It seems the world really woke up during lockdown, with the COVID-19 pandemic bringing a ton of social issues to light. Seemingly overnight, we've realised who has thrived, whose income has been wiped out, and who was never given a chance to get going in the first place. International protests, sparked by the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, highlighted the pervasive mistreatment of the Black community and the mechanics of institutionalised racism that we didn’t know—or didn’t want to acknowledge—existed.
But even here, the focus often fell on how Black Lives Matter protesters displayed their exasperation, instead of what it was actually about. There's evidently a gulf between the issues faced and discussed by the global Black community—as well as other communities of colour—and what’s actually being reflected in product, policy and the press.
In a time of deceptive politics, ‘Fake News’ (yeah, we hate that term too) and the decline of public trust in the media, quality journalism has become more important than ever. We all know the ethical standards and values that underpin our work, but we must also hold ourselves to account. When we stray from objective fact, we run into bias and prejudice, learned and hidden, that reflects our environment and upbringing. And it's not just colour. Gender, age, sexuality, disabilities and socio-economic status are all subject to bias.
Bias in itself isn’t a 'bad thing', but unconscious and unchecked bias can mislead, manipulate and divide us. It’s loaded. For example, a travel writer could write 'pretty, colonial Galle' to invoke images of quaint, white-washed houses in Sri Lanka. But that fails to recognise that many locals and diaspora associate their European colonisers with a regime that disfigured their culture and identity—and, quite literally, forced them from their homes.
Knowledge is power. An absence of it can fuel ‘micro-aggressions’ (more on that another time), ageism and structural racism, exacerbating the lack of diversity and inclusivity around us—but knowledge can embolden those who, historically, haven’t been given the chance to speak for themselves. And that’s why we’re doing this. It's not about revisiting every piece of copy, film or audio you've written or edited, and panicking about where your bias might have jumped out. But everyone can watch out for certain clichés, hackneyed images and problematic wording now.
It's never too late to change the narrative, so every fortnight, we’ll send you a short op-ed, links to brilliant articles from talented and often-marginalised writers, a 'sense check' (all questions anonymous, so please email us—no matter how embarrassing or obvious you think they are) plus history bites, writing tips and inspiring organisations to support. We’re still learning loads ourselves, as travel journalists and Indian women, so we’re all in it together.
Welcome—and let’s get to work!
Shivani and Meera