Report on panel on Racial Stereotypes in Media
By Mitchell Szczepanczyk

About 70 people attended an event organized by Chicago Media Action, "Racial Stereotypes in Media: How Do They Harm Us? What Can We Do?". The event, held on the evening October 16, 2003 at the First United Methodist Church at Chicago Temple, included a panel, two short films, a keynote speech, and audience participation. [Disclaimer: The author of this was also one of the event's organizers.]

The event began with a brief speech by Mitchell Szczepanczyk introducing CMA and the first film of the evening. That film was a 12-minute excerpt of the film "Color Adjustment", a documentary about race and the media, by the late filmmaker Marlon Riggs. Then CMA board member Karen Bond introduced the second film, a nine-minute film by J. Salloum, "Planet of the Arabs," about stereotypes of Arabs in the media, and to discuss CMA's campaign against Chicago's PBS affiliate, WTTW.

Chicago radio talk show host Cliff Kelley served as the evening's moderator. Kelley introduced writer and commentator Salim Muwakkil who delivered the evening's keynote speech. Muwakkil commented broadly on race and media issues, touching on topics such as the FCC's media deregulation efforts and the recent Rush Limbaugh/Donovan McNabb controversy.

The panel included Muwakkil along with Cindy Levitt, co-founder of Not In My Name, and Suzanne Adely, an organizer with the Arab-American Action Network. Among the many points touched on during the panel discussion included the prison-industrial complex, the history of the Middle East in the 20th-century, and the representations of native peoples in the media and as sports mascots.

CAN-TV videotaped the entire presentation for future rebroadcast. Two officers of Chicago Media Action--Szczepanczyk and CMA secretary Scott Sanders--appeared on Cliff Kelley's radio show on Wednesday, October 15.