COMMENTARY: Calling Out Racism, White Supremacy and White Nationalism is More Vital Than Ever
By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent @StacyBrownMedia | 8/13/2019, 1:48 p.m.
The spectre of white nationalists, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and others that wrongly maintain that the American flag and free speech provide them with moral justification and protection for their abhorrent behaviors, has seen too many journalists frame their inadequate coverage under a cloak of “objectivity.” Journalism is reverting to the impersonal mode of coverage that chronicled the civil rights movement: The Spectator’s Perspective.
That the President of the United States can get away with telling four American citizens and congresswomen of color to “go back to your country,” reminds too many black journalists of a strikingly similar message from Alabama Governor George Wallace, a Democrat, more than 50 years ago.
During his 1963 inaugural speech, Wallace said: “I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow and segregation forever.”
In its All Things Considered and Radio Diariesseries, NPR called the speech, “A fiery pledge forgiven, but not forgotten.”
“Reflecting on his response to the speech at the time,” writes NPR, “Rep. John Lewis, a Georgia Democrat, originally from Alabama, says he took Wallace’s words personally. ‘My governor, this elected official, was saying in effect, you are not welcome, you are not welcome. Words can be very powerful. Words can be dangerous,’ Lewis says. ‘Gov. Wallace never pulled a trigger. He never fired a gun. But in his speech, he created the environment for others to pull the trigger, in the days, the weeks and months to come.’”
Reporting both sides of a viewpoint may enable a publication to boast about high journalistic standards but ignoring larger truths in the process nullifies any benefits gained.
Earlier this month, while in the midst of a rant-by-racist-tweet barrage from the fingertips of President Trump, the New York Timesran the headline, “Trump Urges Unity vs. Racism.” Many Timesreaders reacted by threatening to cancel their subscription.
The press is the only privately-owned institution specifically mentioned by name in the U.S. Constitution. Our words have power and powerful words have a responsibility to speak truth to those that are listening. Telling the truth, in its entirety, is the most objective stance any journalist can take on any subject.
The race to present white-leaning objectivity in news coverage leads large institutions, like the New York Times, Washington Post, Associated Press, and others, to bestow credence and importance through their coverage – or lack thereof – to the hate speech and acts taking place during today’s resurgence of the civil rights movement.
Mainstream press’ coverage also serves as a reminder that people of color, whose realities, life stories and viewpoints have resulted in a different standard for objectivity, are often best served by the Black Press.
While the nation heralded the bravery of reporters who were embedded with front line troops during the war in Viet Nam, the first to be covered by television, few knew the names of the many black journalists who risked their lives to expose the truth of the criminal-level hatred that filled the pages of the Black Press during the same period of our history.