Framing and Messaging
Frames are the way information is organized in individual minds, and, as such are part of how humans make meaning. Why is this important for racial equity communication?
Per the Praxis Project in Fair Game, “If speaking truth were enough to overcome clever distortions and well-funded lies, strategic communications would be simple. But, the way people receive messages is shaped, in part, by underlying concepts that already reside in their minds. These concepts, called ‘frames,’ can reinforce or contradict racial justice messages. Framing is a communications tool that all racial justice communicators need to understand and utilize.”
The Women’s Donor Network and the Communications Consortium Media Center, in their work to reframe the language of reproductive rights in recent health care policy [...]
Examples and Guides for Specific Issue Areas
It Takes Roots to Win People’s Solutions
A. Nadaraj, F. Southall, T. Bryant, A. Hall, et al.
It Takes Roots
Talking About Policing Issues: Border Communities
The Opportunity Agenda
Talking About Unaccompanied Refugee Children Fleeing Harm
The Opportunity Agenda
Communicating for Health Justice: A Communications Strategy Curriculum for Advancing Health Issues
Makani Themba-Nixon et al.
The Praxis Project; Youth Media Council
Don’t Always Stay on Message: Using Strategic Framing to Move the Public Discourse On Immigration
What the Elections Taught Us About Disinformation
Jen Soriano, Hermelinda Cortés, and Joseph Phelan
The Stories We Tell: Land Acknowledgements & Indigenous Sovereignty
Center for Story-based Strategy
GARE: Communications Guide
Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE)
Curbing Implicit Bias: What Works and What Doesn’t
Blueprint for Belonging: Developing a Strategic Narrative to Combat Structural Racism
Stephen Menendian, Gerald Lenoir, Apolonio Morales, and Rev. Kelvin Sauls
Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society
Changing Our Narrative about Narrative: The Infrastructure Required for Building Narrative Power
Color Of Change; Nonprofit Quarterly (NPQ)
Changing the Story: Story-Based Strategies for Direct Action Design
Doyle Canning and Patrick Reinsborough
The Journal of Aesthetics and Protest; smartMeme Strategy and Training Project
Community Values Communications Toolkit: Messaging the Campaign for Community Values
Center for Community Change; The Opportunity Agenda
Creating an Ecosystem for Narrative Power
Jen Soriano, Joseph Phelan, Kimberly Freeman Brown, Hermelinda Cortés, and Jung Hee Choi
Messaging This Moment: A Handbook for Progressive Communicators
Center for Community Change; Open Society Foundations
Moving a Racial Justice Agenda: Naming and Framing Racism
Western States Center (WSC)
Rejecting Bigotry, Demanding Action
The Opportunity Agenda
Let’s Talk About Race: How Racially Explicit Messaging Can Advance Equity
Center for Social Inclusion
Race-Class Narrative: National Dial Survey Report
Celinda Lake, Jonathan Voss, et al.
Lake Research Partners (LRP); ASO Communications; Brilliant Corners Research and Strategy
Some Thoughts About Public Will
Sally A. Leiderman, Wendy C. Wolf, and Peter York
Thinking Change: Race, Framing and the Public Conversation on Diversity: What Social Science Tells Advocates About Winning Support for Racial Justice Policies
The Center for Social Inclusion
Words Matter: Language and Social Justice Funding in the US South
Grantmakers for Southern Progress; IssueLab by Candid
American Opportunity: A Communications Toolkit
The Opportunity Agenda; SPIN Project
Creating Content? Here’s An Equity Screen to Use from Nonprofit AF
Discussion Guide: Common Good Message Box
Building Movement Project
Talking About Race Toolkit
Center for Social Inclusion
Telling A New Story: A Collaborative Checklist for Social Justice Leaders Using Narrative Strategies for Change
Building Movement Project; The Opportunity Agenda; Center for Media Justice; Public Works
The Social Justice Phrase Guide
Advancement Project; The Opportunity Agenda
“Although we all have the right to communicate, historic patterns of privilege, injustice and marginalization mean that we have inequitable access to the tools and resources necessary to fully exercise this right. Bottom line: no change communications strategy is complete without investments in communications and organizing infrastructure that address these inequities.”
~ Makani Themba, Higher Ground Change Strategies
Toni Morrison’s Powerful Words on Racism – The Guardian
Also in this section:
Communicating for Racial Justice
Using Social Media
Working with the Media
An anti-racist is someone who is supporting an antiracist policy through their actions or expressing antiracist ideas. This includes the expression of ideas that racial groups are equals and do not need developing, and supporting policies that reduce racial inequity.
SOURCE: Ibram X. Kendi, How To Be An Antiracist, Random House, 2019.
Caucusing (Affinity Groups)
A caucus is an intentionally created space for those who share an identity to convene for learning, support, and connections. Caucuses based on racial identity are often comprised, respectively, of people of color, white people, people who hold multiracial identities, or people who share specific racial or ethnic identities.
