TV journalist rocks braids, empowers others

Treasure Roberts in braids with WMBD backdrop

Treasure Roberts stuck with her braids in her video reel and has now brought them out at the anchor desk.

Applause for Michigan State journalism grad Treasure Roberts, now a reporter and fill-in anchor at WMBD/WYZZ News in Peoria, Illinois.

Roberts had the spine to disregard the advice of a new director about her reel, the compilation of video clips that broadcast journalists use to get job interviews. The director told Roberts to cut the clip of herself doing her work in braids. He said the braids would hurt her chances in the job market.

This month, Roberts wore braids on air for the first time in her professional life. Her tweet about it has brought in 150,000 likes so far and a call from Good Morning America, which interviewed her about the support she received.

Roberts told Good morning America, “Representation matters. If anyone gained the confidence to wear their natural hair or protective styles like braids to work because of my post, then I did something right.”

Book cover for 100 Questions & Answers About African AmericansOn her Instagram account, Roberts wrote, “I remember asking for feedback on my news reel a couple years ago before landing a job in the industry. I filmed a captivating stand-up in front of a protest in South Africa. Regardless of the quality of that stand-up I was told to take it out of my reel because I wouldn’t get a job with braids in my hair. That was … discouraging. Despite the feedback, I decided to keep that stand-up in my reel. The way I wear my hair doesn’t affect my storytelling. With that same stand-up at the FRONT of my newsreel I landed my first professional job in news. From that day forward I always said one day I will wear braids on-air. Since then I’ve worn my hair in more natural styles than I ever thought I would on air and now here we are. Braids are professional.”

The story should never be about the hair — except when the story is about the hair, like this one.

As a student at Michigan State, Treasure handled all media and knew how to get to good stories. On Election Day, 2016, she appeared on TV with the MSU project, MI First Election, she did a radio interview with WKAR and then she she wrote the lead story for the website. One of her photographs, from a protest, won recognition from the Society of Professional Journalists. She was also president of the Michigan State student chapter of the National association of Black Journalists.

Black hairstyles are such an issue that the Bias Busters guide, “100 Questions and Answers About African Americans,” includes a video about them. The fact is, we had so many questions about Black hair, we felt we should answer as many as possible where people could see them, rather than spend 10 questions on them. We though that so many questions about hair would distract from the many other issues we wanted to get to.We had lots of help on the video from the Michigan State student group Curlfriends.

“100 Questions and Answers About African Americans” is available from Amazon or the Front Edge Publishing bookstore.

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Chaldeans set back by court’s no-call

A little-noted decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to not hear an appeal has dimmed Chaldean hopes about deportation.

Chaldeans are Catholic Iraqis. Hundreds of Chaldeans and other Iraqis have been detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement under a 2017 Trump administration order. Most face deportation for having criminal offenses, some going back decades. Deportation became a possibility in 2017 when Iraq agreed to repatriate former citizens.

Chaldeans and other Christian Iraqis fear persecution and even death under Muslim rule in Iraq.

Their families and Chaldean communities have been apealling that order. The largest Chaldean communities in the United States are in the Detroit area, around El Cajon, California, and in Arizona and Chicago.

Trump appealed for the Chaldean vote in 2016, especially in the swing state of Michigan, the community responded, and now some Chaldeans say they feel Trump has betrayed them.

On a visit to the Detroit area in January 2020, Trump said, “You have a wonderful Iraqi Christian community in Michigan. And the congressmen were telling me on the plane (Air Force One), how rough it’s been for them. It’s been a very tough time for a lot of Christians all over the world. … We’re going to give those who need it an extension to stay in our country. And so we’re going to be extending them. A lot of people in Michigan have been asking for that. We’re going to … do everything we can to keep people who have been good to this country out of harm’s way.”

Martin Manna, president of the Chaldean Community Foundation and Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce, told the Free Press the community was seeking temporary protective status that could prevent Iraqis from being deported back to Iraq. Nothing has changed since then.

This month, reports The Arab American News, the U.S. Supreme Court let stand a ruling that courts are barred from stopping deportations so people can make their cases before immigration judges. In the previous month, the Supreme Court elevated the federal government’s ability to deport people with limited review in court.

This issue and a lack of knowledge about Chaldeans led the Michigan State University Bias Busters team to create “100 Questions and Answers About Chaldean Americans.” To learn more about Chaldeans and this issue, the guide is available from Amazon or the Front Edge Publishing bookstore.

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Young, old veterans face Covid-19 threats

Veterans’ residences have been hard hit by Covid-19 infections, and some warn about threats to mental health wrought by the pandemic’s related recession.

Cover of the Bias Busters guide, "100 Questions and Answers About Veterans: A Guide for Civilians"

Cover of the Bias Busters guide, “100 Questions and Answers About Veterans: A Guide for Civilians”

The Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute warns that layoffs can increase the danger of suicide and substance abuse among veterans.

