racism. If using this term, providing some explanation and examples of how it has been employed politically and historically adds 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.
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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