On Safe Spaces, Engagement, and Redefining What We Know

A Conversation with The Seattle Times Staffers Audrey Carlsen and Corinne Chin

By Editor Joyce Chen

Oftentimes, one of the most difficult things about engaging in conversations about race is finding an entry point into the dialogue; whether it is the first time someone’s encountering a specific term (“white fragility” or “institutional racism” or “colorblindness,” for instance) or entering an unfamiliar situation wherein it feels taboo to broach the topic, talking about our differences can be an uncomfortable thing.

But discomfort does not have to beget ignorance. Case in point: The Seattle Times’ highly innovative multimedia project, “Under Our Skin,” which was created entirely because of this discomfort. Back in December 2015, the Times’ newsroom staff realized that they as journalists were having a hard time finding the right words to describe the narrative that was unfolding on the national and international stage: protests, shootings, political jargon and reaction; it was a lot for any media company to digest and then disseminate responsibly.

Rather than shy away from potentially contentious terms and concepts, however, the staff at The Seattle Times took action, addressing the issue head-on in an innovative matter and diving into the unease. With “Under Our Skin,” the reader is as much a part of the project as the 18 participants themselves, choosing how to engage with the material and being given the chance to take part in the conversation.

“Under Our Skin” addresses issues of race through a variety of different angles: by term, by individual, by commentary, by video. The experience is an immersive, participatory one rather than a passive one.

And the project and its reach is only continuing to grow. Since it first launched in June, “Under Our Skin” has traveled beyond the screen: It was featured at the Rainier Beach Arts & Music Festival (BAAMFest) in July, with listening booths where participants could walk up, watch videos, chat with the creators, and write down their thoughts and reactions; the team is collaborating with The Seattle Times’ Newspapers in Education program to create a curriculum to help teachers use the project in their classrooms; several of those involved will be speaking at a Summit on Diversity & Inclusion at Oregon State University in September; and hopes are high that the digital project will be set up as a more permanent museum installation as well.

Suffice it to say, out of unease and uncertainty, the team behind “Under Our Skin” has created a safe space for previously silenced conversations to not just live, but thrive. Here, Audrey Carlsen (web development) and Corinne Chin (video editor), two of the eight main players credited with creating this project, graciously give The Seventh Wave a behind the scenes look at “Under Our Skin.”

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THE SEVENTH WAVE: So I first heard about “Under Our Skin” from Dan Beekman, who’s good college buddies with [fellow Seventh Wave editor] Brett, and he’d just mentioned that this might be something we’d be interested in. And since our current issue is all about “Who gets to belong?” the project felt very appropriate and perfect because it’s discussing exactly what we’ve been thinking about on our end too — how to really get different stories and different perspectives all on one platform, which I think you guys have done in such an amazing way. So that to say, I was wondering if you could just tell me a little bit of background in terms of the inception of the idea and how the project came to be.

CORINNE CHIN (video editor): It’s actually hard to remember how exactly the project came to be. We started in December of 2015 just thinking about ways that we could better cover race [at the Seattle Times]. It was a lot of large group meetings and brainstorming sessions. At one point, we had a meeting where we brainstormed all the words [that appear as searchable terms on the site]. There were certain words that even those of us in the meeting felt we had a disconnect toward. So for a while, we just had phrases and words and names of potential people that we might want to bring in, and the project dragged on for a total of six months. The group kind of self-selected and it got smaller over time. And we all had different roles in the newsroom other than this project, which you’ll see in the part on the site about who was involved. I’m a video editor, and Audrey’s a developer, so it was a lot of people who were in roles you might not necessarily think of when you think of newspapers. It was definitely a passion project because we were working on it on the side, on nights and weekends, and that’s how it came to be. We were having these conversations with each other, in our personal lives and at work, about coverage of certain stories and angles that we have taken.

