We often say that journalism “gives voice to the voiceless,” when what it really does – or can do – is remind us to listen to the voices we’ve ignored.
As our nation faces a reckoning with systemic racism, our newsrooms are coming to terms with our own role in perpetuating oppression – or setting the stage for change.
Some newsrooms are starting overdue but critical conversations about race within their newsrooms or with their audiences more widely.
Many journalists of color and their allies are continuing decades-long conversations with renewed urgency.
Longtime RTDNA contributor and WTOP Radio National Security Correspondent JJ Green and his friend of 30 years Chris Core have recently launched a new podcast called “Colors -Exploring America's Racial Divide in 2020.”
It’s a revival of “Black and White” - A Frank Discussion About Race In America, a radio show Green, who is Black, and Core, who is white, started after the 1992 police beating of Rodney King in Los Angeles.
The duo launched the new show because they saw a renewed need for conversation. “People are not talking to each other. We’re talking about each other,” Green said.
Like the radio show did, the podcast focuses on “raw, real, honest and, sometimes, uncomfortable conversations about race,” WTOP said in a press release.
I asked Green after the first few episodes how the conversation changed since the days of “Black and White.” He pointed out two major differences, each a point of progress: “30 years ago people we talked to were angry and doing a lot of venting, but now people are angry, they’re venting and they’re engaged in tangible, constructive efforts to rectify the sources of their anger,” he said. “And most importantly there are so many more people of all ethnic backgrounds getting involved.”
The show, which features Green and Core taking with guests including renowned journalists, also includes audio postcards from listeners sharing their own experiences, perspectives and questions. Green and Core have intentionally sought audiograms from a wide variety of people from different races, ages and backgrounds.
Their own perspectives have changed as they’ve learned over the years, too.
“Wow! If I knew then, what I know now,” Green said looking back on how he’s changed since the original radio show. “As a young person, with little life experience almost 30 years ago, I didn’t fully understand exactly how racism, as a mechanism, penetrated American society. In the years since then, I’ve learned that racism, across America, especially in corporate America is built upon other very destructive behaviors that are fully tolerated in our society –gossip and whisper campaigns, public humiliation, excluding people from opportunities, willful failure to recognize everyone’s value. That to me is the key to addressing racism –taking away the foundation.”
Green and Core bring their experience, and the thoughtful, critical eye of journalists, to each conversation, offering each other and their guests and listeners an opportunity to listen, admit what they don’t know, disagree and learn.
“If JJ and I can light even a little candle of better understanding it will be worth the effort,” said Core on the new show.
It’s one way two journalists are using their platform to think beyond breaking news moments and spur the conversations that create change.
Find more ideas for starting conversations with your community here.