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Black Person

February 2022
Why is it preferable to write or say “person of color” instead of “black person”? Why is it recommended to use the word “impoverished” instead of “poor”? Why is it better to say “non-white people” or “racialized groups” instead of “minorities”? 

We know that what we say and how we say it matters way more than what we think. Words have the power to create or destroy. A word can push us to success or it can create a trauma that could last for decades. From the language, from the words we use, we can promote love, hate, sympathy or rejection. This is a challenge not only for journalists, communicators, parents and educators, but also for all those who live in society. If going forward is the only possible way, then, how can we be anti-racists in the way we express ourselves? 

When “Anti-racist guide for Spanish speaking journalists in the United States” came out by CUNY Craig Newmark School of Journalism Center for Community Media, I interviewed Isar Pilar Godreau, one of the authors, on my program La Voz with Mariel Fiori in Radio Kingston. Godreau has a doctorate in Cultural Anthropology and is a researcher at the University of Puerto Rico in Cayey. Her research topics focus on the racial integrity and racism in the Caribbean with an emphasis on Puerto Rico, and has written about the folklorization of blackness, hair as a sign of racial identity, the use of racial terms in the census, and racism in schools among other topics. 

Why is this guide necessary? Isar Godreau told me “because in general much more discussion on the subject of anti-black racism is needed. We wanted to mainly focus in that dimension of racism for all the portests and all the deep disgust with the anti-black violence that has been unleashed in the United States since the murder of George Floyd, and many other African Americans at the hands of the polce and and also at the hands of other racist white supremacist groups. For that reason, we wanted to provoke a discussion in the media because in Latin American countries the issue of racism is not widely discussed. In fact, the ideologies of racial mixing and miscegenation in many of our countries are what causes people to deny racism or minimize it by saying that it’s not so bad, or that it doesn’t happen because there’s a lot of mixing.

We find that many journalists and people who work in media haven’t had the opportunity to educate themselves about these topics because in Latinamerican countries this topic is rarely discussed, so we needed a guide like this one.” Why do they recommend the term "black person" instead of "person of the black race"? Godreau explained to me that "one of the great myths that has continued to be reproduced is that there is such a thing as race, and that very notion of race and the idea of hierarchies that there were superior races and inferior races was the product of the process of colonization and slavery. So we want to stop perpetuating this notion that race is something biological, something that is fixed because it is not. The truth is that this is a social construct and that is why we think it is better not to say "person of the white race" or "person of the black race" because we think that this continues to reproduce this hierarchical notion. However, racism certainly does exist. Many people say that races do not exist because there is no genetic or biological truth that separates groups of people into different categories, but that does not mean that racism does not exist. Racism does exist, and people are still questioned as black, white or indigenous. So we're not denying that people should be called black, indigenous or white, it's just that we don't think this idea of race as if it were an immutable biological reality should continue to be promoted. 

In addition to Godreau, the other author of the Anti-Racist Guide for Spanish Language Journalists in the United States is Gloriann Sacha Antonetty, founder and editor of Revista étnica and organizer of Colectivo Ilé.  In just 18 pages this practical guide teaches why and how to decolonize our language, like the examples at the beginning of this editorial. I recommend everyone to download this free guide, read it well and put it into practice now!

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La Voz, Cultura y noticias hispanas del Valle de Hudson



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