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Calibrating creative choices

When we’re working for better outcomes for communities of color, it’s crucial that the stories, images, and messengers we put forth are authentic. We strive to uphold this standard whenever we kick off a creative process.

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Harmful content
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Harmful content
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Voyeuristic.

Inequity and misfortune are presented for dramatic effect, not dignity.

Disempowering.

People of color are rarely shown telling their own stories or innovating their own community solutions.

Oversimplified.

Stories and dynamics around race lack nuance, multidimensionality, and intersectionality.

Inauthentic.

The messengers and language used don’t come from communities of color.

Outside-in.

Stories center the white observer’s perspective more than the community’s lived experience.

Insensitive.

In the worst cases, language hasn’t been reviewed by members of the community to remove harmful or careless words.

White-centered.

White allies are depicted more prominently than people of color, sometimes depicted through a ‘white savior’ frame.

Impersonal.

The artwork lacks colors, images, and textures from the community of color it seeks to represent.

Triggering.

In the worst cases, images are violent or otherwise distasteful to the communities of color who are depicted in them or who will see them.

Distance.

The creator has not established creative partnerships with people of color.

Assumption.

The creator has not sourced first-hand insights about experiences with racial inequity to inform their work.

Prescription.

Creative decisions are made for and about, not with, people of color.

Empowering content
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Empowering content
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Dignified.

Even when faced with injustice, communities of color are never portrayed in demeaning positions.

Full of Agency.

People of color speak to their own experiences and are shown actively driving initiatives in their communities.

Layered.

Stories, testimonies, and issue explanations thoughtfully capture nuanced realities like history, community dynamics, and intersectionality.

Real.

Messengers, words, and stories come from people of color and their communities.

First-hand.

Testimony and storytelling center and grant authority to the lived experience of people of color.

Thoughtful.

Words or frames that promote stigma, stereotype, or other aggressions and blind spots never appear.

POC-led.

People of color appear prominently throughout the content and never in less dignified depictions than white partners.

Community-made.

The creative product reflects visual details that are of significance to the community of color.

Thoughtful.

Visuals don’t lean on harmful images that may retraumatize communities of color in order to depict injustice.

Partnership.

Creators and thought-partners of color are invited to bring their lenses and assets into the work, and/or their work is featured with credit and permission.

Validation.

New creative campaigns and concepts are vetted by the people of color they are created for or about.

Collaboration.

The creative process involves community members of color in design, feedback, testing, and promotion. Contributors of color are credited and appropriately compensated.

Calibrate your creative work. How can this framework help you explore the role of race in your issue space? Get a copy of our worksheet to explore. Use the Worksheet
CONTINUE EXPLORING RACIAL EQUITY IMPACT

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YOUR ISSUE What’s the systemic story? 01
YOUR ACTION Where are the opportunities to act? 02
YOUR CONTENT How can you create empowering content? 03
  • Acknowledgements & Thanks

    This thinking has been inspired and informed by our ongoing work with partners, clients, trainers, and our ever-growing network of equity-committed staff and contacts. To learn more about Purpose’s work toward an open, just, and habitable world, please reach out to weare@purpose.com.