To advance racial equity, there is work for white people and people of color to do separately and together. Caucuses provide spaces for people to work within their own racial/ethnic groups. For white people, a caucus provides time and space to work explicitly and intentionally on understanding white culture and white privilege and to increase one’s critical analysis around these concepts. A white caucus also puts the onus on white people to teach each other about these ideas, rather than placing a burden on people of color to teach them. For people of color, a caucus is a place to work with peers to address the impact of racism, to interrupt experiences of internalized racism, and to create a space for healing and working for individual and collective liberation. At times, people of color may also break into more specific race-based caucuses, sometimes based on experiences with a particular issue, for example police violence, immigration, or land rights. Groups that use caucuses in their organizational racial equity work, especially in workplaces and coalitions, generally meet separately and create a process to rejoin and work together collectively.
SOURCE: RacialEquityTools.org (ACT / Strategies / Caucus and Affinity Groups)
Related Resources: Caucus and Affinity Groups
Location: ACT / Strategies
Also known as unconscious or hidden bias, implicit biases are negative associations that people unknowingly hold. They are expressed automatically, without conscious awareness. Many studies have indicated that implicit biases affect individuals’ attitudes and actions, thus creating real-world implications, even though individuals may not even be aware that those biases exist within themselves. Notably, implicit biases have been shown to trump individuals’ stated commitments to equality and fairness, thereby producing behavior that diverges from the explicit attitudes that many people profess. The Implicit Association Test (IAT) is often used to measure implicit biases with regard to race, gender, sexual orientation, age, religion, and other topics.
SOURCE: Cheryl Staats, State of the Science: Implicit Bias Review 2013, Kirwan Institute, The Ohio State University.
Related Resources: Implicit Bias
Location: ACT / Communicating
The everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership.
SOURCE: Derald Wing Sue, PhD, “Microaggressions: More than Just Race” (Psychology Today, 17 November 2010).
A process of learning about and becoming allies with people from other cultures, thereby broadening our own understanding and ability to participate in a multicultural process. The key element to becoming more culturally competent is respect for the ways that others live in and organize the world and an openness to learn from them.
SOURCE: Paul Kivel, “Multicultural Competence” (2007).
Related Resources: Multicultural Competency
Location: ACT / Strategies
Power is unequally distributed globally and in U.S. society; some individuals or groups wield greater power than others, thereby allowing them greater access and control over resources. Wealth, whiteness, citizenship, patriarchy, heterosexism, and education are a few key social mechanisms through which power operates. Although power is often conceptualized as power overother individuals or groups, other variations are power with (used in the context of building collective strength) and power within (which references an individual’s internal strength). Learning to “see” and understand relations of power is vital to organizing for progressive social change.
Power may also be understood as the ability to influence others and impose one’s beliefs. All power is relational, and the different relationships either reinforce or disrupt one another. The importance of the concept of power to anti-racism is clear: racism cannot be understood without understanding that power is not only an individual relationship but a cultural one, and that power relationships are shifting constantly. Power can be used malignantly and intentionally, but need not be, and individuals within a culture may benefit from power of which they are unaware.
Reconciliation involves three ideas. First, it recognizes that racism in America is both systemic and institutionalized, with far–reaching effects on both political engagement and economic opportunities for minorities. Second, reconciliation is engendered by empowering local communities through relationship-building and truth-telling. Lastly, justice is the essential component of the conciliatory process—justice that is best termed as restorative rather than retributive, while still maintaining its vital punitive character.
Restorative Justice is a theory of justice that emphasizes repairing the harm caused by crime and conflict. It places decisions in the hands of those who have been most affected by a wrongdoing, and gives equal concern to the victim, the offender, and the surrounding community. Restorative responses are meant to repair harm, heal broken relationships, and address the underlying reasons for the offense. Restorative Justice emphasizes individual and collective accountability. Crime and conflict generate opportunities to build community and increase grassroots power when restorative practices are employed.
SOURCE: The Movement for Black Lives (M4BL), “Glossary.”
White Supremacy Culture
White Supremacy Culture refers to the dominant, unquestioned standards of behavior and ways of functioning embodied by the vast majority of institutions in the United States. These standards may be seen as mainstream, dominant cultural practices; they have evolved from the United States’ history of white supremacy. Because it is so normalized it can be hard to see, which only adds to its powerful hold. In many ways, it is indistinguishable from what we might call U.S. culture or norms – a focus on individuals over groups, for example, or an emphasis on the written word as a form of professional communication. But it operates in even more subtle ways, by actually defining what “normal” is – and likewise, what “professional,” “effective,” or even “good” is. In turn, white culture also defines what is not good, “at risk,” or “unsustainable.” White culture values some ways of thinking, behaving, deciding, and knowing – ways that are more familiar and come more naturally to those from a white, western tradition – while devaluing or rendering invisible other ways. And it does this without ever having to explicitly say so...
An artificial, historically constructed culture which expresses, justifies, and binds together the United States white supremacy system. It is the glue that binds together white-controlled institutions into systems and white-controlled systems into the global white supremacy system.
1. Gita Gulati-Partee and Maggie Potapchuk, “Paying Attention to White Culture and Privilege: A Missing Link to Advancing Racial Equity” (The Foundation Review vol. 6: issue 1, 2014).
2. Sharon Martinas and the Challenging White Supremacy Workshop, 4th revision (1995).