A Race-Based Omission in a Story about Faith

The impropriety of journalists treating Caucasian as the presumed default race.

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By Dan Gilgoff, God & Country

Responding to my story about President Obama opening public events with local folks reciting prayers, a number of readers and bloggers note that I mention the racial identities of two nonwhite invocation givers but decline to do so for a third—named Ryan Culp—whom they correctly conclude is white. One reader writes:

When the Baptist minister and the administrator for the Tohono O'odham Nation are mentioned, their races are centrally used to identify them.

I want to suggest and argue if and when race is truly germane to a story, it should be included across the board for all sources/people included in the piece.

Diversity is the norm of the day, especially since so-called minorities—people of color—as a group are now the majority in this nation and this world. It's time to stop assuming and assigning Caucasian as the default race of a person.

Hear, hear. I provided religious descriptions of the invocation givers—and racial descriptions for two of them—to give readers meaningful thumbnail portraits of those being called on by the Obama White House to deliver prayers. In doing so, I treated Culp's Caucasian identity as the presumed "default race" for readers. Apologies.

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