Implicit Bias and A Protest In La Mesa, California

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Photo Tom Abbott

First, let me explain something. I do understand the fear that many people who demonstrate have about getting tracked or their identities revealed, especially if they are residents of a community with a strong white supremacy presence. However, members of the media should never be part of the story, we sort of became part of it. We left a social justice demonstration for our own safety, which was not organized by Black Lives Matter. We felt extremely unsafe, and in that sense no longer able to do our jobs.

No professional reporter ever wants to put somebody attending a newsworthy event at risk. We go out of our way to protect sources when needed, and even in the field, we will protect people’s safety. Why? This matters, and in the current environment things can get a little hot at times, We are there to document the stories, to write the first draft of history. So if somebody asks us to not use their names, we will not.

Second, any march or protest organized by the organizations that were involved today, will not be covered by either myself or my husband. We will not take the risks that implicit bias puts us today. And when the press does not cover a march, you soon become an echo chamber with very little reach. Also, cameras help to protect everybody. Why? Cameras record, with no risk of bias, since all the camera is doing is recording what is in front of it. And in this sense, it keeps people safe because everybody in this situation knows there are cameras.

When we have conversations about implicit bias, we usually speak of white (and most police officers) who fear people of color and tend to open fire more often. We also speak about people crossing the street, because they fear that person of color walking towards them, or people refusing to get onto the elevator. There are also conversations about jobs, and banking, and the rest that goes with it. If you go deep enough, there are stories about accumulated wealth, education, housing, health care, and banking.

Well, today we experienced that implicit bias applied the other way. My husband is white, and I look white but am a proud Latina who came from Mexico. I am Mexican-American and proud of it. But to the two younger people who came at us, he could not be anything but Trump supporters who not understand where they are coming from. It mattered little what we do or say, as they used the old line of how people of color fear for their lives. Well, I have an accent, and I am an immigrant. I probably should have spoken in my mother tongue, but I did not want to further escalate a situation where we were rushed.

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Photo Tom Abbott

Why? Two people at the demonstration started to go after a fellow press team which was trying to conduct an interview. They worked for Channel 7. In this town, the press looks after each other. We may compete with each other for the story, but we do look after each other, and most of the time we document these incidents, and that is all we do. It is the only thing we can do to keep each other safe, or as safe as possible in the field. They rarely leave my hard drive. In fact, this is the first time any of these incidents has become a story.

My husband was assaulted by some of the protesters using their signs for merely taking pictures of them doing exactly this to the Channel 7 News Crew because they did not want their pictures taken. Never mind that with their heads covered, and faces covered there is no way anybody could identify them. They approached the credentialed press, who is working with cameras. They are willing to violate the rights and freedom of the press but do not understand that we have the same rights to cover this event, as they do to assemble and protest.

As I wrote above, this reporting team will not cover any demonstration led by the organizations present today. Those will remain in my reporter’s notebook. If they keep doing this they will end up preaching to the choir. Then there are the echoes of history. During the 1960s some leaders, like Malcolm X, chose to be aggressive with media. In the end, there was little media that was willing to write about his events.

I will add these marching orders from John Lewis. They are relevant and we know that peaceful resistance, while it may take time, is more effective in the long run:

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Historian by training. Former day to day reporter. Sometimes a geek who enjoys a good miniatures game.

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