Friday, July 5, 2013

The Universal Charter on Media Representations of Black Peoples

I'm back.

After a brief medical hiatus (one that I'm no where near recovered from, but looming deadlines have me back on my computer), I'm back going through a slew of email/messages/life things/etc.

Here's one of the more interesting notes I got over the past week and a half.  This is from a good friend of mine and Bay Street/McGill-trained lawyer, A. Morgan.

He's drafted "The Universal Charter on Media Representations of Black Peoples."

Read it.  Spread the word.  Post it on Facebook/Twitter/lamp posts.  Get in your workplaces.  Get it in your classrooms.  Teach your students.

The Universal Charter on Media Representations of Black Peoples


Whereas recognition of the inherent and inalienable right of all racial, cultural and ethnic communities to control or constructively influence how they are represented in the mainstream media is a foundational pillar of every healthy community’s existence, well-being, and freedom,

Whereas popular forms of culture and media are most powerful tools that significantly inform individuals and communities on how to respect, understand and relate to one another, and also have a direct and meaningful impact on the quality of lived experiences of marginalized communities, especially those of Black peoples,

Whereas disregard for and indifference towards the diversity, complexity and dynamism of Black experiences have resulted in the perpetuation of degradingly stereotypical media representations of Black peoples that encourage the disrespect and devaluing of the humanity of Blacks and their communities,

Whereas it is essential, if Black peoples are not to be generally regarded and assumed to be an inferior or degenerate people, that the right to self-determined media representations offering balanced and contextualized depictions of Blacks is a fundamental right to be henceforth prioritized,

Whereas negative media representations of Black peoples and communities have a deeply damaging effect on not only the self-worth, self-acceptance and self-esteem of Blacks, but also serve to threaten the socio-economic self-sufficiency, collective well-being, health, employment and housing opportunities of Black peoples,

Whereas, media misrepresentations of Black histories, realities, cultures and contributions serve to justify the impoverishment, incarceration and institutionalized neglect of Black peoples and their communities,

Whereas it is recognized that Black consumers and producers of media representations of Black people are not immune to accepting, justifying, perpetuating, and internalizing racist representations of Black peoples and communities,

Whereas all peoples of the human family seek to globally affirm that a necessary condition of advancing social progress, equity and collective freedom, is the acknowledgment and protection of the humanity, dignity, equality and worth of Blacks as human persons, which are significantly threatened by the mainstream media,

Whereas the adherents to this Charter pledge themselves to promote, in co-operation with other concerned members of the human family, media representations that accurately and responsibly reflect the diverse realities, histories and cultures of Black peoples,

Whereas it is acknowledged that media misrepresentations of Black peoples can be useful tools when intentionally and consciously used to advance responsible public education and awareness about the social and psychological harms of these misrepresentations,

Whereas it is a vicious form of neo-colonial control and psychological oppression to dismiss, undermine or disregard the importance of balanced and healthy media representations of Black peoples and communities,

Now, Therefore THE SUPPORTERS OF ANTI-RACISM IN ALL MEDIA proclaim THIS UNIVERSAL CHARTER ON MEDIA REPRESENTATIONS OF BLACK PEOPLES as a common standard of well-being and respect for all Black peoples, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Charter constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these principles and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among all peoples of the world and the many media outlets from which they receive and consume entertainment and information.


"Black" is a socially constructed identity and includes all individuals who self-identify as Black.

"Media" includes television, radio, movies, theatre productions, commercials, advertisements, music lyrics, music videos, corporate and product branding, print publications and web publications.

Article 1.

All human beings have the right to be free from media representations that perpetuate negative beliefs about Black people through stereotypical depictions that diminish respect for the inherent dignity, equality and rights of Blacks as a people who are both, endowed with reason and conscience, and entitled to have their common humanity and cultures respected and valued.

Article 2.

Everyone is entitled to be free from media representations that include any images that are known or ought reasonably to be known to be gratuitously or exploitatively offensive, embarrassing or humiliating to the dignity of Black people and their communities.  Such representations may include visual representations, imagery, storylines, news reports, and electronic publications.

Article 3.

No one shall be subject to media representations in the form of repeated and hostile or unwanted imagery and depictions, that affect Black individuals’ dignity or psychological integrity and that result in a harmful social environment for Black people. This includes images that encourage victimization, emotional abuse, psychological abuse and psychological violence against Black peoples and their communities.

Article 4.

Everyone shall enjoy an environment free from written, verbal and/or visual media representations which express or promote negative attitudes, derogation, shame and/or hate for a person or group of persons based on their Black history, identity, culture or socio-economic realities.

Article 5.

All media outlets shall take progressively reasonable care to avoid representational acts or omissions which can be reasonably foreseen to cause or likely cause injury to the humanity, self-esteem or dignity of Blacks peoples and their communities.

Article 6.

All responsible media outlets, users and producers of representations of Black peoples and communities shall, for the credibility and ethical merits of their productions, measure the safety, quality and fairness of their representations of Black peoples and communities by the broadly and liberally interpreted standards and values of this Charter.

Article 7.

All peoples seeking to assess the nature, value and effect of media representations of Black peoples and communities may benefit from the use and application of this Charter as an evaluative tool for the critical interpretation of these images and depictions.

Article 8.

The authority of this Charter is grounded in the inherent and universal dignity and equality of all peoples and everyone's rights to be treated and represented in ways that are consistent with their humanity, diversity and the complexity of human experiences shaped by multiple and overlapping social identities.

Article 9.

Legitimate enforcement of this Charter rests with all peoples and institutions that are interested in and committed to fair and equitable media representations of Black peoples and communities as measured by the values reflected in this Charter.

Article 10.

Every person has a right to claim and enforce his or her rights under this Charter, to institute and participate in critical and respectful reflection, dialogue, assembly and organizing in support of the values outlined in this Charter, and to refuse to infringe a right of a person or group of persons under this Charter without reprisal or threat of reprisal for so doing.