I posted this on FB and thought I’d share publicly:
The burden of living in a “time on two crosses” (Bayard Rustin)…Some of us are dealing with bittersweet complexities today as trans and queer people of color, whom applaud the monumental victory of DOMA being struck down yet go home to communities of color who must continue to deal with the blatant racism of our voting process, upheld by the SCOTUS ruling against the Voting Rights Act.
Reporters approach weary runners, either politely or idiotically request interviews, and get rejected, only to beg for forgiveness. That’s clearly how it should be; while our jobs as news hunters and disseminators is to first gather info–often amidst pandemonium–it’s also important to swallow our pride sometimes, and to acknowledge the feelings of whoever has our pens, pads, and microphones jammed in their face. But the more of these civil exchanges that I witness, the more I cringe at the double-standard in practice.
Imagine, for a moment, that instead of a bombing on Marathon Monday, the media swarm was over a multiple homicide in one of Boston’s neighborhoods of color. The reporting process would have likely gone down differently. Whether gun violence or terrorism deserve more or less attention than the other is a debate all in itself; relatedly, there’s been some healthy chatter in the past few days–particularly by international outlets like the BBC–about the amount of Boston bombing coverage relative to larger tragedies that regularly shatter nations elsewhere. What’s also important, however, is the way in which reporters treat subjects in these moments of despair.
Unlike in Back Bay, where marathoners and their families have been hanging out since Monday, reporters tend to take a harsher tone in black, Latino, and Cape Verdean neighborhoods. One instance that comes to mind was immediately following the horrific earthquake in Haiti two years ago. Journalists flooded Caribbean enclaves in and around Blue Hill Avenue, scraping whatever heartfelt quotes they could out of people in anguish. Yet little sympathy was shown. Rather, as all too often happens in disparate communities everywhere, journalists pushed past acceptable limits, and in the face of reluctance, backed off swiftly and unapologetically.
It doesn’t take a Harvard sociologist to see what’s happening here. Generally speaking, most folks who have the time and resources to train, travel, and compete in a marathon are at least middle class, if not upwardly mobile or quite fortunate. In other words: unlike so many families that are devastated by routine urban violence, the people in track jackets around Back Bay this week are in many ways peers of the college-educated reporters interviewing them. In my observation, while a great many journalists are well-spirited deep-down, they’re also condescending asses for whom stories trump sensitivity in the event that subjects exist on a lower socio-economic rung.
It’s enraging when I think of how capriciously Americans shrug their shoulders and turn the other cheek when considering the value of Black life in this country. Institutional and interpersonal racism has left Black America in a very precarious place; just leaving our homes puts us at risk for being assassinated by any self-righteous, gun-yielding neighborhood watchman who deems us suspicious.
This way of thinking is an example of a broader societal philosophy that literally begins at conception of a Black life. Black mothers, often considered hypersexual in nature, are frequently treated with little to no dignity by doctors who dismiss their pregnancies as accidental or inconsequential.
With a maternal and fetal mortality rate higher than any other race (often caused by stress brought on by racial burdens), Black mothers often experience traumatic birthing experiences that include forced cesareans, trivializing attitudes by medical professionals, and contemptuous care that has led to death or serious injury. If they survive this, Black children are given the least resources, have the least access to healthcare, endure some the most toxic and contaminated environments, and deal with structural and interpersonal racism throughout adolescence and into adulthood, where they risk the chance of being shot to death by people like George Zimmerman.
It is disheartening how people have desensitized themselves to the plight of communities just because they don’t look like their own or how the lives of Black children are so undervalued, not because of something they’ve done but simply–just because. I can’t reconcile how some people have positioned themselves to make ethical decisions about who is and who isn’t deserving of safety, security, and justice and how those decisions magnify and shift culture, leaving entire communities on the fringes and moving targets for the Zimmermans of the world.