NPR's Eric Deggans Delivers Second Annual David and Janet Dix Media Ethics Lecture

Building Bridges, Not Walls

“White privilege and supremacy are terms that are hard for some people to hear,” said NPR TV critic Eric Deggans February 11, 2020 at the David and Janet Dix Lecture in Media Ethics. This was the second such lecture, funded by the generosity of David and Janet Dix and hosted by the School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Speaking to an overflow crowd, Deggans gave a lively talk entitled "Building Bridges, Not Walls: Decoding Media's Confusing Coverage of Race, Gender, Culture and Politics" discussing race and how it is portrayed in the media and how those portrayals are both a reflection of and a support for dominant white culture.

While Deggans noted that open racism was acceptable in society up until the 1960s, it continues to permeate societal views and attitudes. “[N]ow we are stuck with all this racism in media and those types of racism associated with it,” Deggans said and the challenge to is “how to unwind it.”

The key, he stated, was in determining what kind of racism is on display, which he then broke down into four categories.

  1. Bigotry Denial Syndrome: This kind of racist behavior happens when a person engages in a racist act or excuses a racist attitude because they do not believe themselves to be a bigot.
  2. Situational Racism: When a person engages in racist behavior toward someone they don’t personally like, or on the opposite end, engages in racist behavior toward a population, and makes exceptions when they see someone as successful or likable
  3. Strategic Racism: When a person uses racist behavior to seek a political, personal or material goal.
  4. White Privilege: The structural racism of society that sees whiteness as a default and all other races as inferior or different from the norm.

It was this last category of racism that Deggans said was the hardest to unwind, as it is built into society going back to slavery and was often the least overt form.

Deggans challenged the media to step up to not only call racist behaviors by that name, but to actively work in other ways that would counter built in racist attitudes and notions. Those other ways included consciously seeking out news from a larger array of sources than your normal diet and to actively seek out more diverse sources.

The event concluded with a lively question and answer session moderated by the Dean of the College of Communication and Information, Amy Reynolds.

POSTED: Wednesday, February 19, 2020 12:20 PM
Updated: Friday, December 9, 2022 10:45 AM