15 Times the Media Got Racial Justice Right in 2015
In 2015, the media had a lot to say about race and racism. Though a lot of reporting did little to advance the cause of racial justice, many voices emerged that challenged dominant narratives, exposed grave injustices and asked us to think about race in progressive new ways. Below are 15 articles, opinion editorials, videos and podcasts from the past year that we think got racial justice right.
1. “A Dream Undone: Inside the 50-year campaign to roll back the Voting Rights Act," Jim Rutenberg, The New York Times
“All of these seemingly sudden changes were a result of a little-known part of the American civil rights story. It involves a largely Republican countermovement of ideologues and partisan operatives who, from the moment the Voting Rights Act became law, methodically set out to undercut or dismantle its most important requirements.”
2. "Is kindergarten too young to suspend a student?", PBS Newshour
“Could out-of-school suspensions be a factor in the network’s academic success? Eva Moskowitz’s critics think so. They accuse her of suspending very young children over and over to persuade parents to change schools before state testing begins in third grade. Could that be true? We do know that some Success Academy students are suspended over and over.”
3. "Busting the Myth of 'The Ferguson Effect'," Brentin Mock, Citylab
"Anyone aware of the 2009 murder of Oscar Grant by Oakland transit police (made into the 2013 film Fruitvale Station) or April Martin’s 2014 documentary Cincinnati Goddamn (about the 2001 riots after two African Americans were killed by city police) knows that agitation in black communities has been simmering for way longer than nine months. Still, Mac Donald has been trying to make the term “The Ferguson effect” happen, by arguing, as she did in May, that an “incessant drumbeat against the police” has resulted in increased crime throughout St. Louis county."
4. "60 Years After Emmett Till’s Murder, Black Lives Still Matter," Errin Whack, NBC News
“The role of the media was instrumental in bringing and keeping international attention on both cases. In the Till murder, it was the Black Press that relentlessly covered the murder and trial in an attempt to fully expose the horrors of the segregated South. In Brown's death, social media quickly dispelled any notions of a post-racial society.”
5. “The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration," Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Atlantic
“Mass incarceration is, ultimately, a problem of troublesome entanglements. To war seriously against the disparity in unfreedom requires a war against a disparity in resources. And to war against a disparity in resources is to confront a history in which both the plunder and the mass incarceration of blacks are accepted commonplaces.”
6. “The Rebirth of Black Rage," Mychal Denzel Smith, The Nation
"But black rage is about holding America accountable. It does not distract “attention from solving real problems”; it illuminates those problems and asks America to confront their roots. If black rage has prevented alliances from forging, those are likely not alliances that would have yielded much in the way of progress anyway."
7. “The school-to-prison pipeline affects girls of color, but reform efforts pass them by,” Ruth Jeannoel, The Guardian
“Despite the statistics, there are no initiatives like the My Brother’s Keeper program – a five-year, $200m program initiated by President Obama to support boys of color – to engage and nurture young women of color. Even though black girls are criminalized and brutalized by the same oppressive system, rarely does their brutalization make national news."
8. “This American Life: The Problem We All Live With," Nikole Hannah Jones, This American Life
“They're sending in teacher coaches from wealthier districts. The idea is try anything they can to keep Normandy students inside the district. This is how far they will go to avoid that one thing-- that one thing that already seems to be working-- integration.”
9. “Fearing for my Black, transgender child’s life," Louis Porter II, The Washington Post
“Zeam is part of a generation that evokes the spirit of the 1960s, organizing and protesting with an energy that leaves me in awe. But especially for a black transgender youth, speaking out comes at a price. Words, attitudes and actions of other young people and adults can be cruel — yet Zeam continues to soar.”
10. "The Condition of Black Life is One of Mourning," Claudia Rankine, The New York Times
“The unarmed, slain black bodies in public spaces turn grief into our everyday feeling that something is wrong everywhere and all the time, even if locally things appear normal. Having coffee, walking the dog, reading the paper, taking the elevator to the office, dropping the kids off at school: All of this good life is surrounded by the ambient feeling that at any given moment, a black person is being killed in the street or in his home by the armed hatred of a fellow American.”
11. “Shadow Prisons," Christina Costantini and Jorge Rivas, Fusion
“Most of the roughly 23,000 immigrants held each night in CAR prisons have committed immigration infractions -- crimes that a decade ago would have resulted in little more than a bus trip back home. And now, some of the very same officials who oversaw agencies that created and fueled the system have gone on to work for the private prison companies that benefited most.”
12. “Protesters Out to Reclaim King’s Legacy, but in an Era That Defies Comparison,” Tanzina Vega, The New York Times
“Unlike the clear goals of the civil rights era, the protesters today mostly cite much broader goals, such as ending discrimination, combating inequality and ending the killing of young blacks by the police. Others say they want to confront racism, curb gentrification and reduce the incarceration of people of color. Many see themselves as building a new movement that goes well beyond what some called the “respectability politics” of civil rights leaders such as the Rev. Al Sharpton, powerful figures like Oprah Winfrey and politicians like President Obama.”
13. “Black death has become a cultural spectacle: Why the Walter Scott tragedy won’t change White America’s mind," Brittney Cooper, Salon
“In this cultural climate, it will take, it seems, an ocean of Black bodies to convince white people that structural racism is a problem. Therefore, I am not convinced in this moment that this video means anything. We watched Eric Garner die on video. We watched Tamir Rice die on video. The officers who killed both of them are free. Black people have no reason to trust that video evidence will lead to any significantly different outcome in the case of Michael Slager.”
14. “A Respectable Outrage," Thomas Mariadason, The Huffington Post
“…I want every young person we've cuffed and hauled away from school to feel the same way Ahmed does today. Like their creativity and imagination are valued. Like they have rights to due process and equal treatment guaranteed by their Constitution. Like they have a future worth investing in and waiting for.”
15. "Virginia tops nation in sending students to cops, courts: Where does your state rank?" Susan Ferris, Center for Public Integrity
“The findings raise questions about what kind of incidents at school really merit police or court intervention, and provide fodder for a growing national debate over whether children, especially those in minority groups, are getting pushed into a so-called “school-to-prison pipeline” unnecessarily and unjustly. What’s happening in some schools seems almost directly at odds with guidance from the U.S. Department of Education."