In a misplaced moment of pique, a Facebook acquaintance this past weekend posted about an African-American man suffering shotgun wounds while helping others during the Las Vegas shooting.
She shared a link on the story from a publication I’ve never heard of, “Affinity Magazine.” This acquaintance, an African-American woman, wrote about the man as “not a perpetrator, not a victim.” Then she criticized mainstream media for not publicizing his bravery.
Problem is, mainstream media did just that.
The Washington Post had reported the story five days before her post. I’d be willing to wager niche publications such as “Affinity Magazine” knew about the man’s heroics only because of mainstream reporters’ work.
When I linked The Washington Post’s article to her post, my Facebook acquaintance good-naturedly acknowledged her error and moved on.
What I found mildly unsettling were three responses, written by white women, underscoring the original, unfounded assertion mainstream reporters and editors would, as a matter of course, play down positive stories about minorities.
One person wrote about this ostensible lack of coverage: “Only on Facebook so far,” and another said: “good question.” And the third, after I linked The Washington Post’s article, said: “I do believe that had he been white the article would have been more extensive.”
As a card-carrying member in good standing in the mainstream media, as someone who is enormously proud to be a part of the mainstream media, as an individual who has spent her career reporting, writing and editing news articles for mainstream publications, allow me to respond:
The mainstream media did not fail to report the story, nor did the mainstream media under-publicize the story. If you are not a subscriber to The Washington Post, I fail to see how The Washington Post is responsible for your not having read the story.
Tell me, please, what is going on lately with liberals? Why this need to out-liberal other liberals? Why this piling on, no matter how ridiculous the particular cause at hand? And while we are on the subject, why do some white people seem to feel they must go to ridiculous, unseemly extremes to publicly demonstrate their lack of bigotry … when all that counts is what’s in the heart and those actions either taken or not taken to combat racial injustices?
I’m pretty danged outspoken, but a few weeks ago, I found myself pondering the wisdom of writing a column on my ambivalence toward removing or keeping Confederate monuments and about how, well, Southern my family is. What if people misunderstood or misinterpreted what I said?
In the end, I wrote the column.
Frankly, I’m weary of the ever-increasing pressures to conform intellectually to other people’s definition of right and wrong, or risk some sort of weird and public liberal shaming.
In recent months, I’ve seen a few local liberals (or progressives, what have you) launch arrogant, smug attacks against other liberals (progressives, what have you) who, in some manner or another, fail to measure up to proper liberal/progressive ideals as determined by – drumroll, please – them.
If you ask me, it’s really no wonder the Democratic Party is out of power and seemingly incapable of getting its act together. Some party members would eat their own young, given half the chance.
Ellison is editor of The Sylva Herald.