It estimates that “that as many as 550 additional U.S. veteran lives could be lost to suicide in the next 12 months and 20,000 additional American veterans could suffer from substance use disorders with every 5% increase in unemployment …”

While Covid-19 outbreaks have struck older veterans, the institute reports that your vets “face unique challenges in finding employment after separating from the military.”

Meadows asks that public policy decisions be guided by these twin threats.

“100 Questions and Answers About Veterans” is available from Amazon or the Front Edge Publishing bookstore.

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Biden cites similarity in courting Muslims

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said Monday, “I wish we taught more in our schools about the Islamic faith … What people don’t realize is … we all come from the same root here, in terms of our fundamental basic beliefs.”

The statement, before an online gathering of the Muslim advocacy group Emgage Action, was unusual, according to National Public Radio — and strategic. NPR reported, “Historically, Democrats have been cautious about openly courting Muslim voters. Clinton never publicly spoke to Muslim groups. And Barack Obama famously visited Cairo in early 2009 to give a speech to the Muslim world, but he never stepped foot inside a mosque as president until the year he was leaving office.”

Biden has been working for Muslim votes. Although the group is small, about 1% of the country’s population, it is larger in critical states Florida and Michigan, and the latter was decided by a margin of less than 1% in 2016.

What did Biden mean when he said, “we all come from the same root?”

He was referencing the shared religious traditions of Jews, Christians and Muslims as Abrahamic religions. It is one of the issues detailed in the Bias Busters series.

“100 Questions and Answers About Muslim Americans” is available from Amazon or the Front Edge Publishing bookstore.

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What is a Jewish trope or canard?

A trope is a metaphor or symbol that alludes to an idea, usually a false one. Often, the word is used for negative stereotypes that can be telegraphed with a phrase, even just a word, or an image.

Book cover for 100 Questions and Answers About American Jews

The word trope is often used to describe allusions to anti-Semitic stereotypes. A closely related word, canard, refers to baseless stories or rumors, and is also often used in conjunction with anti-Semitic content. Most are old or have old roots.

The Anti-Defamation League published a guide to anti-Semitic tropes in this year. The point is to debunk the myths by explaining them, their origin, the twisted logic behind them and how they are expressed today. The first trope in the guide is that Jews have too much power.

Recently, an NFL player and an actor circulated the trope that Jews are involved in a conspiracy to dominate the world. Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson put out on Instagram that there is a Jewish plan to extort America and that Adolf Hitler said Black people are the real Jews. Actor Nick Cannon made similar claims. Both were called out by Jewish leaders and apologized.

The ADL’s trope guide explains this myth and reports that “on white supremacist websites and in underground chatrooms … the notion of an international Jewish conspiracy functions as a kind of perverse social currency. ‘Globalist’ functions as a codeword for Jew, the ‘cosmopolitan elite’ a stand-in for wealthy and erudite Jews accused of acting against the common man to install a new world order.”

“100 Questions and Answers About American Jews” contains a chapter on myths and stereotypes and is one of the few guides in the series to include such a chapter. The guide is available from Amazon or the Front Edge Publishing bookstore.

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Associated Press explains its capitalization of Black and white

The AP, arbiter of writing style in thousands of new publications, today explained why its June decision to capitalize Black in reference to ethnicity and culture will not be followed by capitalizing white in such contexts.

These are some of AP’s reasons for using Black and white in reference to race and ethnicity:

Book cover for 100 Questions & Answers About African Americans* “There was clear desire and reason to capitalize Black. … There is, at this time, less support for capitalizing white. White people generally do not share the same history and culture, or the experience of being discriminated against because of skin color. In addition, we are a global news organization and in much of the world there is considerable disagreement, ambiguity and confusion about whom the term includes.”

* “… Capitalizing the term white, as is done by white supremacists, risks subtly conveying legitimacy to such beliefs.”

* “Some have expressed the belief that if we don’t capitalize white, we are being inconsistent and discriminating against white people or, conversely, that we are implying that white is the default. We also recognize the argument that capitalizing the term could pull white people more fully into issues and discussions of race and equality. We will closely watch how usage and thought evolves, and will periodically review our decision.”

The Bias Busters series has capitalized both terms for several years. Our student authors were swayed by the consistency argument and noted that Black identification is also complicated, ambiguous and confusing. The students noted that supremacists capitalize Black and not White and that some publications do the opposite. This helped push them toward being consistent.

The AP wrote, “We will closely watch how usage and thought evolves, and will periodically review our decision.”

Tell us what you think.

“100 Questions and Answers About Americans” is available from Amazon or the Front Edge Publishing bookstore.

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CBS, CNN expanding race coverage

CNN this week announced it will expand and advance its coverage of race in America.

In a memo to staff on Monday, CNN president Jeff Zucker wrote, “There are structural changes and investments we can and will make to better cover what is happening in our society. We are committed to doing that.”

