Race In The Rock River Valley

It's time to talk about racism.

WNIJ and the Rockford Register Star have committed to a year-long occasional project "Race in the Rock River Valley." We'll take a look at a wide variety of issues regarding race in our region, dig out and analyze statistics, talk to people who are affected, and most importantly, listen. 

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

About 100 people packed a meeting room this weekend at Midway Village Museum in Rockford to talk about the realities of racism in their community. It’s part of a year-long collaboration between the Rockford Register Star and WNIJ. The Register Star’s executive editor Mark Baldwin says the idea behind the discussion is to bring people together for a thoughtful, productive conversation. People can look each other in the eye, not just type at each other on social media.

Rockford Register Star

Assembling a police force that “looks like the community” is an important goal for many American cities. But it can be a slow process. 11% of Rockford’s police force is black, compared to 21% of the overall population.

Rockford Register Star

Unemployment rates in Rockford tend to be among the highest in northern Illinois. For African Americans, that rate is nearly double.

WNIJ’s Susan Stephens spoke with former Rockford Register Star reporter Brian Leaf about what’s being done to remedy that.  It was one of Leaf’s last stories as a reporter for the paper and is part of our collaboration “Race in the Rock River Valley.”

Max Gersch, Sunny Strader / Rockford Register Star

Overt racism is usually pretty easy to spot. But there’s another less-obvious type of racist behavior that can also hurt.  WNIJ and the Rockford Register Star are kicking off a year-long collaboration called “Race in the Rock River Valley” with an examination of “microaggressions.”


This weekend, the Rockford Register Star -- in partnership with WNIJ News -- kicks off a year-long series on race in the Rock River Valley. 

WNIJ’s Susan Stephens spoke with Register Star Executive Editor Mark Baldwin about the reasons behind the project. The series kicks off in the newspaper Sunday, Nov. 13. Tuesday on WNIJ, we’ll hear from Rockford residents about their experiences with “microaggressions.”