Media representation is key to lasting change

Earlier in the year we shared why we feel racial representation is important in one of our special insight features.  Influencing the media agenda so there is better representation of all people groups, was a key motivator for me becoming a journalist and I often used to go out of my way to find stories affecting less ‘traditional’ radio audiences.

It’s been unexpected to see the global outcry about the racism many people face today. In fact, it’s been quite disorientating as I’ve become used to internalising the ongoing struggle I face being a British black woman. To be fair though, 2020 has been disorientating and full of the most unexpected circumstances, so maybe I shouldn’t be too surprised

There has been significant attempts towards solidarity, I was quite moved by an anti-racist protest of 500 people made up of around 98 per cent white people in the town I live in  – it was a sight I’d never thought I’d see in my lifetime. There has however, also been some really ugly responses, so much so that I’ve now limited how much time I spend on social media. Amid the anger at the nature of some of the protests, my hope is we don’t lose sight of the main issue: there is still a serious racism issue in England today. And I believe any denial of this says more about the disputant than the issue itself.

“Something as simple as being intentional with your images is a good starting point. Also when targeting awareness days for social media or editorial content for example, resist the temptation to shy away from those that only affect ethnic groups.

I’ve also seen a lot of talk online challenging Black Lives Matter with ‘All lives matter’. While on the face of it this feels like a more inclusive phrase, it is deliberately antagonistic and a response that comes from misunderstanding and fear. In a world where the barriers to progression can be higher the darker your skin is (as someone on the darker end of the spectrum, I talk from experience), it’s important to highlight the very real injustices black people face. I’d like to think by now the reasoning behind #blacklivesmatter shouldn’t need explaining, but in case clarity is needed, this lady says it well.

 In light of all that’s going on, it feels more timely than ever to shine the spotlight on media representation. If you’re thinking of a practical way to make a change through your business can I suggest you start by thinking about your comms?

 Something as simple as being intentional with your images is a good starting point, (you’ll see there are different shades of people across this website – it’s a conscious choice). If nothing else, it gets you thinking beyond your immediate circles. Let’s take awareness days as another example. If you’re looking for days of note you can use for social media or editorial content, resist the temptation to shy away from those that only affect ethnic groups.  A really obvious one is Black History Month  – plenty of content to engage with there! 

If you’re a journalist, and I’ll never tire of saying this, think about your contacts – could you go to a different solicitor for comment on that legal story rather than the same one you’ve used for so long? A black female one maybe? 

 If you’re black, Asian or even white with heritage from a different country, don’t give up! Your voice needs to be heard in the public space. And please don’t let any barriers such as your accent or your different perspective hold you back.

It’s a hyper sensitive time, people are angry, confused, embarrassed and we’re still in lockdown. But the dust will settle and lockdown will eventually be a thing of the past. And when that time comes, it will be the sustainable actions and long-term changes that will make the difference. Changing how you communicate to, and with those different to you and encouraging others to do the same, is one way to do that.

If you feel your communications could be a good starting place for redressing the balance, please do drop us a line. I’d love to chat over a virtual coffee, though like many, you might be all Zoomed out, in which case we can have a conventional telephone chat (remember when we used to do that?)