Minal Bopaiah

Minal Bopaiah is the author of Equity: How to Design Organizations Where Everyone Thrives. She is the founder of Brevity & Wit, a strategy + design firm that combines human-centered design, behavior change science and the principles of inclusion, diversity, equity and accessibility to help organizations transform themselves and the world. Bopaiah has written for the Stanford Social Innovation Review and The Hill and has been a featured guest on numerous podcasts and shows, including the Kojo Nnamdi Show on WAMU. She has also been a keynote speaker for many conferences, inspiring thousands with her credible, authentic, and engaging talks. For more information, please visit https://theequitybook.com.
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Recent Posts

How Public Media Can Create Equitable and Inclusive Content & Marketing

Membership, Corporate Support, Major Giving, marketing, diversity & inclusion

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What does equity in media look like?
Are the materials we publish reinforcing or subverting stereotypes? 
How can I make sure I’m considering all identities? 

These are just some of the questions folks in public media have asked me since my original blog post on Whiteness in public media and my keynote presentation for PMDMC 2020. And it’s why I wrote my first book, Equity: How to Design Organizations Where Everyone Thrives (Sept. 7, 20201, Berrett-Koehler, www.TheEquityBook.com). 

As I write in Equity, if bias is the thumbprint of culture on the brain, then media are the inkpad. Media are more than news and entertainment programs; they’re all the content we consume, from marketing and advertising to PR stunts and blog posts. And media are exceptionally powerful. 

As media scholar Christopher Bell explains in his 2015 TEDx talk,

In media studies, we spend a lot of time saying that media can’t tell us what to think, and they can’t; they’re terrible at that. But that’s not their job. Media don’t tell us what to think. Media tell us what to think about [emphasis added]. They control the conversation, and in controlling the conversation, they don’t have to get you to think what they want you to think. They’ll just get you thinking about the things they want you to think about, and more importantly, not thinking about things they don’t want you to think about. They control the conversation.

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Why We Need to Talk About Whiteness in Public Media (And Why It’s So Hard)

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I bet you read the byline of this article and quickly, implicitly thought, “this person is not white.”

It’s okay if you did. You’re right. And that is not a racist thought.

Now, if your second implicit thought was, “Well, I don’t have to pay attention to anything they say,” well, then, maybe we have some unpacking to do.

In my first blog post for Greater Public, I wrote about unconscious or implicit bias – what it is, how it affects our decision-making, and therefore, how it affects the marketing and fundraising at public media stations.

Today, at the risk of being trolled by people I don’t know on the Internet, I want to talk about Whiteness and why it’s crucial we begin, as a country and a planet, to be able to talk about Whiteness whenever we want to talk about race.

It is curious to me that we try to address racial disparities and diversity while trying to avoid talking about this construct humankind invented called Whiteness. It’s like trying to talk about climate change without talking about greenhouse gases. (Which I suppose some people are trying to do, but I don’t think it’s going very well in terms of leading to sustainable solutions.)

Perhaps, because race is a social construct, we think we can justifiably avoid this conversation. For a period in the 1990s, social science took great strides to show that there is no biological determinant of race. This was during the same period when Tiger Woods rose to fame, a dark-skinned man with African American and Asian heritage, whose father proclaimed on The Oprah Winfrey Show that Tiger’s race was “the human race.” Proclamations like this led us to believe that perhaps we had accomplished Martin Luther King’s dream and we, as a society, were finally able to judge people by the content of their character, not by the color of their skin.

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The Paradox of Bias in Marketing and Fundraising

Membership, Corporate Support, Major Giving, General Management, marketing, diversity & inclusion

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Bias is a tricky thing. 

We all have it, and sometimes that’s okay and sometimes it’s not. 

For marketing and fundraising professionals, this nuanced understanding of bias is even more important because cognitive biases are so often used in marketing and fundraising efforts to nudge potential donors into giving. But without any examination of the unintended consequences of such efforts, our tactics to get more donors or more dollars can reinforce harmful stereotypes. In addition, the demographics of the United States are changing, and public media needs to represent and engage new audiences if it wants to survive. 

So let’s break down what bias is exactly, and how we can use it responsibly and ethically.

Harvard professor Mahzarin Banaji beautifully sums up her decades-long research on implicit bias as “the thumbprint of culture on the brain.” In brief, implicit bias occurs because our brains are powerful machines that process millions of data points outside of our conscious awareness and make meaning out of that data in lightning fast time. It’s how we slam the breaks when we see a red light without “thinking” about it. But it can also lead to a “gut” feeling that a person is “bad” and we don’t realize that it’s because of the media images we’ve been fed about a certain race or culture. Implicit bias has gotten re-branded as unconscious bias in popular culture (despite the inaccuracy of the name, as many of our biases are triggered subconsciously, not when we’re asleep), and has come to be short-hand for the type of bias that leads to discrimination.

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