AUDREY CARLSEN (web development): I agree with Corinne. In the beginning, it was just a twinkle in our eyes. It was the end of 2015, either November or December, and while there wasn’t one specific news event that sparked the project, I think during that time, it felt like there was a lot going on in the news that we were covering in the daily news cycle — Black Lives Matter protests, a lot of things happening on college campuses both nationally, like at the University of Missouri, but also locally, at Western Washington University and Seattle University, things revolving around shootings or protesting or speaking out about feeling like curriculums weren’t as well-rounded or representative of the student body as they should be. Classes were being shut down. A lot of things were going on, and as we started to have discussions, it felt like we were covering the stories in a very one-dimensional way. Like, OK, we have the who and the what of it, but not really the bigger picture of what was going on, and why people were feeling like they needed to speak up about these things and were causing these disruptions. Like Corinne said, it started out very raw. We really just sat down with anyone who was in the newsroom as we were talking about this stuff more, and one of the things that came out first was, “Gosh, we want to talk about race and how are we even talking about it?” Even in the meetings we were having, people were using different words, and that seemed like a really great place to start, just looking at words and miscommunication and what was being talked about. Then, over time, more actual project ideas started coming out of that and as we kept talking about it, it became a video project. That came from a combination of facts: Lauren and Corinne happened to be video editors here, and everybody kind of brought their different skill sets from the newsroom, and that’s what contributed to what the project ultimately ended up being, as opposed to us having an idea of what we wanted it to be and then pulling the right people in.

CC: Right. Originally, we had six people that we interviewed, and then we thought, you know, this isn’t really enough, so it became eight, and then 12, and then 15. Then we decided 18 is perfect.

TSW: And that’s kind of fascinating too, letting the product be organic, along with the process being organic. So instead of saying, “OK, this is what we’re doing, we’re going to profile these five people, six people, 12 people, 18 people, and then write this kind of a profile on them,” it’s just like, “Let’s see what we get in terms of stories and see how best to tell them.” Was that the idea?

AC: Yeah, definitely. I think we kept increasing the number of people we were talking to until we felt like it was accurate, as much as reasonably possible, to represent things with really diverse perspectives and diverse viewpoints, and we didn’t feel like that with 13 people. In terms of how much time the project took, we really started talking about this project back in January, and I remember at one point being like, well, February is Black History Month, so do we think that would be a good peg for this? And we were all like, “Yeah, sure, we can do this in six weeks,” and of course it ended up being six months. But it’s partly because deadlines became less important; we just really wanted to do this right.

CC: I remember doing these interviews and they would be an hour, two-hour long interviews, and we got such valuable stuff from every single interview. You get to interview No. 15, and you think, “OK, what can this person possibly say that’s new?” but they kept bringing new perspectives to the interview and it was really hard to stop. Eventually, it was like, “OK, we really have to finish this,” and it became a time thing. I feel like we could have kept interviewing so many more people and they would have experiences that would have all been so valuable to the conversation.

TSW: [laughs] Right. If you don’t give a journalist a deadline, they’re just going to keep running with a story if it’s a great story. And it’s not like there’s ever going to be a lack of perspectives to represent. So that was going to be one of my questions. In finding the participants, did you guys ever worry, “Who are we not representing, or are we representing enough of a population?”

CC: Yeah, we definitely did, but we kind of consciously made the decision not to make it a checklist, so we weren’t exactly thinking, “Do we have a person of this age, of this race?” There’s no way we could possibly do that, and that person should never be on the spot to speak for everyone who is a part of a group that they’re a part of. That’s just not really fair. So we ended up just choosing people who we believed would give thoughtful answers, and by virtue of that, they were diverse. In no way were we intending to check things off a list. There were times when we were like, “Huh. We could really use someone of Indian descent.” And we realized that as the interviewers and the people shaping and creating this project, our perspectives are already ingrained in this. So by default, our own diverse perspectives were also in there. Thinking about it that way, we had 8 to 12 really, really diverse journalists who were deeply involved in these answers as well.

AC: I think that was a really important part of it for us too: Who was involved in making this project, and the fact that it wasn’t just the same people at the Seattle Times doing this. Each person involved with it definitely added something to the mix. For instance, at one point I remember it was very intentional as we were going through and trying to figure out the questions for the interview. I remember there was a question that came up about, “Where does mixed race fall into all of it?” And I’m mixed race, and I remember that that’s something that I’ve been thinking about a lot. But then I also realized that because there was a voice in that room, meaning me, that was advocating to make sure that [group] wasn’t forgotten, that sort of ensured that that perspective wasn’t left out, so I think that was helpful too, that each person that was a part of the project brought their own perspective to it. That was a reason why we have our own photographs up on the site, because we want people to see who we are and where we might be coming from. That was something that we felt was important to have people be able to access.

And another thing too, in addition to racial diversity, there were other things we wanted to make sure we weren’t overlooking. I remember at one point looking at the professions of the people that we’d interviewed, and we had a lot of activists, poets, teachers — people who were perhaps already interested in the topic or talking about it. And we were thinking that we don’t really have anyone from the corporate world, or from STEM, and we wanted to make sure that we got some of that in as well. There were a lot of different ways that we were looking at diversity: In terms of spirituality, political leanings, and to some degree, location — everyone lived in Western Washington,  because it was sort of logistically difficult for people from further away to come to our studio.

