This letter was sent on June 3, 2020 to the leadership of The Philadelphia Inquirer.
To the leadership of the Philadelphia Inquirer:
As journalists of color, we do more than report on the community — we are the community. We do our best to give the community a platform to be heard. We strive to represent the voice of the people.
And we are tired.
We’re tired of hasty apologies and silent corrections when someone screws up. We’re tired of workshops and worksheets and diversity panels. We’re tired of working for months and years to gain the trust of our communities — communities that have long had good reason to not trust our profession — only to see that trust eroded in an instant by careless, unempathetic decisions.
It’s no coincidence that communities hurt by systemic racism only see journalists in their neighborhoods when people are shot or buildings burn down. It takes commitment to correct and improve that relationship. It is an insult to our work, our communities, and our neighbors to see that trust destroyed—and makes us that much more likely to face threats and aggression. The carelessness of our leadership makes it harder to do our jobs, and at worst puts our lives at risk.
We’re tired of shouldering the burden of dragging this 200-year-old institution kicking and screaming into a more equitable age. We’re tired of being told of the progress the company has made and being served platitudes about “diversity and inclusion” when we raise our concerns. We’re tired of seeing our words and photos twisted to fit a narrative that does not reflect our reality. We’re tired of being told to show both sides of issues there are no two sides of.
Things need to change.
On June 4, we’re calling in sick and tired. Sick and tired of pretending things are OK. Sick and tired of not being heard.
It is an act that pains us, knowing that now more than ever it is our duty and responsibility to uplift the marginalized voices of our community. But in this moment, it is more important for us to stand alongside those who have risen up against systemic racism and inequities and call on the Inquirer to do better. To be better.
This is not the start of a conversation; this conversation has been started time and time again. We demand action. We demand a plan, with deadlines. We demand full, transparent commitment to changing how we do business. No more “handling internally.” No more quiet corrections. If we are to walk into a better world, we need to do it with our chests forward—acknowledge and accept where we make mistakes, and show how we learn from them. Your embarrassment is not worth more than our humanity.
This is what it means to “give a damn.”
Journalists of Color of The Philadelphia Inquirer