Boston Globe’s The Emancipator: Prof. Copeland Introduces Test for Antiracist Pop Culture
False or inaccurate depictions of racism in the media can mislead people about the real-life impact of racism. In an op-ed for The Boston Globe’s The Emancipator, Prof. Phillipe Copeland of BU School of Social Work introduces a new test to evaluate antiracist portrayals in movies, TV shows, and other forms of pop culture.
Excerpt from “How to Tell if a Film or TV Show Is Antiracist” by Phillipe Copeland, originally published in The Emancipator:
While conversations about representation are essential, we also need to discuss the way racism itself is portrayed. The stories we tell about racism can help solve the problem — or can perpetuate it. In other words, not every story told about racism is antiracist. To tell the difference, I developed the Copeland test. Inspired by the Bechdel test, the Copeland test is a tool to encourage more antiracist portrayals of racism in pop culture. If a story meets all three criteria, it fully passes the Copeland test. If it only meets one or two, it partially passes it. If it doesn’t meet any of the criteria, it fails the test.
In my view, stories about racism are antiracist if:
- Racism is portrayed as a systemic issue and not just as blatant acts of discrimination, bigotry or hatred by White people.
- People of color are portrayed as fully human, not reduced to stereotypes or victims.
- White people are portrayed as working in solidarity with people of color, not just as villains or saviors.”
Phillipe Copeland, PhD, is a public scholar and a clinical associate professor at BU School of Social Work. His teaching, scholarship and service focus on antiracist education and social change. Copeland is the faculty lead for education and training at the Boston University Center for Antiracist Research, founder and co-lead for the Antiracist Learning Lab (ALL), and a faculty affiliate at the Boston University Center for Innovation in Social Science.