COLUMN ONE : Negative News and Little Else : By focusing on crime, poverty and aberrant behavior, newspapers fail to give a complete portrait of ethnic minorities.


Jesse B. Semple--"Simple” to his friends--lived in Harlem, where he often shared with his friend Boyd his wry, homespun observations on the pains and frustrations of life in a racist society.

“The only time colored folks is front page news,” Semple once said, “is when there’s been a lynching or a boycott or a whole bunch of us have been butchered or is arrested.”

Writer Langston Hughes created the fictional character of “Simple” 48 years ago. But there was nothing fictional about Simple’s commentary on the American press, and despite substantial improvement in recent years, many journalists of all colors offer disquietingly similar criticisms of their profession today.

Overt racism in the press is rare now, and some newspapers--most notably USA Today, others in the Gannett and Knight-Ridder chains and the Seattle Times--have even tried as a matter of formal policy to include people of color in the mainstream of their daily coverage. But minority journalists (and many of their white colleagues and supervisors) say the overwhelming majority of press coverage still emphasizes the pathology of minority behavior--drugs, gangs, crime, violence, poverty, illiteracy--almost to the exclusion of normal, everyday life.


To some extent, of course, the same criticism can be made of press coverage of whites. News, as defined by the people who write, edit, publish and broadcast it, is about the unusual, the aberrant--about triumphs and tragedies, underachievers and overachievers; it’s about the extremes of life, not “normal, everyday” life.

But the press covers a much broader range of white life than of minority life, and critics say the narrow, distorted view of ethnic minorities presented in the press strongly influences how whites--and such white-run institutions as the police, the courts and the school system--perceive and treat minorities. The press thus plays a major role in perpetuating the ethnic stereotypes--and fueling the prejudices and ethnic conflicts--that increasingly polarize our increasingly multicultural society.

Times interviews with more than 175 reporters, editors and publishers from more than 30 newspapers nationwide over the past four months produced a wide range of criticisms of how the press portrays African-Americans, Latinos, Asian-Americans and Native Americans. Among these were: Harmful stereotyping. Ignorance of cultural differences. Use of racially biased or insensitive language. Unfair comparisons between different ethnic groups. A double standard in the coverage of minority politicians. Failure to photograph or quote minorities. Anointing unrepresentative and sometimes irresponsible minority “spokesmen.” Automatically lumping together all Latinos or, in particular, all Asian-Americans as a single community, without recognizing the substantial differences in culture and language among the varied elements of those communities.

But no complaint about press coverage was voiced as frequently by minorities (or acknowledged as readily by many whites) as the overwhelmingly negative nature of most stories on people of color--especially blacks and Latinos--and the concomitant absence of people of color from the mainstream of daily news coverage.


TV News

Although local television news (with its emphasis on crime and violence) and network news (with its emphasis on public policy) are especially susceptible to these charges, most newspapers aren’t much better, the critics say. And yet, only by covering all aspects of minority life can the press give whites a “rounded picture” of society--and give minorities themselves a sense of belonging to that society, says A. Stephen Montiel, a Latino, who is president of the Institute for Journalism Education in Oakland.

Occasionally, newspapers do provide this “rounded picture” by including minorities in their mainstream coverage. USA Today quoted and pictured blacks in a routine story in August on doctor-patient relations. The Seattle Times quoted and pictured an Asian-American couple in a September story on a slowdown in the Seattle housing market. The Miami Herald included Hispanics in a story on Christmas shopping--and illustrated the story with a drawing that showed people of varying ethnic backgrounds. But these are exceptions. As far as the press is concerned, “We don’t exist” in the mainstream of life in this country, says Craig Matsuda, assistant View section editor at the Los Angeles Times.

Indeed, if all one knew about real-life blacks and Latinos in particular was what one read in the newspaper or saw on television news--and in our still largely segregated society, that’s where most whites do get most of their information about blacks and Latinos--one would scarcely be aware that there is a large and growing middle class in both cultures, going to work, getting married, having children, paying taxes, going on vacation and buying books and VCRs and microwave ovens.


Only 15% of the poor people in the United States are black, but one would not know that from most press coverage. Nor would one know that most violent criminals, drug-users, prostitutes, drunks, illiterates, high school dropouts, juvenile delinquents, jobless and poor people in this country are neither black nor Latino but white. Or that the vast majority of blacks and Latinos are none of the above.

Despite vigorous efforts, even the Detroit Free Press--with several high-ranking black editors and a city population that’s more than 70% black--doesn’t do as good a job as it should covering blacks as “normal, everyday human beings,” concedes the paper’s white publisher, Neal Shine.