In the Under Our Skin project, our 18 conversations about race were insightful, thought-provoking, honest, at times funny – and sometimes uncomfortable.  In talking about the term “all lives matter,” for example, Jerrell Davis, 23, said: “I can’t believe that anyone who responds to Black Lives Matter with ‘all lives matter’ truly believes that all lives matter. Because if you did you’d be ... protesting with us.” Visit the interactive video project at st.news/under-our-skin. (Erika Schultz / The Seattle Times)

In the “Under Our Skin” project, Seattle Times staffers had 18 conversations about race were insightful, thought-provoking, honest, at times funny– and sometimes uncomfortable. (Erika Schultz / The Seattle Times)

TSW: I love so much that that was a thing, because it is true. The idea of “diversity” does not only mean racial diversity or gender diversity, because I think that’s one really interesting thing about newsrooms, is that when you’re covering a story, it’s so often about, “OK, but are we covering …” And it can start to feel like a checklist. But this project by no means feels like that. It feels like this is organically what the makeup of our world looks like, so of course this is what we’re representing. So I think that was really awesomely done, for lack of better words.I’m curious, then —when you guys were interviewing, was it a different reporter interviewing each of the participants? Or was it a team?

CC: So the eight people pictured in the About section are the eight people who did all the interviews. Lauren and I were filming all the interviews, so we were there for every single one of them. It was pretty much those people, and I thought that everyone did such a great job— and this was something that was important, and something that we prioritized — making people feel comfortable. It can be really intimidating to talk about any of these issues in any context, but when you’re the only one being filmed on-camera and there are three people on the other side zooming in on your face, it can be really, really hard. So I think a lot of the interviewing was very open-ended. We would just say a word and see what they came up with, or we would share our own experience if it was something that was hard for them to come up with something personal like that. And as we mentioned earlier, our perspectives as interviewers are so deeply ingrained in the project, but that’s because we’re of course sharing these personal experiences with people that we’re talking to.

AC: They were interviews, but in some ways they were more like conversations. And so for some people, at least the people I talked to, it would take a little bit of time to warm up to the conversation. I can imagine if you just got a recorder stuck in your face and a reporter asking, “Hey! What do you think about the word ‘microaggression’?” you would feel forced to give a soundbite. This was a different sort of thing, because it takes a while to talk to people and to build up this certain amount of trust and understanding of where they’re coming from, to really get at some of the actual nuggets of truth in there. And one thing I ended up finding myself doing was that if someone seemed unsure of sharing what they wanted, like Corinne said, sharing my own experiences really helped open people up. And so I think the whole thing is that we had to contribute as well. Because for me, part of it was about the process of talking to people about things that maybe I hadn’t talked about as much as I did through this project.

CC: A lot of the experiences that they shared helped me to understand experiences that I’ve had in my own life, like times I might have felt upset, but I just didn’t understand why, and I just shoved those feelings under the rug and never talk about them. But I was able to work through a lot of the racism that I’ve experienced in my own life just by hearing people talk about their experiences.

TSW: Speaking of unexpected outcomes, were there one or two things that you hadn’t realized going into the process, your own views on racism, your own views on white privilege, your own views on XYZ? Was there anything or anyone that shifted the ways you were looking at those terms? And that’s a weighty question, I realize.

AC: I would say that one of the biggest things that I took away was that in talking to so many people coming from a variety of perspectives, it helped me and all the people involved in this project to unpack some of those things more and really get at something I suspected before but wasn’t really sure about until this project, which is that it’s oftentimes the assumptions that people make about the words that get in the way of communication. So as much as we tried not to bring our own perspectives into the actual interviews, we definitely all came with our own perspectives, and in having the opportunity to talk to people who didn’t necessarily share the same opinions that I did about some issues, I actually came to the understanding of where they were coming from. And I think that we probably came to an understanding that we have the same hopes and wishes for what the ideal situation would be when it comes to talking about these issues. Everyone at the end of the day wants the same sort of thing.

