Journalists Should Call Something Racist When It's Racist, Associated Press Says

People have criticized news outlets for using euphemisms like “racially charged” or “racially tinged,” particularly in reporting on President Donald Trump.

The Associated Press Stylebook, a style manual for many journalists and news outlets around the country, now recommends that if something’s racist, writers should call it racist.

“Do not use ‘racially charged,’ ‘racially motivated,’ ‘racially tinged’ or similar terms as euphemisms for ‘racist’ or ‘racism’ when the latter terms are truly applicable,” the new guidelines read.

Crucially, the AP Stylebook also notes that using “racist” as a description “need not involve examining the motivation of the person who spoke or acted, which is a separate issue that may not be related to how the statement or action itself can be characterized.”

The changes, announced Friday, come as members of the public increasingly criticize journalists and news organizations for using euphemisms to describe racism or racist comments, particularly in reporting on President Donald Trump.

Many news outlets characterized Trump’s racist description of some African countries and Haiti last year as “racially charged” or “racially tinged” — among a spate of similar euphemisms that HuffPost’s Julia Craven collected.

News organizations have also hedged or sugarcoated racism with terms like “racially incendiary,” “remarks condoning racism” and “comments that some consider racist” in covering politicians like white supremacist Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) and Govs. Brian Kemp (R-Ga.) and Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.). Kemp and DeSantis’ campaigns frequently used explicit or implicit racism last year to attack Democratic opponents Stacey Abrams and Andrew Gillum, who are both black.

Some journalists say editors have asked them to remove references to a subject’s “racism” or to their “racist” behavior” and to replace those words with euphemisms.

Friday’s announcement was part a series of revised AP guidelines on reporting on race.

Another change that many, though not all, journalists of color applauded Friday: The AP calls for dropping the hyphen in terms like “African American” and “Asian American” (previously styled as “African-American” and “Asian-American”). Some see the hyphenation as pejorative and othering, though others say it meaningfully reflects their identity and should be a matter of personal preference.

Other style guides and dictionaries have already recommended not using the hyphen, such as the Chicago Manual of Style and the American Heritage Dictionary. The latter notes that the hyphenation “has come under strong criticism as suggesting that those so designated are not as fully American as ‘unhyphenated’ citizens, and it is best avoided in all but historical contexts.”

Popular in the Community