In a discussion that spanned Eastern European politics, race relations in the US and Ukraine, and the media landscape, the Root’s Terrell J. Starr joined Media School Professor Elaine Monaghan in the latest installment of the Hamilton Lugar School’s series on Race, Gender and Power in Global Affairs.
The event, co-sponsored by the Byrnes Russian and East European Institute, the Russian Studies Workshop, OVPDEMA, and OVPDI, allowed Monaghan, a veteran journalist who’s covered Russia and Eastern Europe, to get Starr’s views on some of the most consequential issues of domestic policy and international relations, including the 2020 election.
The conversation began with Starr explaining how he became invested in Eastern European politics in the first place: with a study abroad experience in Russia in which he studied, volunteered in an orphanage, and became fascinated with the people and culture. This was followed with a Peace Corps assignment in Georgia and then, once back in the US, a strong desire to “express and tell stories” about his time in the former Soviet Union, he said. This drive led him to journalism, particularly reporting that provided space for his own voice.
In his professional work, he elaborated on a piece he wrote about why he appreciated Ukrainian police’s attitude toward him, even though he was stopped by them over thirty times while on a Fulbright there. He also described conversations he had with Ukrainian officials about their opinion of the current US administration, which they didn’t reveal publicly for fear of retribution.
His expertise led him to discuss not just international politics, but also how global issues are covered and by whom. While he had considered working at a legacy publication like the New York Times, Starr had very persuasive reasons for working for the Root, which focuses on domestic and global issues from a Black perspective.
“I get to articulate my voice in a way that’s indigenous and native to me,” Starr said.
Starr also described his mental health struggles while working at other publications, which were triggered by racism and work stress. This struggle led him to insights about where and how he wanted to work, as well as how students and recent graduates should approach their own careers.
“You are entitled to be everything you want to be,” Starr said. “You are worthy and you are good enough.”
Seeing how international relations were covered too often from a white perspective, Starr created Black Diplomats, a podcast that puts Black people at the center of those discussions.
“I want to see Black people leading conversations with the rest of the world,” he explained.
Recent episodes have covered nuclear nonproliferation, President Trump’s foreign policy, and Revolution in Belarus.
Starr’s expertise on Eastern Europe and American elections, combined with his insights on how US media covers foreign policy, gave the conversation particular power at a time when we are considering what stories are being told and by whom.