How Does Racism Show Up In Media and Why Your DEI Initiatives Need to Care


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There is never a ‘dull’ or shall we say ‘dangerous’ moment at the World Economic Forum at Davos. Climate crisis activist, Vanessa Nakate, from Uganda, was cropped out of a photo by the Associated Press (AP) leaving just white young climate change activists in the headline image. You can see the two images side by side below. Responding to this painful moment Vanessa said “You didn’t just erase a photo. You erased a continent” and “We don’t deserve this. Africa is the least emitter of carbons, but we are the most affected by the climate crisis…You erasing our voices won’t change anything. You erasing our stories won’t change anything”.

This racist act by AP speaks to whose pain we see as valid, whose struggles we deem legitimate, and to who we give our credit. Erasure of certain groups is a design feature of systems of inequity, and here we must be clear that racism is the root cause of what happened, and what continues to happen.

This issue was also powerfully raised at Davos by 12-year-old gun control activist, Naomi Wadler, in a panel, where she said: “when we look on the news we see the white kids who are making a difference, and we see the white kids who are speaking out, but then we see some of the same black and brown kids who are saying the exact same thing and are not getting any attention for it…the media does a great job of glorifying, and putting white privileged kids as you said, at the centre of every movement”.

You can watch Naomi’s full remarks in this captioned video:

While you might not be moving in activist circles, you can be sure these dynamics play out in our workplaces too. To whom do we give credit? Whose talents are hyper-visible? And whose skills do we deem legitimate? Conversely, whose errors are hyper-visible and amplified? Whose ‘potential’ alone is sufficient, and who has to prove they deserve that next promotion? The tough news is that the answers to these questions are organized around race, gender, disability, sexuality, and faith inequities. It’s our role to be vigilant, and then subvert these patterns consistently.

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