Thus, while the paper’s lifestyle section is officially called “The Way We Live,” many blacks call it “The Way They Live.”

The Free Press has a much better reputation than most for covering blacks, but, “When I’m out in the community covering something, and folks say, ‘Well, you work for a racist paper,’ it’s hard for me to defend” the paper, says Constance Prater, chief of the city-county bureau for the Free Press and president of the Detroit chapter of the National Assn. of Black Journalists.


Blacks at other papers make almost identical comments about their communities and their papers.

Blacks are the largest minority group in the United States, and they have generally been the victims of the worst bigotry here--enslaved, lynched, once officially classified by the U.S. Supreme Court as non-citizens--so it’s not surprising that when the press thinks of minorities at all, there’s a “historic tendency” to think almost exclusively of blacks, in the words of Leonard Downie, a white, who is managing editor of the Washington Post.

Thus, a New York Times “American Voices” story last month, based on interviews nationwide about the crisis in the Persian Gulf, included a photograph of seven whites and one black but no photos of any other minorities. The story included interviews with 20 “Americans . . . of all walks of life;” not one had an identifiably Latino or Asian-American surname.

That same day, a joint study by the National Commission on Working Women and Women in Film showed that there are about five times as many black characters as Latino, Asian-American and Native American characters combined in prime-time television. The study said there are as many extraterrestrial aliens in prime-time television as there are Latinos and Asian-Americans combined.


“For a long time,” says Gerald Garcia, publisher of the Knoxville Journal in Tennessee, “the only minority group that anyone (in the press) . . . had any conscious level about were blacks.”

There is some evidence that this is changing, however slowly--especially in cities like Miami, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco and in the Southwest, where there are large and rapidly growing Latino and/or Asian-American populations. But the largely negative press portrayals of blacks and Latinos may be changing even more slowly.

No minority journalist interviewed for this story suggested that these negative portrayals--or the absence of minorities from mainstream press coverage--are the product of a conscious, racist decision by white editors and reporters. In fact, even the most caustic critics of the press acknowledge that most white journalists mean well; it’s not the intent but the results that trigger widespread criticism--and those results stem largely from ignorance, insensitivity, the absence of minority journalists from most newsrooms and, more important, the absence of minorities from most editors’ offices (which will be the subject of Thursday’s story in this series).

“It’s not so much some overt racist plot,” says Janet Clayton, a black, who is assistant editorial page editor of the Los Angeles Times. “It has to do with, obviously, who runs newspapers . . . what the values are of those people, the world that they live in. We all bring to the table what . . . our life experience is.”


Journalists who have had little exposure to minorities or who have known them only in certain roles tend not to include them in their “everyday thinking,” Clayton says, and “if they’re not there in your mind, then they tend not be part of your natural news-gathering process.”

Newspapers routinely publish engagement notices (“all of them white”), obituaries (“all of them white”) and stories on young, middle-class couples struggling to buy their first homes (“all of them white”), says Ben Johnson, a black, who is assistant managing editor of the St. Petersburg Times in Florida. This coverage of white America, Johnson says, gives readers “some sense of normalcy.”

But, he says, that same coverage also gives the impression that “people of color don’t buy houses . . . die . . . get married.”

Johnson concedes that he may be exaggerating a bit in this characterization of press coverage, but he and others insist that the general, if unwitting message of the white press is that non-white people don’t do these “normal” things, don’t lead normal lives.


A few newspapers have recently begun trying to correct this imbalance, actively urging social organizations, funeral homes and others in minority communities to send them newsworthy information. But such requests are still relatively rare. The result: Coverage of minorites continues to be skewed to the negative and the sensational.

The double standard implicit in such coverage is not nearly as blatant as it once was. After all, in our own generation newspapers still routinely identified black crime suspects (but not white crime suspects) by race. Most responsible papers now do that only if it is relevant, and even then they often agonize over it--as the New York Times did this year in making discussion of that subject the lead item in three issues of “Winners & Sinners,” its in-house critique of Times coverage.

The discussion was triggered by the failure of the Times to include a racial description of a suspect in a shooting. Mentioning race in a skimpy description--"black male"--would be unfair, but since the paper had identified the suspect as “an unkempt man in his early 30’s, about 6 feet tall and 180 pounds, with a moustache and beard,” the question was raised, “Can we justify leaving out an element that narrows the field by a huge fraction? The omission itself, however kindly meant, might well seem patronizing--as if we assume that a whole segment of the human race should feel stigmatized because one of its number committed a crime.”

