Reacting to Black Lives Matter: The discursive construction of racism in UK newspapers

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In the wake of the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on 25 May 2020, and the international uprisings which followed, racism moved to the forefront of public discourse. Yet, racism has no fixed interpretation and is a term used by different individuals and organisations for various functional and ideological purposes. This study provides an analysis of the ways that racism is discussed in four UK newspapers using a mixed-methods framework incorporating critical race theory, corpus linguistics, and the discourse-historical approach. It is argued that, as the protests were taking place, systemic racism began to be foregrounded over individualised forms of racism in newspaper discourse. However, journalists continued to use strategies of positive self-presentation to place racism outside of themselves and within racist ‘others’, leading them to stand against racism in the abstract, while potentially diminishing possibilities for structural change.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)298-314
Issue number3
Early online date25 Apr 2022
Publication statusPublished - 31 Aug 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This research was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.


  • UK
  • discourse
  • news media
  • racism
  • systemic racism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Political Science and International Relations


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