I am usually amused when I read letters to the editor bemoaning the fact that the paper is too liberal. What we should instead bemoan is that the paper is too white.
The media is usually the lens by which we view the world.
Yet, at a more profound level, what we consider to be reality is largely shaped by what appears in our newspapers, weekly news magazines and TV news programs.
All too often we take for granted what is reported as news as objective, yet in reality, objectivity simply does not exist.
We are all subjective, writing from our social context. What is reported as news is a product of the reporter’s cultural ethos, reflecting the society’s views and morality.
Whenever I write anything, it is automatically assumed that I am predictable or biased. Is it because I am a Latino? Seldom is the predictability or bias of white essayists questioned.
Furthermore, when what is written strikes a nerve with the dominant culture, rather than debate the merits of the argument, the first accusation usually hurled is that the article lacked research or scholarship.
Most scholars of color are accustomed to hearing this accusation from students, colleagues and administrators – and it is an accusation seldom made about whites.
Because all reporters are products of their environment, their writing reflects the biases and prejudices of the author, regardless of their color or ethnicity.
If this is true, as we look around the newsrooms of this nation’s papers and see the overwhelming majority of reporters being white and from the middle-to-upper economic brackets, we are left to ask: How liberal is the media?
When “real people” articles are written, or photos essays dealing with “a day around town” are published, the reporter goes to the familiarity of his or her community.
Unfortunately, because we live in a segregated town and nation, the happenings occurring within the marginalized neighborhoods around town are simply ignored – not on purpose, but as a consequence of the established structures of our society.
Hence, the omission of voices of color is considered normal, and their exclusion is seldom mentioned.
While the positive accomplishments from the dominant culture are routinely reported due to access, these same accomplishments, when they occur in non-white neighborhoods, seldom make it into the paper because there is no one there to report on it.
Because it is not in the paper, we arrive at the faulty conclusion that such accomplishments must not exist, reinforcing the stereotype that nothing good can come from “Galilee.”
Journalism is probably one of the nation’s most segregated professions. According to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, while minorities comprise 36 percent of the population, only 12.79 percent of reporters are of color and 32 percent of this nation’s newsrooms have no person of color.
Should we then wonder why people of color have become a symbol of crime in the United States, a threat to society? Why else do you lock your doors when driving through that neighborhood? Nevertheless, according to the newsroom adage, “If it bleeds, it leads.”
Even though the vast majority of drug users and pushers are white, a different reality is created for us when the papers focus on crack usage in the black and Latino and Latina neighborhoods, instead of cocaine and heroin addiction in white, middle-class suburbia.
I applaud EthicsDaily.com for providing this space to express a perspective seldom heard within the dominant culture.
Yet, I do receive letters, both publicly and privately, questioning my “secret” agenda. What am I trying to accomplish? Some even call me a racist or suggest I go back to my own country.
The truth of the matter is that I have no secret agenda. If you haven’t figured it out, my “agenda” is simply to make public what is commonly said among marginalized communities.
While I will never claim to speak for any person of color except myself, I have tried to give voice to the voiceless communities, always hoping that what I write resonates with mi gente.
I know that what I write may be construed as offensive by so many within the dominant culture, but if we as a nation truly wish to bring about racial healing, then we must deal with the common perspectives of those who are the most wounded.
So I ask, “Can we talk?”
Miguel A. De La Torre is professor of social ethics at Iliff School of Theology in Denver.
Professor of Social Ethics and Latinx Studies at Iliff School of Theology in Denver, Colorado.