CC: For me, there was a certain point after we’d done a few interviews, when it became pretty clear that none of us know what we think we know. So I wrote that down on a Post-It note, and every interview after that, I just reminded myself, “You don’t know what you think you know.” I was really surprised by a lot of the words, which is probably a stupid assumption. I thought, “Oh, well, I’ve experienced a lot of this, so I probably know what these people are going to say,” which was totally wrong. Like “People of Color”? That was a word that we actually added partway through because people had a lot of thoughts about the term, and I’m really glad we added it because it’s a really interesting video. And in one of the interviews we have Duck Bae, who was, I think, 17 or 18 at the time of the interview, Korean American. She said that she does not identify as a person of color, because she hadn’t experienced a lot of the disadvantages that she associated with that term.

And I thought that was so fascinating. Because I’m not from Seattle, and so I’ve experienced racism in a different way than people growing up in Seattle might have. So I just could not identify with her perspective at all, and I really pushed her in her interview. I challenged her. Do you think that you would feel this way if you grew up in different circumstances or in a different place? And she was pretty adamant about what she was saying, but then she was also saying how she’d been discriminated against because her family was not full of fluent English-speakers, so it really surprised me that she talked about the term that way. That was one thing that surprised me and made me think a lot more about my own racial identity. 

TSW: So in that case, what was that experience like to try to push someone to say, “Hey, maybe there’s something else that you might want to consider?”

CC: Well, Duck is a really smart teenager, and you’ll see if you watch the video that she does say, “If circumstances were different, maybe I’d think differently, but maybe this is my own way of disassociating myself from the racial conflict.” And she’s identified that maybe she could be wrong. So with her it was very easy to talk it out. With some other participants, it was definitely harder, especially talking about institutional racism and whether or not — I mean, it shouldn’t be a question whether or not it’s a thing, but we did have participants who had different views on that, a different understanding of that.

AC: I think that brought up the question of what was the purpose of this project at the end of the day? Was it to hold people to facts and act as an educational opportunity for our readers and viewers, or was the main goal to present people’s opinions accurately in all the different ways that they exist? And what’s the balance between someone who is saying something that doesn’t necessarily agree with the numbers that exist as historical fact, but that absolutely accurately represent how they understand and interpret it? There were a lot of conversations around that kind of thing too.

TSW: In terms of the process of going through those interviews, and seeing what to keep and what to cut out — because they’re two-hour long interviews, and you’re clearly not going to publish the entirety of it — what was that process like?

CC: So we had 31 hours of footage, and we transcribed all of it, or almost all of it, and since Lauren and I didn’t want it to be something that was edited by two video editors and have it be a limited perspective, after we transcribed it, we passed it around to the entire team so anyone who was willing to take a look, could. And we had everyone highlight the parts that resonated with them. A lot came out from those highlights that we maybe wouldn’t have included in our own edits, so that was really helpful. Then we cut it down to about 70 minutes at the end of it, for all 31 videos. Everyone had input.

TSW: That’s incredible. That’s the ultimate definition of teamwork.

AC: Yeah, that was definitely a logistical feat of strength. [laughs] It became apparent, as we were trying to figure out how to write credits, that more people were involved than the 14 people who are listed. Realistically, we could have had five credit lines each, because we were all going through transcripts, we were all in these regular meetings we were having to figure out the specific direction we were taking with all of it, and eight different people were doing the interviews, in addition to the other scope of what they were doing, so I think it was really a departure from standard newsroom projects that we do, in that we weren’t really being limited or directed by job titles that we had, but more guided by what made sense and what felt natural.

TSW: Forgive me for not knowing, but was this one of the first times that Seattle Times has done something interactive like this, and is this going to become a more regular thing? Are these projects that might become more of a regular feature with the paper?

CC: We hope so! Both of us are fairly new, we’ve been here under a few years. But we’ve done interactive projects before, though not, maybe, a feature like this. It’s its own separate beast, if you will, because it’s such a big topic. From the video perspective, we usually don’t do things that are so interview-based. We usually try to do things that are more documentary-style, filming actual scenes happening, so this was something that was actually pretty new to us. We definitely want to dive deeper and do a lot more collaborations in the future. I think this was a really, really successful collaboration, and shows how people can work in areas outside their typical roles by bringing their own life experiences to the table. That’s so valuable. 

AC: I think this project was a departure — a positive departure — in a lot of ways, and helped us to experiment to see what works and what doesn’t. It also helped us to look forward in terms of what it means to be digital first since we’re still a traditionally print-first organization. But to do something that pretty much only exists online, and to really only in the last week think about how it would appear in print, plus the fact that it was a team that was made up of people whose job title is mainly not “reporter,” tacked on top of the fact that this was mostly a new and young staff, like Corinne said — all these things meant that we were bringing a certain sensibility about how we consume news, and that came up naturally in terms of how the project unfolded. It lent itself really well to being promoted on social media and on other new formats that sometimes take a little more thought in grappling with traditional stories. For example, this project was published on June 20, and a week later was when the shootings in Dallas and Minnesota happened. But with the project, we were able to quickly take our footage, rework it in light of those events, and share more videos on social media to get more attention and contribute to that conversation. So it’s kind of a living, breathing, ongoing thing.  