Crime Suspects


Careful consideration of the racial identification of criminal suspects is but one example of how the media has changed of late. As recently as the late 1960s--and probably the 1970s in many cities--virtually any reporter covering the police beat knew that if there was a murder in the ghetto or barrio, editors would automatically dismiss it as unworthy of publication--a “misdemeanor homicide” in their lexicon. Now the most enlightened editors struggle to decide which is the worst journalistic sin--publishing a story on a minority murder and contributing to the stereotype of minority communities as violence-prone or not publishing such a story and contributing to the perception that they regard minority lives as worth less than white lives.

But the perception remains that white editors value white lives more highly than minority lives, that “black-on-black violence is not much of an issue until whites are involved,” in the words of Bill Sing, an Asian-American who is an assistant business editor at the Los Angeles Times.

This may help explain why most violent crimes in which blacks are the victims still receive far less press attention than do cases in which whites are the victims.

The press swarmed all over the rape and beating of a white woman jogging in Central Park last year; even the Los Angeles Times, 2,500 miles away, put the story on Page 1 six times. The murder of a Utah tourist in a New York subway station this year also received massive press attention.


But two days after the rape in Central Park, a black, off-duty mailman was gunned down in Harlem; about a week later, a black woman, the mother of four, was raped and sodomized at knifepoint, then hurled from the roof of a building, down an open air shaft, three stories to the ground, suffering severe injuries.

Neither of these stories generally received more than passing notice in the news columns of New York’s daily newspapers.

Journalist Critics

Minority journalists who criticize the press say they are not asking for special treatment--for a kinder, gentler journalism--only for a more comprehensive and comprehending journalism.


“I am the last person in the world who will ever say that the Free Press can or should ignore the negative,” says Jacqueline Thomas, associate editor and deputy editorial page editor of the Detroit Free Press.

Some problems may even have been ignored by the paper for too long, she says.

But Thomas, a black, seems uncomfortable with the current boycott of the Free Press by a relatively small group of blacks angry over its “negative” coverage of the city and Mayor Coleman Young, a black.

Some black anger is “justified,” Thomas says, because, “We don’t do a good enough job in reflecting those things that make Detroit a place some of us want to live in.” Thomas says she has “no doubt,” however, that much of the criticism of the paper stems from “a fundamental misunderstanding about what our role is.”


Some blacks want the paper to be “supportive of black leadership,” she says, but “I didn’t become a journalist to become a cheerleader for anybody.”

Hiawatha Bray, a black reporter at the Lexington Herald-Leader in Kentucky, says much the same thing. But he also says blacks must share responsibility for the negative coverage they receive.

“I get worried and very annoyed that black people would rather sit around complaining about how terrible the media is than saying, ‘Well, gee, maybe we better stop our kids from participating in drive-by shootings,’ ” he says.

Blacks and Latinos do commit a disproportionate share of the nation’s crimes and are present in disproportionate numbers on many other indices of social pathology. Minority journalists who criticize the press don’t deny these bleak statistics, but they point out that much of this pathological behavior stems in large measure from historic patterns of discrimination, segregation and exclusion.


Moreover, pathology is only part of the story, and yet that’s what gets the emphasis in the press.

Most press coverage of minorities in a positive context involves an even narrower range of activity--sports and entertainment, says John Funabiki, director of the Center for Integration and Improvement of Journalism, based at San Francisco State University.

Otherwise, says Felix Gutierrez, vice president of the Gannett Foundation, minority coverage “too often . . . still falls into the predictable categories . . . We’re either beset by problems . . . or we’re causing problems for the white society . . . The other category of coverage where we’re defined as a people are the ‘zoo stories'--Chinese New Year, Cinco de Mayo, black history month--basically where they come out and see us in our cultural garb . . . out of the context of our normal daily living.”

Covering those stories would be perfectly appropriate, minority journalists say, if their “normal,” middle-class existence were covered too.


But the press “doesn’t cover middle-class people, period,” says Milton Coleman, assistant managing editor in charge of local news coverage at the Washington Post. “Most of us in this newsroom are middle-class; in so many ways, the lives we lead outside the newsroom are rarely covered in the pages of the newspaper because we tend to lean more toward covering policy . . . poverty . . . foreign affairs.

“We’re slow, for instance, to get on to covering day care as an issue even though after 3 o’clock or 3:30, the phones in this newsroom ring off the hook--and it’s not sources, it’s kids calling their parents.”

