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Politics

No Wonder There Are So Few Minority Journalists

ESTHER J. CEPEDA on

CHICAGO -- Shaun King, a civil rights activist and senior justice writer for the New York Daily News, had to preface his response to the recent hate crime committed against a disabled Chicago-area man with four full paragraphs of disavowal before making this point:

“I see thousands of white folk online asking me why I’m not speaking out about it. Beyond the fact that I literally just got back in the country a few hours ago with my wife and five kids, my answer is simple. ... This country does not need me to speak out on crimes committed by black folk because nobody in this country is held more responsible for the crimes they commit, and even the crimes they don’t commit, than black folk in America.”

The next day, Julio Ricardo Varela, co-host of the Latino-centric political podcast “In the Thick” tweeted up a storm about the evolving story of suspected Florida airport shooter Esteban Santiago, citing journalists and news outlets that chose to play up Santiago’s Puerto Rican heritage. Varela, who also hails from Puerto Rico, wrote:

“How media is sharing info about ?#EstebanSantiago

FROM PUERTO RICO! HIS MOM STILL LIVES THERE!

Oh yeah, he fought in Iraq & checked a gun.”

Another tweet concluded: “If cable outlets insist on emphasizing ?#EstebanSantiago’s Puerto Ricaness, good time to educate about how many boricuas served in iraq.”

And so it goes for minority journalists in the era of Trump -- when a member of their tribe does something unspeakable, they’ll have to jump in to make clarifications before people make assumptions or they’ll be called to account.

These news people will be bombarded with messages imploring them to condemn an action or with ugly implications that they are in solidarity with the accused because they have not issued a public denouncement -- as if they, the journalists, speak for every other non-journalist who shares their race or ethnicity.

Of course, after a decade of rising immigration-related xenophobia, journalists with Hispanic-sounding names have been getting trolled on a daily basis, regardless of whether or not a breaking news item has to do with a Latino suspect.

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