CC: It was really cool because we were able to use footage that we had actually not published in the project, so one of our reactions to [the shootings] was a video about, “What do you feel when you hear people say things like ‘All Lives Matter’?” and we used a couple things in that video around that topic, and then we also used unpublished footage from [one of our participants] Rachel DeCruz, the communications chair for the King County NAACP, and that video was one of our most shared videos ever.

TSW: It’s funny because the topic itself [race] is something that you could say is timely and timeless, in the sense that of course there’s all these new stories that are happening now, but they just haven’t been discussed in this way as openly as before. So it is definitely a living, breathing beast in a way. That’s a great way to describe it.

CC: Yeah, we continue to get guest essay submissions too, and we’re actually looking at four or five of them today, and we’re thinking of publishing them alongside the project. Like, underneath the video or whatever makes the most sense.

AC: Being in the newsroom is a big part of this too, so we’ve been encouraging people to submit guest essays and to leave comments on the videos. Even the commenting system was very intentional. You have to fill in an emotion or a reaction before you add a comment, and we think that it encourages a more thoughtful response. They’re also moderated, which we don’t do for every story, but this one felt like it definitely warranted that time commitment. We’ve also, in our community since this project launched, been really just out there and talking to people face to face; we’ve been invited to several festivals to do listening booths and we’ve been invited into different classrooms and to talk to different organizations to get these conversations started. Or, really, to help continue a lot of different conversations that are already happening in our community.

CC: We got a lot of feedback from teachers, from elementary school on up, who showed this to their students. This is intended to be the start of a conversation in the community, for it to be a foundation for a more productive conversation to have people listen, to see what people have to say in the community, and to reflect that. So we’re planning to do more community events around that.

TSW: I did notice that the way you guys have comments set up on the site, it discourages people from just having an automatic reaction in terms of being more of a troll and less of a thoughtful human being. I feel like that tends to happen in comment sections, because people feel like they can be at least a little bit anonymous, but with your comments format, you have to slow down and react with these ideas. It’s pretty novel. How did you guys come up with that as an idea to have conversations versus just conflict and online yelling?

AC: I think the credit for that mainly goes to Anika Anand, who helped out a lot with the interviews as well, mainly with the audience engagement aspect of it. I think in the beginning, we really wanted this to be start a conversation versus trying to create more divisiveness than there already is. And I mean, comments are something that we talk about at work all the time just because every story has a comment section and inevitably, the worst of people can come out of there, unfortunately. And so with this project in particular, that didn’t seem like an appropriate way to let those more negative thoughts come out, and Anika really came up with the idea of structuring it around asking a more specific question. Like, “This video ____ me because …” and users have to select an emotion to react to the video. I’ve been helping people to go through the comments to moderate stuff, and you still get some of that trolling, but for the most part, I think it really helps people to think about, “Well, why was that my reaction?” And some people are going to think, “Well, this pissed me off, and this angered me and this frustrated me,” but more often than not, we got some understanding there. “This frustrated me because as a white person, my perspective is never heard,” or something like that. There’s at least now a comment there that adds a thoughtful idea to the conversation.

TSW: Right, and then it becomes a safer space so that people don’t feel like they’re automatically going to get attacked if they have a viewpoint that’s different, because they’re just genuinely saying that that’s how they feel, and these are the reasons why.

CC: Somebody actually emailed me and said, “I love this project because it created a safe space to take a part in these conversations,” and I was so touched by that. Because that’s exactly what we’re trying to do. And audience engagement, having someone really dedicated to that, I think that’s really important in this process, and will be really important for any major publications who try to do something like this in the future. If we hadn’t had Anika dedicated to something like this, audience engagement, then we couldn’t have accomplished a lot of the goals we’d set out to have from the get-go.

The Seattle Times "Under Our Skin" interactive booth at BAAMFest at the Rainier Beach Community Center on Saturday, July 23, 2016 LO

The Seattle Times “Under Our Skin” interactive booth at BAAMFest at the Rainier Beach Community Center on Saturday, July 23, 2016. (Alan Berner / The Seattle Times)

TSW: I also remember that you said at the beginning of the interview that one of the reasons the project came to be was because you guys were having discussions in the newsroom about how to phrase certain things or how to cover certain topics. Have you noticed any changes within the newsroom in terms of it being a more open space, and people talking more about these issues of race, issues of privilege? Have you noticed any differences at all?

