Race and Racism in News Coverage of Religion

Marcia Alesan Dawkins

in The Oxford Handbook of Religion and the American News Media

Published in print August 2012 | ISBN: 9780195395068
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Race and Racism in News Coverage of Religion


In the 1960s, America's newspaper-reading public was preoccupied by an outrage involving Nation of Islam Minister Malcolm X, who had said that the assassination of President John F. Kennedy was an instance of “the chickens coming home to roost.” In April 2008, an infamous YouTube clip titled “God Damn America” depicted a sermon in which Rev. Jeremiah Wright expressed anger toward injustices and moral crimes committed by the United States government against people of color. Arguing that American religious and racial histories are intertwined, this article explores the coverage of Malcolm's and Wright's comments as examples of how racialized religion is reported. It examines how news coverage of African American religion tends to racialize religion and encourage racism by and against African Americans. It also considers the similarities in coverage between the scandals on the basis of race. Despite charges of racism, black Christians fare better in the press than black Muslims because they are seen as members of a preferred religious group.

Keywords: race; religion; racism; African Americans; Malcolm X; Jeremiah Wright; scandals; Christians; Muslims; news coverage

Article.  6549 words. 

Subjects: Religion ; Religious Studies

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