Calling racism what it is: 8 questions for Khalil Gibran Muhammad

Race and history scholar Khalil Gibran Muhammad

Khalil Gibran Muhammad, professor of history, race and public policy at Harvard Kennedy School. (Martha Stewart)


In late March 2019, The Associated Press announced it was offering new guidance on writing about race and racism. It now directs journalists to avoid using “racially charged, racially divisive, racially tinged or similar terms as euphemisms for racist or racism when the latter terms are truly applicable.” The AP also stresses that as newsrooms assess whether a statement or act meets the definition of racism, their assessment “need not involve examining the motivation of the person who spoke or acted, which is a separate issue that may not be related to how the statement or action itself can be characterized.”

The AP stopped short, however, of offering specific suggestions for how to characterize certain types of comments, policies and actions.

To offer additional insights, Journalist’s Resource sought help from one of the nation’s leading scholars on race and history, Khalil Gibran Muhammad, a professor at the Harvard Kennedy School and the former director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.


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