The headlines from 2020 have been among the most distressing in a generation. The journalists that put these headlines into context put their lives on the line covering the COVID-19 pandemic. Based on the actions of the Minnesota State Patrol on May 29th, an unseen, unchecked virus can’t hold a candle to a journalist of color lawfully doing his job in that state. CNN reporter Omar Jimenez was arrested while reporting on yet another unjust killing of an unarmed African-American man by sworn officers of the law. The irony should not be lost on anyone.
Actor Will Smith says ”Racism is not getting worse, it’s getting filmed”. The tale of the tape is the connective tissue in both of these cases. The cellphone images of officers kneeling on George Floyd’s neck as he screamed for his life took four days to result in an arrest of just one of the complicit cops. Conversely, Omar Jimenez was live on the air, cooperating with police as they inexplicably asked for his identification when they handcuffed him and led him away. Did I mention he was on the air? Doing his job? While being a person of color? Has #ReportingWhileBlack joined the long list of things we can’t do without falling under suspicion?
As journalists, we have much to worry about in the course of our day. We ensure we are serving the public with fair, accurate and balanced coverage of every story we do. We have changed the way we cover news to accommodate a virus that has taken over 100, 000 American lives, most of which are people of color. Not one of my colleagues should have to worry about justifying their actions as working journalists while they are lawfully doing their job. The San Diego Association of Black Journalists is outraged and saddened by the treatment of Omar Jimenez and the rest of the CNN crew. We stand with our colleagues and will continue to fight the good fight defending the First Amendment and shining a light on the darkest part of this country’s history. If not now, when?
Donna M Stewart