This statement is from the Commission on Race and Ethnicity, a committee of students within the Harvard Political Review dedicated to improving racial literacy and bringing greater diversity to the HPR’s content and workplace.
June 3, 2020
To the members of the Harvard community:
Over the course of the past few months, our nation has witnessed devastation and injustice of the highest order. We have seen countless Black Americans taken from our community in acts of racial violence, the latest resulting in the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and Ahmaud Arbery. These are only the most recent incidents in a long history of brutality towards communities of color, and they highlight a particularly painful reality of exclusion and prejudice within our society. During this time of national grieving, our hearts go out to the family members, friends, and communities that have had to reckon with the many innocent lives whose lights have been extinguished too soon. We, the Commission on Race and Ethnicity at the Harvard Political Review, express our solidarity with our fellow Black students and with the Black community at large.
Racism is an insidious force that has plagued this country since its founding. To this day, we see the consequences of this force as we confront injustice in every arena of American life: in education, health, the criminal justice system, and beyond. It is our duty, as students of various identities, backgrounds, and experiences, to repulse racism wherever it arises.
As a student journalism organization, we exist to tell the stories of our peers and of the world. We exist to tell stories of strife, of hardship, of injustice. We exist to tell stories that break our hearts as they do yours. But we tell these stories so that we may expose the injustices within our society and work towards a better future. A future in which Black voices are represented on the same platform as White ones. A future in which Black communities have the same opportunities as White ones. A future in which Black lives are given the same value as White ones. The HPR commits to making this a reality through its coverage and its institutional procedures.
Even as headlines fade into a sepia-toned past, we will keep strong in our memories the stories of Floyd, Taylor, McDade, and Arbery. These stories, along with those that reside in our archives — Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Rodney King, and many more — must remain alive in our collective memory and our discourse if we are to make any significant strides towards change. We urge both our writership and our readership to read the coverage of years and incidents past, and acknowledge the heavy current of injustice that runs through our history and our present day.
Having acknowledged this injustice, it is our duty to take action. One year ago, the Commission on Race and Ethnicity was brought into existence with the mission of confronting these issues within our organization. The Harvard Political Review has had to reckon with the legacy of exclusion and injustice within its own organization as it has struggled to make the newsroom a space that is inclusive for people of all identities. However, in light of our own shortcomings and the recent incidents, we are committed to working towards building a future in which all voices are represented and respected not only within our organization, but within our larger community. As such, we have committed to the following actionable measures:
Just in the past few years, diversity on Masthead and within our larger writership has improved tremendously, and we are working to see that trend continue. The Commission on Race and Ethnicity is actively working to increase the recruitment of individuals with diverse and valuable perspectives that have been long underrepresented in traditional media coverage. We will be speaking with affinity groups and cultural organizations on campus in an effort to increase the diversity of voices that are heard within the HPR.
Ensuring a Longstanding Commitment to Racial Sensitivity and Justice
We promise that these efforts are not touch-and-go, for we know that to truly achieve an advanced racial consciousness, we must remember these incidents even when they do not dominate the media cycle. We commit to maintaining the discourse around race and ethnicity in the coming months and years. We will be implementing training sessions and workshops for all writers and Masthead members to talk about how to improve racial literacy and discuss issues relating to race and ethnicity with the sensitivity that they deserve. We promise to keep the national conversation alive and commit to ensuring that issues affecting communities of color receive proper attention and treatment within our content.
Listening to Our Community
The HPR is committed to being an accessible organization to its students and to the members of its community. If you have feedback for us on the way we handle issues of race and ethnicity, please let us know with the following form or by emailing us at email@example.com. In addition, if you are a Harvard College undergraduate student who would like to make your voice heard, please make use of the “Outside Submissions” tab on the bar at the bottom of this website. There is not and will never be a comp requirement or attachment to contribute to the publication. If you are unable to write but still have thoughts on topics related to the current situation that you feel are lacking in mainstream coverage or HPR coverage, please feel free to indicate these ideas with the feedback form or email linked above, and we will be sure to include them in pitch documents going forward so that our writers may cover them.
Creating a Guide to Writing About the Current Situation
We have put together the following guide, “Writing About Race in Light of Recent Events,” to help writers navigate the writing process and contribute productively to existing discourse on current events. This is a step towards improving racial literacy and promoting sensitivity and caution in the HPR’s handling of sensitive coverage.
Providing Resources for Community Members in Need
At the end of every article published in the HPR relating to sensitive issues of race and ethnicity, you will find a list of support resources that are open for members of the Harvard community. We hope that students will take advantage of those resources, and that in time there will be stronger university institutions in place for students dealing with racism and injustice in their own lives. We will also include a list of writing- and media-related resources for those who wish to improve their racial literacy. The language will read as follows:
“Below you will find a list of helpful support resources for the Harvard community:
- Harvard Office for Diversity Education & Support: Confidential bias report form for non-emergency incidents; undocumented student support. For emergency incidents, call 911.
- University Ombudsman Office: Confidential space to discuss academic and workplace concerns: firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 617-634-9826.
- Diversity Peer Educators: Group of peer educators facilitating conversations about diversity and inclusion.
- Counseling and Mental Health Services: Confidential and open to all members of the Harvard community: 617-495-2042.
- Room 13: Confidential peer to peer mental health support.
- The Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations: Provides programming to promote diversity and inclusion within the Harvard community.
- Boston Neighborhood Trauma Team: 24/7 hotline for individuals, families, and communities impacted by community violence: 617-431-0125.
- Resources to improve racial literacy:
- The Diversity Style Guide: Resource for writers.
- The Media Diversity Institute: Resource for writers.
- Riot or resistance? The way the media frames the unrest in Minneapolis will shape the public’s view of protest: Nieman Lab article discussing how journalists and the media frame coverage of protests.”
We take this time as a student organization to reflect upon our own moral duty in supporting communities of color that are undergoing tremendous injustice. We stand in solidarity with the Black community, and we commit to making the HPR a welcoming platform for all voices of color.