Black Media Trust && Racial Salience ::: A Reading Of Devon W. Carbado and Mitu Gulati’s “Acting White”

…there is a…subtle speech dynamic that disadvantages outsiders in the workplace: what an outsider says in the workplace can confirm or negate stereotypes of that outsider and make that outsider more or less racially salient. The talking white dynamic is not just about speaking with a certain accent; it is also about the content of what we say. Under this formulation of talking white, anything an African American says that has the potential to minimize the extent to which others perceive her to be black is “talking white.” On the flipside, anything she says that increases the extent to which others perceive her to be black is “talking black.” Within majority-white workplaces, talking white is more advantageous to an employee than talking black. This creates an incentive for black employees to work their speech so as to reduce the likelihood that their co-workers and managers will perceive what they say as talking black.


“Acting White?: Rethinking Race in Post-Racial America,” Devon W. Carbado and Mitu Gulati, pg 48

UCLA Law professor, Devon Carbado writes above quoted passage from his 2013 book, “Acting White?: Rethinking Race in Post-Racial America”. This is not my first reading of this particular book. This particular passage, however, strikes an accord with my present notions of Black Media Trust.

One aspect of Black Media Trust is its approach to racialized fictive kinship in global and local scopes. Specifically, we are mostly interested in how Blacks feel a sense of obligation, guilt, or shame when watching, hearing, or otherwise engaging images or voices of other Blacks. Black Media Trust seeks to expose and deter how this sense is manipulated by ruling parties for political or economic gains. 

As this above quote suggests, how US Blacks speak in workplace environments is not solely a subject of accent and dialect. Ideological positions and ideas associated with Blackness can also work to classify Black behavior as, well, “Black”. This particular observation concerns us here because media happens in workplaces. 

Black Media Trust attempts to address when and where Blackness is allowed, and for what purposes. If audiences who impact advertising budgets determine a particular behavior set and contextual set to signal Blackness, it is important to understand why it was allowed. Why is Blackness as a conversational artifact allowed in spaces where Blackness is frowned upon and Whyteness is a status symbol? 

Which Blacks are not so racially salient as to offend Whyte sensibilities enough to be representatives of US Blacks in this present neoliberal project?