But the problem is “more acute” in minority communities, particularly black communities, says Coleman, who’s black.

“In this town, so much of what we would generally regard as news--the bad things--happen to be about blacks,” he says. “But a lot of the other news that often gets into the paper about the mainstream or hotsy-totsy people--there aren’t a lot of blacks, sometimes, in that news.


“The national news world is a very white world in a lot of ways,” Coleman says.

Whites still occupy most of the powerful and visible positions in our society--President, governor, senator, cabinet member, district attorney, Wall Street tycoon, corporate board chairman, network executive, movie mogul, newspaper publisher.

“Most of the big news that the press covers is still made by whites,” Coleman says. “If one reads the news pages . . . and tries to get a sense of the community, you get a distorted sense of the black community.”

Similar distortions are evident in coverage of other minority communities.


Interestingly, while African-Americans and Latinos object to the preponderantly negative coverage the press give them, Asian-Americans object mostly to coverage that depicts them as a “model minority,” largely devoid of the problems besetting other minorities. But some Asian-Americans also share their fellow minorities’ complaint that the press sensationalizes much of what it covers in minority communities--the conflict between Korean greengrocers and black customers in several cities being a prime example.

Some critics say the press may occasionally try to overcompensate for its essentially negative portrayal of blacks and Latinos by being too soft on prominent members of those ethnic groups who deserve critical scrutiny. Both the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times came in for that criticism in their early coverage of Mayors Marion Barry and Tom Bradley, respectively.

But many minorities say the white press has occasionally been too tough on minority politicians, holding them to a stricter standard than white politicians. Some minorities argue that there’s a conspiracy in the white establishment--the press included--to discredit prominent black politicians.

Conspiracy, double standard or not, complaints about the misportrayal of minorities in general and the resultant, pervasive public misperception of them is not a simple matter of sensitivity over ethnic image--or of academic journalistic criticism.


The portrayal of many minorities in the press creates a misleading and destructive public impression--even more destructive, in many ways, than that cited in 1968 by the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders (popularly known as the Kerner Commission).

“By failing to portray the Negro as a matter of routine and in the context of the total society, the news media have, we believe, contributed to the black-white schism in this country,” the commission said.

“If what the white American reads in the newspapers or sees on television conditions his expectation of what is ordinary and normal in the larger society, he will neither understand nor accept the black American.”

Indeed, as Marilyn Gist of the University of Washington asks in a study on the negative portrayal of minorities in the press, “To what extent do biased journalistic practices contribute to police practices in the war on drugs or gangs . . . . To what extent are the higher rates of incarceration among African-Americans a function of subtle racism among judges and juries--racism perpetuated by media bias?”


Last year, in Boston, Charles Stuart told police that a black man had murdered his pregnant wife and shot him. The media jumped on the story, largley ignoring striking inconsistencies in Stuart’s story, and publicly identified several black suspects taken into custody.

Police conducted a massive, invasive search of black neighborhoods and then let it be known that they thought they had a strong case against one of the suspects. A Massachussets state senator later said, “I’m positive that (the suspect) . . . would have been charged, convicted and sent to prison for the rest of his natural life” had it not been for one slight hitch: Ten weeks after Stuart’s wife was murdered, Stuart apparently leaped to his death from a bridge over Boston Harbor after learning that he had become the prime suspect in the case.

Media Blamed

Although Boston editors vigorously defend their coverage of the Stuart case, many others were critical of it and blamed the media--in that specific case and in general minority coverage over the years--for having contributed to a climate in which police and public alike automatically assumed the guilt of a black man in the murder of a white.


“The Boston media, including good television stations and a good newspaper, allowed themselves to be duped by stereotypes of who crime victims and perpetrators are,” says Tom Morgan, a reporter for the New York Times and president of the National Assn. of Black Journalists.

“This is a continuing pattern throughout the country,” Morgan says. “The media are too quick to jump to negative conclusions when it comes to minorities.”

Of course, the press is quick to jump to negative conclusions when it comes to almost everyone, as virtually every politician of any color would be quick to point out. Hence former Vice President Spiro Agnew’s characterization of the press as “nattering nabobs of negativism,” an epithet not noticeably inspired by an abiding sympathy for the plight of the disadvantaged in our society.

But Les Payne, assistant managing editor of Newsday in New York, says media stereotyping of minorities--especially young black males--contributes significantly to the way society treats them, especially in the criminal justice system and on the street.


