Racial Gaslighting

Entry type: Single project

Country/area: Spain

Publishing organisation: Newtral.es

Organisation size: Small

Publication date: 2022-03-21

Language: Spanish

Authors: Nahiara S. Alonso, Cristina Pita da Veiga, Sofía Villafañe, Irene Larraz (coordination)


Newtral Data is the data visualization and analysis area of Newtral.es. We are a pioneer team in Spain working with artificial intelligence, and creating algorithms where journalists and engineers work together to design tools focused on journalism. In the team, we are journalists, engineers, programmers, and graphic designers who turn data into stories through different visual narratives, supported by graphics, illustrations, infographics, and other approaches to address current affairs. To do so, we use technology to automate some scraping and data analysis processes.

Project description:

Black Lives Matter made us realize that racism is not something from abroad, unmasking the idea that ‘it doesn’t happen here’. For this special, we went beyond the traditional data on the subject (including hate crimes). We analyzed interest in the term ‘racism’ and related words through Google Trends searches, and we reviewed images in the Wikipedia entries. We also extracted texts from Twitter in which we could see the reflection of this very subtle thing we were trying to report: the denial of being racist with comments that are racist.

Impact reached:

Several organizations and recognized voices in the sector reflected the impact of the special report to address a topic that rarely has a place in the media. In Spain, racial gaslighting is found through the denial of racism itself, the minimization of the facts and the absence of political action, all of them are difficult to measure.

Techniques/technologies used:

For this special, we wanted to go beyond the traditional data on the subject, which referred to data on hate crimes, and we sought to explore alternative data sources. For example, we looked at interest in the term ‘racism’ and other related words through searches on Google Trends. We also extracted text from Twitter conversations in which we could we could see the reflection of this very subtle thing we were we were trying to relate: the denial of being racist with comments that are racist. In addition, we reviewed the images that Wikipedia entries with the term racism, and we term racism, and we realized that the pictures do not the photographs do not show a situation of actual racism current racism, but rather they are old images from a different from another context, such as the United States.

Context about the project:

After the Black Lives Matter movement began in the United States, Spain has experienced several racist acts, such as the escalation of racist violence in Murcia, with murders and xenophobic aggressions that took place in 2021, the insults to black soccer players and threats from a political party to deport an immigrant member of the assembly of the Community of Madrid who has Spanish nationality. Or one of the most recent, stating in Congress that “having the DNI does not mean being Spanish” and that “Spain is a historical project that cannot be open to just anyone”. Even more difficult to perceive racism: that of not recognizing the diversity that makes up Spanish society today. For all these reasons, it seemed relevant to show how in politics and society there is a racial gaslighting effect.

What can other journalists learn from this project?

With this special report we lost the fear of exploring data in a different way. For example, how to interpret the date referred to in the images associated with the term ‘racism’ in Wikipedia, and try to extrapolate that data to tell a story of how racism is approached in Spain today, from a distant perspective and interpreted as something external. Exploring these kind of sources can provide more clues than thought.

Project links: