A survival kit for journalists of color

This piece originally ran on Medium. It has been republished here with the author's permission.

You left because the editors shut down your pitches. Or because they said yes but never ran those columns, the ones you felt most passionate about, the stories of the El Salvadorian women who folded dough into triangles to send their daughters to private school, the young African American lawyer fighting police brutality cases. You left because a woman at work kept running her fingers through your braids and when your co-workers said: “Go to HR,” you said, “But she is the head of HR.”

You left because you were lonely. Tired. Your humanity chipped away each time the editors said it was too hard to find Black journalists and asked you why people of color didn’t go into journalism. You left because according to the photo captions in your newspaper, white people “march peacefully” and people of color “riot.”

You left because you were asked to translate interviews for white reporters who purported to speak Spanish (so said their LinkedIn) and who shrugged when you told them, “But I’m on deadline.”

You left because you had to.

You couldn’t leave.

You took your time leaving. You were the only Black editor, the only Muslim staff writer, the only queer person of color in a newsroom of a few hundred and you had steered the newsroom away from disasters, many times, in its coverage of communities of color. By leaving, you felt like you were letting your people down, letting yourself down. Where was your stamina? Where was your resilience? How could you?

We’ve heard from you. We see you. We are you. We want to help you stay/stay sane/quit/breathe/fight/thrive.

The Toolkit for Journalists of Color is a deck of cards developed by two John S. Knight Journalism Fellows, Dr. Seema Yasmin and Michael Grant. We’ve made the Toolkit with your help, because you shared your experiences of racism, sexism and xenophobia in the newsroom. Thank you for trusting us with your stories.

From quickfire, in-the-moment responses for everyday racist microaggressions, to deliberative exercises that help you build community and recruit allies in the newsroom, the Toolkit for Journalists of Color is designed to help us survive in predominantly white newsrooms.

The Toolkit is one part of our Survival Kit for Journalists of Color which will include a tool, designed by JSK fellow Jennifer Dargan, for white journalists who want to be allies to people of color. You can check out the prototype here.

Available online and as a physical deck of cards, the first prototype of the Toolkit for Journalists of Color is available for testing. Ask us to send you a deck or click here to test the online version of scenarios and responses and send us your feedback.

  • Seema Yasmin

    Seema Yasmin is an Emmy-award winning journalist, medical doctor and professor. She is a John S. Knight Fellow at Stanford University where she is exploring misinformation, media and epidemics. 

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