Whites who killed 16-year-old Yusuf Hawkins in the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn last year noticed only one thing about their target--"he was black,” Payne says.

“He could have been Jamal Payne--my son.”

Only one of the seven men ultimately charged in the slaying of Hawkins was held without bail as soon as he was arrested, much as the white defendants in another widely publicized murder of a black in New York--the Howard Beach case--were allowed to remain free on bail, even after they were convicted, pending their appeal. But in the Central Park jogger case, all eight black defendants were denied bail at their arraignment.

Media stereotypes must share the blame for this inequity, Payne and others say.


The media’s portrayal of minorities may affect minorities’ perceptions of themselves in a way that may be equally damaging.

Most people’s self-image derives in part from how they see themselves portrayed in the press, and the negative portrayal of many minorities by the press may be psychologically destructive, Gist says, in transmitting “strong signals . . . to developing minority youth about what they can (and cannot) become.”

As David Lawrence, the white publisher of the Miami Herald puts it, “If we show readers only white folks as bankers . . . or chefs, no wonder minorities grow up thinking they can’t be those things.”

The frustrations and failures engendered by these press messages may help explain not only the pathology of some minority behavior but the resultant racial tensions that are growing in many segments of our ever more pluralistic society.


The most notorious racial incidents in recent years--the Central Park jogger case, Bensonhurst, Howard Beach, Tawana Brawley, the black boycott of Korean grocers--all seem to have happened in New York. That’s because the national media are headquartered in New York. But there have been equally volatile instances of racial conflict in virtually every major American city, and unless significant progress is made toward multicultural understanding and tolerance, critics say the conflict seems likely to increase as minority populations continue to increase.

Minorities now make up about 25% of the nation’s population, and the number is climbing rapidly; since 1980, the percentage of blacks in the population has grown at twice the rate of whites, the percentage of Latinos has grown at almost six times the rate of whites and the percentage of Asian-Americans has grown at more than 10 times the rate of whites. Over the next decade, 87% of the nation’s population growth will be among minorities.

“Minorities” are already a majority in such major cities as New York, Chicago, Washington, Detroit, Cleveland, Miami, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

That’s one reason why there are now more than 250 black, Spanish-language and various Asian-language newspapers published in the United States--most of them providing, among other things, just the kind of mainstream and generally upbeat coverage of their communities that the white press eschews.


Many minority journalists see this inexorable growth of minority population as the ultimate answer to the problem of indifferent or insensitive press coverage.

In the 1960s and early 1970s, they say, minorities--and some enlightened whites--urged the press to give more (and more evenhanded) coverage to minorities because such coverage was the morally and ethically correct thing to do.

With a few notable exceptions, not much really changed.

Then a new argument was mounted, not a moral argument but a journalistic argument: Better minority coverage would make for better--i.e., more complete, more sensitive and more diverse newspapers.


Again, with a few notable exceptions, not much really changed.

But now, newspaper readership is declining and minority population is increasing, and the advocates of pluralism in the news columns are mounting a financial argument: Cover minorities better because they’re not going to be in the minority much longer, and if you don’t cover them, they won’t read your papers or patronize your advertisers and you’re going to be out of business, scratching your bald head, wondering what you did wrong.

This is not a new argument, but the new realities of the marketplace have persuaded more publishers and top editors to listen to it this time.

When the argument was first made, in the mid-1970s, newspapers were “fascinated with upscale readers” and blinded by the stereotype that said minority readers didn’t read or buy, says Jay Harris, a black, who is vice president of operations for Knight-Ridder newspapers.


A few years ago, Charles Erickson tried to persuade the publisher of a newspaper in a heavily Latino market to subscribe to his Hispanic Link News Service, which provides news and commentary on Latino issues.

“Our people wouldn’t buy it,” the publisher told Erickson. “They’re all illiterate.”

Another publisher, Otis Chandler of the Los Angeles Times--now chairman of the executive committee of the Times Mirror Board of Directors--stirred considerable controversy in 1978 when he said in an interview that the black and Latino markets didn’t have the purchasing power that Times advertisers required and, further, that it was difficult to get those groups to read the paper because “it’s not their kind of newspaper. It’s too big, it’s too stuffy--if you will, it’s too complicated.”

Chandler concedes he “shouldn’t have used the word . . . ‘complicated,’ ” but he says he was “agonizing over the paper’s inadequate coverage of minorities and was groping for explanations.” He says he did not mean to imply that “blacks and Latinos are not smart enough to read The Times.”


