At a protest in the Commons following the election, I’ve been thinking a lot about the phrase “Black Lives Matter”. Sure, I say it and I believe it, but am I doing the work in my every day life to back up those words?
As my final for Dan Kennedy’s Digital Storytelling and Social Media, I chose to focus on the work being done by the Asian American community in Boston to support Black folks. There’s more work to be done than simply covering the work others do, but for now, we still need to give voice to marginalized communities, especially when they are doing cross-community work the way the Sticky Rice Project and Asian Pacific Islanders for Black Lives do. While these pieces are by no means exhaustive, please enjoy my video below, and check out the accompanying article and slideshow!
For my final project, I’m interested in focusing on the involvement–or lack thereof–of Asian Pacific Islanders (APIs) in the Black Lives Matter movement, with a focus in the Boston/Cambridge area. I am in contact with the Sticky Rice Project, a subset of the community organizing program Asian American Resource Workshop. The Sticky Rice Project is currently running an anti-Black racism workshop to combat the prejudice that often runs in the Asian American community.
I have a contact at the Sticky Rice Project that I’ve spoken to about the project, and have reached out to the Black Lives Matter chapters to try to set up interviews. I’m also going to reach out to leadership in the Asian American organizations at BU, BC, Harvard and MIT to see if they are running any sort of anti-Black racism programming at their universities. I know that Northeastern is doing this sort of work, so I also intend to interview the staff members at the Asian American Center to get a perspective about what work is happening at Northeastern.
I intend for this story to be primarily video driven, perhaps with the written story focusing on Northeastern itself. For the slideshow aspect, I intend to focus on the action that community groups are taking, so for example, marches, demonstrations or programming that the groups are involved in.
You may have noticed your Facebook friends “checking in” at Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota. No, they didn’t all plan a trip without you, and if you’re lost, go read this CNN article to get caught up and come back. Given this development, and the stark difference between the treatment of Standing Rock protestors and Ammon Bundy and Co., we’re going to revisit the idea of White Privilege as it pertains to protesting. Or in this case, occupying land.
You’ve heard it before: All Look Same. This isn’t just some racist joke kids taunt on playgrounds, pulling the corners of their eyes and putting on unmistakably Asian accent. It’s actually a psychological phenomena known as Out-of-Group Homogeneity, and paired with the Cross-Race Effect, it explains why folks struggle to differentiate people outside of their own race. Essentially, interracial interactions are based on features only, while intraracial interactions are holistic–you literally take the person at face value if they’re outside your race, but if they’re within your race you see them as a whole, individual person. So it’s not an inherently racist statement, and it leads us to consider the larger psychological basis for mixing up people of the same race or even racial profiling.
So you’re an average New Yorker wasting time on your phone when you get this emergency alert.
Note that there was no photo attached, so New Yorkers needed to look up images on their own time. Images have flooded the media now, but initially, there weren’t too many photos available and so citizens were left with nothing but an Arab-sounding name and an age. (Fun fact, another result of the Cross-Race Effect is that people struggle to accurately guess the age of folks of different races! So the odds of someone accurately determining Rahami’s age based on a picture are somewhat slim.)
Various media outlets have already chimed in noting that this alert may have lead to citizens racially profiling their brown neighbors. Jessica Lachenal of The Mary Sue wrote that,
“By sending out an alert like this, which lacks critical context and information, people are left with only their imagination and previous biases to judge who “Ahmad Khan Rahami” might be. In a single moment, suddenly everybody who appears to be Muslim and/or Middle Eastern becomes a suspect.”
Lachenal cites the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing, when Sunil Tripathi was mistaken for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. The Daily Beast ran a story on his family in April of 2015, check it out here. People searched incessantly for Tripathi, who didn’t show up, primarily because he was dead. He’d killed himself a month before the bombings even happened.
Let’s be clear: police were able to apprehend Rahami because a citizen saw him and called for help. But when we consider the number of young black men stopped (and arrested or killed) because they matched the brief description of a suspect, we can understand why an emergency alert with a lack of details is concerning.
Walk into any intro journalism class anywhere in the country and one of the first questions posed is, “Where do you get your news?” The reality is that today, while most folks still get their news from television sources, a great deal of it (especially in that coveted 18-24 bracket) is digital, and more specifically, mobile. With that in mind, here’s a quick list of Twitter accounts I follow that help to shape my beat of Media and Race in America.
Charles Blow, New York Times columnist and author of the (haunting and powerful) memoir Fire Shut Up In My Bones. Lately, Blow has been focusing a lot on politics, and has been writing some great pieces on Trump’s relationship with Black America.
Yamiche Alcindor, another New York Times writer who covers national politics and social justice issues. I met her during my time at MSNBC, but she garnered a bit of attention when asking Senator Bernie Sanders a question.
Jose-Antonio Vargas is an undocumented, gay, Filipino activist who tweets a great deal about immigration and intersectional identities. He’s also the director and producer of two films: MTV’s White People and Documented.
Ta-Nehisi Coates is one of The Atlantic’s national correspondent and the author of Between the World and Me and more recently the Marvel Comic series Black Panther. Between the World and Me was written to be an updated version of James Baldwin’s “The Fire Next Time,” a response to today’s racial unrest, and practically all of Coates work reflects his reality as a Black man in America.
Liz Plank, of Vox, was named on Forbes’ 30 Under 30 in 2015. She used to be with Mic and formerly was a correspondent on MSNBC’s Krystal Clear, and while she mainly covers the 2016 election for Vox, her twitter account is a great source of commentary on all things race, feminism, and fact checking.
Rabia Chaudry, a lawyer and the author of Adnan’s Story, the New York Times’ best-seller that follows up on the case of Adnan Syed. (If the name doesn’t ring a bell, go binge the first season of Serial–this case is one of the most important ones of 2014.) Chaudry uses her twitter account to talk about the rampant Islamophobia in our country.
Ijeoma Oluo is an editor at the online weekly The Establishment. As with many folks in the journalism industry, Oluo’s feed is a mix of professional and personal, and she unapologetically tweets on police brutality and anti-Black racism on a daily basis.
Trymaine Lee is a national reporter for NBC and MSNBC, and as of right now, he’s covering the Charlotte Riots. If you want live updates right now, go to his page. He recently wrote a powerful feature on the Dakota Access Pipeline–a timely reminder that race issues in America are broader than just Black and White.
Keep in mind, I’m currently following close to a thousand accounts on Twitter, but these 10 are first and foremost the ones I recommend when it comes to covering race on our favorite 140-character platform. Is there anyone I missed? Who do you follow?