AC: Yeah, for sure. This project definitely didn’t come out of a vacuum. These conversations and struggling with these topics was definitely not something that our newsroom was immune to. More topics were cropping up around the same time, events in November and December, as well as conversations starting all across the newsroom to have a more formal discussion so now we have a more regular meeting once or twice a month to have anyone in the newsroom who is interested to come by and talk about any issues that are on their mind or to brainstorm to report on things, or even to bring up questions about how things were done in the past. Or how to increase diverse hires in the newsroom. Now people are talking about those things, and myself and Tyrone Beason, who also worked on this project, have been heading that up as a way to make the conversation more visible internally. And I feel like this project has really gone hand in hand with that work, and I’d say that for sure it feels like now that’s more out there in the open, in the newsroom. It’s probably going to be a difficult topic for a long time, or a difficult thing to know how to bring it up or how to talk about it, but it’s out there now and I think people feel more comfortable voicing their opinions or concerns. Or they just have a question and they don’t know how to bring it up and they want to talk about something. It’s about changing and improving.

CC: And I think when we had a screening, that really helped to show that we were the people who worked on this, and we learned so much from it, and we were kind of expressing our humility ourselves from that, and I think that opened up the floor for other people. We had a lot of people who didn’t work on the project help us with our event this past Saturday, and that was really cool.

TSW: It’s almost like a Domino effect, you just have to hit that first piece, and then people start to see that — if you’re not always on the defensive, then there’s a lot to be learned.

CC: I think that one thing that we’ve been trying to get across in the coverage of this project is that it’s an interactive project, it’s kind of a choose-your-own adventure. You can interact with it however you feel most comfortable. So we really wanted to let users pick — you can choose any of the 12 words or you can listen to entire interviews with the people, if you identify with them. We tried to make it something for everyone, and something that everyone can interact with, and so it’s not something that’s inaccessible because you haven’t had experience with these conversations or you haven’t ever encountered terms or issues like this or …

AC: Yeah, I think the format really helped people to engage with the conversation, that’s a lot of the feedback that we got. There’s so many entry points to this project, so you don’t have to sit down and play a 70-minute documentary. You might be interested in just one very specific word, so we designed it so that you can link to every single word to share that without sharing the entire project. The fact that you can start by watching someone’s bio video and from there, you can search other clips. I think that also makes it really accessible to people, because in 5 minutes, they can watch one video and come back to it later. If they want to sit down and go through an entire clip for an hour, they can go ahead and do that. I’ve had friends who have done that!

TSW: Then I guess I’ll just add my voice to that, but that was definitely one of the first things that I noticed: it goes beyond the 18 people who are interviewed. It’s like, if you are somebody who has never talked about this before, you definitely still feel like you can belong to this conversation. You can’t exactly just be eavesdropping in on it, you have to take part in it, which is part of the exciting thing about the interactive element. That’s the result of a lot of different decisions and I can’t tell you guys enough, I just love this project a lot.

AC: I think our main worry upon launching was not that we’d make people angry, but that nobody would pay any attention. And that definitely didn’t happen.

TSW: Have you had any bad feedback? I feel like it would be tough for anyone to say, “Oh, this is a waste of space.” Did anyone react that way?

CC: Oh, well, there are people who don’t react positively. The whole White fragility thing. People saying, “This is not a comfortable conversation for White people to have” and stuff like that.

AC: One comment that really stuck with me was when someone asked “Why are you focusing on race?” with the idea that projects like this are actually contributing to racial divide as something that makes people different rather than this idea of “Can we just let this go?” and the idea that if we keep talking about it, it’s going to keep being an issue. Which is a hard comment to receive, especially on a project like this, when our intention was to get people talking about things more to come to a common understanding, rather than to talk about it less.

CC: Part of the intent was for some people to be exposed to individual perspectives that they might not have encountered in their daily lives because they create their own social peers. There’s one thought in the colorblind video that Audrey just reminded me of, and that was, “Sure you can be colorblind and that’s great, but that doesn’t change anything because our institutions are not colorblind. Our media is not colorblind.” So we’ve gotten feedback of the kind that Audrey mentioned, but I always remember that, and showing that there is historical background and that there are disparities — that’s important for us as a media organization to explore and not just ignore.