Also on Monday, CBS laid out a goal to have at least 40% of its writing positions filled by Black, Indigenous or people of color by its 2021-22 broadcast season. It is also setting aside 25% of its development budget for projects with BIPOC creators or producers.

Vanity Fair magazine cover

Vanity Fair magazine cover

Media companies promise changes in the climate of widespread protests about racial marginalization in the United States.

This month’s Vanity Fair magazine cover of Viola Davis is its first cover shot by a Black photographer. The photographer, Dario Calmese, used the opportunity to echo a historic image called “The Back” that laid bare the brutality of slavery.

In June, the Associated Press, which sets writing styles for news outlets across the country and beyond, succumbed to years of pressure and declared it would capitalize Black and Indigenous when referring to people. News outlets across the country, some of which had been having internal conversations about whether to break with AP style, immediately changed. Several, but not most had already broken with the AP.

With so many changes coming in such a short window, we can expect other changes to ripple through the industry. The test will be to see how well news media meet their promises.

Joe Grimm was recruiting and development editor at the Detroit Free Press for 18 years. Now an instructor in the Journalism School at Michigan State University, he also edits the Bias Busters series, here.

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ICE drops threat to international students

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has reversed course on requiring international college students to take at least some courses in person or be deported or denied visas.

100 Questions and Answers About Americans book coverThe announcement did not come from ICE. Massachusetts federal district Judge Allison Burroughs, who was to hear oral arguments on the issue, announced the reversal Tuesday.

Several universities, governments and companies have sued the federal government about the change, which entangled visas, COVID-19, reopening schools and all kinds of budgets. The lawsuits charged that the new directive was arbitrary and capricious and violated a law about limits on the powers of federal agencies.

More than a million international students attend U.S. universities and many were already worried, because of the pandemic, about whether they could continue their studies.

The issue began in March when the pandemic and a rush to online instruction led ICE to release student visa holders from a requirement that they attend in-person classes to remain in the United States.

The push to again require in-person classes paralleled a push to open schools at all levels.

Michigan State University President Samuel L. Stanley had said before the reversal, “The worldwide pandemic we’re all facing together has only highlighted the need for more global collaboration, not less.”

“100 Questions and Answers About Americans” was created in the School of Journalism at Michigan State to help international students navigate U.S. culture and stereotypes about Americans. It is available from Amazon or the Front Edge Publishing bookstore.

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Redskins team name to be retired

A disagreement that festered for decades will reportedly take a new turn Monday when Washington’s National Football League team announces a new name for the team.

But that might not be the end of the story.

A change in the name, which some say was chosen to honor a Native American player and others say keeps a slur in our national conversation, will not likely pass quietly.

The times that deliver this change, resisted for so long by owners and some fans, are also witness to heightened battles over monuments, product brands (which is what a team name is) and equity. This battle could be the most widely debated of all. The Chicago Blackhawks hockey team last week defended its decision to stick with its name, calling it an honorific.

Usually, when a sports jersey is retired, it is a cause for celebration. This is different. People will be putting on the jerseys in defiance.

There will be a backlash that makes the name more prominent for a while, and then most of us will get used to the new name. Some news outlets retired the mascot name years ago, opting for “Washington’s football team” as a standard option or one that individual journalists may choose on their own.

One hopes that, after the initial splash, we can get down to talking about the issues that led to the choice of the name, its defense and now, apparently, its demise.

“100 Questions, 500 Nations: A Guide to Native America” is available from Amazon or the Front Edge Publishing bookstore.

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What is Native American tribal sovereignty?

A U.S. Supreme Court decision today reaffirmed the sovereignty of tribal land covering a large part of eastern Oklahoma.

Indian Country Today reported “The decision was hailed as a win for tribal sovereignty but also raised questions about its potential implications.”

Cover to a 100-question guide about Native AmericansThe 5-4 decision, McGirt v. Oklahoma, affirms the Muscogee (Creek) tribe’s reservation status, upholding the argument that Congress never disestablished its reservation. The decision does not affect land ownership, but does affect legal and criminal jurisdiction. The Native American Journalists Association explains in a reporting guide.

Michigan State University’s Bias Busters project worked with the association to re-release it guide,”100 Questions, 500 Nations: A Guide to Native America.”

The guide has a whole chapter on sovereignty, which is related to this court decision. Here is one question and answer from that chapter:

What is tribal sovereignty?
Just like states, tribes have attributes of sovereignty to govern their own territory and internal affairs as domestic, dependent nations. The status of tribes as self-governing nations is affirmed and upheld by treaties, case law and the U.S. Constitution. Legal scholars explain that tribes
are inherently sovereign, meaning they do not trace their existence to the United States.

“100 Questions, 500 Nations: A Guide to Native America” is available from Amazon or the Front Edge Publishing bookstore.

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