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As the nation struggles with racism, CBS News veteran Michelle Miller gets personal

Stephen Battaglio, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

LOS ANGELES -- CBS News national correspondent Michelle Miller can clearly recall what the publisher of the Minneapolis Star Tribune told her and other Black editorial interns on their first day at the newspaper 32 years ago.

"He said, 'You've got to put your blackness aside -- you can't be a journalist and a Black journalist," Miller, 52, said during a Zoom call from her home in New Jersey. "I said 'Has anyone told you to put your whiteness to the side? Or your maleness to the side? I was born a Black woman.... You have to excuse me if I think differently than you. My lens is different. My perspective is different.'"

The publisher was shocked, while Miller's colleagues of all colors supported her. It was the beginning of a journalism career that always kept an eye on racial inequity and social injustice, from her early days as a reporter for the Los Angeles Times, through her 16 years at CBS News where she is now a co-host of "CBS This Morning Saturday" alongside Jeff Glor and Dana Jacobson.

In the aftermath of George Floyd, the unarmed black man killed May 25 while in the custody of Minneapolis police, voices such as Miller's have been amplified in TV newsrooms that are covering the protests and a cultural reckoning brought on by the event.

"Reporters and anchors of color are feeling this story in a different way than others, and I think their ability to draw string from their past is a very valuable asset," said CBS News President Susan Zirinsky. "The ability of reporters like Michelle to share their experiences in a meaningful way really does allow America to see itself."

Zirinsky said every Black correspondent has experienced racial bias, and in on-air panel discussions in the days following after the Floyd killing they shared examples freely. Pierre Thomas, the justice correspondent for ABC News, told how he recently was wiping down a shopping cart at a supermarket when a white woman motioned to him as if he was cleaning the cart for her. "I simply said to her 'I'm cleaning this cart for me,' " he said. "We suffer these indignities every day, all the time."

 

For Miller, the struggle against racism is woven into her family history.

She is the daughter of Dr. Ross Miller, a trauma surgeon who in 1964 wanted to buy a home in Compton but was turned down by a white owner who refused to sell to him because of his race. A white friend made the purchase and quitclaimed the home to Dr. Miller, who channeled his outrage into local activism.

He headed up the school board, where he reformed racially discriminatory practices and the curriculum, and served on the city council in Compton.

As Miller said in an essay she delivered on a recent edition of "CBS This Morning," her father placed his hopes for the country's future in Robert F. Kennedy, whose bid for the 1968 Democratic presidential nomination was propelled by a message of social and economic equality that appealed both to Black voters and working class whites.

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