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The Gatekeepers


Unknown knowns: the limits of racial discourse in a system almost exclusively controlled by white people

Although many august publications have survived the shift to digital, they have retained many of the problems in how print outlets make assignments and edit their writers’ work—particularly when it comes to race. In the December issue, Mychal Denzel Smith writes, “There is power lost when the oppressor serves as interlocutor. This is not new. Navigating the constraints of white supremacy while establishing a self-definition outside of it is what being black in America has always meant. Slave narratives are powerful firsthand accounts of the horrors of slavery and important assertions of black humanity. But each one, whether Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass or Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, is compromised by the fact that its intended audience was almost exclusively white. It was never the enslaved who needed to hear about the brutality of enslavement.”

In this episode, web editor Violet Lucca is joined by Smith, the author of Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching: A Young Black Man’s Education and a fellow at the Nation Institute, to consider the structural problems of the news media, and how they mirror larger problems in society.

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