case study:

Affirming the rights of black New Yorkers

“While Black” Campaign with NYC Human Rights Comission


Zebra Strategies was approached by the NYC Commission on Human Rights to conduct research regarding the experiences of Black New Yorkers with racism and other forms of discrimination. The Commission wanted not just to gain insights regarding the challenges that Black New Yorkers face, but also to identify what the Commission can do to be perceived as a trusted resource for reporting these negative experiences. 

Our Approach

We conducted three qualitative focus groups, with a total of 30 English and Spanish-speaking Black New Yorkers. A qualitative discussion about racism and discrimination was followed by ad testing of three potential campaigns. Along with this qualitative research, Zebra Strategies conducted ad testing to confirm whether any of the proposed campaigns would increase awareness of the NYC Commission of Human Rights and meet their above-stated goals. Once the research was completed, Zebra Strategies provided the Commission with a comprehensive report.



Our research found that participants felt that racism is an inevitable aspect of life in the United States and is a near-universal experience, encountered in public spaces, places of employment, and private businesses — from being followed while shopping to having their car searched by the police or having trouble finding an apartment. Awareness of the NYC Commission on Human Rights was limited and several participants expressed reluctance to report incidents to the Commission because they weren’t sure what would come of it.  The winning campaign we tested, “While Black” calls to mind the numerous incidents in the news in which people called the police to report a black person who wasn’t breaking any law. The campaign affirms the rights of all Black New Yorkers to live their lives free of bias and that being black is not a crime. Participants found the campaign relatable and validating but still needed more transparency on what the outcomes of reporting would be. We recommended the Commission create a Reporting FAQ page on their website to answer questions and provide reassuring information about what the process is like and what to expect when they file a report. Since receiving this recommendation, the Commission has created multiple FAQ pages, along with a video providing an overview of the reporting process.

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