Nevertheless, Frank del Olmo, deputy editorial page editor of The Times, says he still hears complaints in the Latino community about Chandler’s remarks and, as low education levels and/or language barriers rendered most minorities unlikely readers--and unlikely consumers for their advertisers. So little effort was made to cover them as news subjects--except when their deeds (say, as athletes) or misdeeds (say, as gang members) made them unavoidably “newsworthy” by the standard, white journalist’s definition of that term.

“There’s a dirty little secret in all newspapers--the advertisers we cater to are not thrilled when you sign up a bunch of readers in some poverty area for home delivery,” says Joseph Lelyveld, managing editor of the New York Times.

Lelyveld, a white, says he doesn’t know if that attitude “seeped into the newsroom,” but he leaves the impression that it is a distinct possibility, particularly from the late 1970s into the early and mid-1980s. “There was a time when this paper could have been accused of abandoning certain kinds of readers,” he says. “We had bumpy times . . . in which it seems to me there was a kind of weariness with poverty issues, city issues. We didn’t seem particulary committed to coverage of minorities, especially in our own . . . area.

“We used to give more coverage to Zimbabwe than the Bronx.”


The civil rights movement and urban riots of the 1960s sparked widespread journalistic concern about minority coverage--coverage of blacks in particular--that led to a greater sensitivity and commitment which lasted into the 1970s. But during the Reagan/Bush years, a corporate, bottom-line mentality began to take hold at even the best of newspapers, and the revolution “lost its edge,” in the words of Ernest Holsendolph, a black, who is about to begin writing a business column at the Atlanta Journal and Constitution after serving as city editor of the paper for a year.

Even when minorities are covered, they are often covered strictly as minorities, not as part of the mainstream.

William H. Gray III (D.-Pa.), majority whip of the U.S. House of Representatives, has long been praised by the press for his political skills and his grasp of a wide variety of issues, but he, too, was “ghettoized” in this fashion. Most stories on Gray in the New York Times, Washington Post and Philadelphia Inquirer early in his congressional career involved black politics or South Africa, according to a study by Linda Williams of the Joan Shorenstein Barone Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy.

“Apparently, his views were not deemed newsworthy when the subject was not blacks,” Williams concluded.


Moreover, Gray’s race was often noted in articles that “had nothing to do with the subject of race (especially articles on the budget process) . . . . Gray was so often referred to as the ‘black Budget Committee Chairman’ that a (foreign visitor) . . . might well have wondered if the U.S. House of Representatives had a white budget chairman and a black budget chairman,” Williams said.

Similarly, the Los Angeles Times, Washington Post and Chicago Tribune have all referred to August Wilson as a “black playwright;” The Times called him “one of the nation’s leading black playwrights.” But after winning two Pulitzer Prizes, hasn’t Wilson earned the right to be called “one of the nation’s leading playwrights,” period? After all, no one writes of David Mamet as “one of the nation’s leading white playwrights.” Doesn’t describing Wilson as (merely) a “black playwright” implicitly diminish his achievement?

Lynn Duke, a Washington Post reporter recently assigned to write about race as a regular beat, says this “labeling” makes blacks “appear to be not part of the broader society but a special-interest group.”

“The label ‘black politician,’ ‘black writer,’ ‘black activist’ . . . tends automatically to separate that writer, that politician, that activist from the purview of mainstream concerns and makes it a smaller, separate and therefore not as important an issue for the society at-large. . . .”


Joyce Sherwood and Peter Johnson of The Times editorial library assisted with the research for this series.


Minority population in the nation’s major cities and metropolitan areas has increased enormously over the past decade. Population for metropolitan areas is shown on top of the following graphs.



White: 36.5%

Black: 41.1

Hispanic: 17.9

Asian and other: 4.5



White: 46.2%

Black: 47.7

Hispanic: 3.9


Asian and other: 2.5


White: 21.4%

Black: 73.6


Hispanic: 3.1

Asian and other: 1.9


White: 41.5%


Black: 15.1

Hispanic: 33.2

Asian and other: 10.2



White: 13.1%

Black: 24.4

Hispanic: 61.4

Asian and other: 1.1



White: 46.2%

Black: 24.3

Hispanic: 23.4


Asian and other: 6.1


White: 44.8%

Black: 11.5


Hispanic: 14.8

Asian and other: 28.9


White: 71.6%


Black: 11.1

Hispanic: 3.3

Asian and other: 14.0



White: 25.8%

Black: 68.5

Hispanic: 3.5

Asian and other: 2.2


Source: National Planning Corp. and U.S. Bureau of the Census