#BlackLivesMatter aims in the wrong direction
There comes a time in journalism in which you end up ruffling feathers over accurate reporting of the truth.
For me the time came when I began to receive backlash over an article entitled, “Black Lives Matter Takes Stage in Santa Monica.”
The article covers a grassroots #BlackLivesMatter group that performed a theater arts piece to bring attention to the continued struggles of black people in America.
This is a case where the truth hurts the most because by accurately reporting the monologues of the performance group, it did more apparent harm than good to those who wanted their voices heard, but didn't want to put their names behind them.
“Power: From the Mouths of the Occupied” performance piece debuted by Patrisse Cullors and Damon Turner at Highways Performance Space in Santa Monica, just a few blocks from campus, on February 27 to a live audience over a three day weekend. The piece recounted real-life portrayals of nine black individuals who have been impacted by police brutality and state oppression.
These powerful stories told by those individuals ideally would have only elevated negative feelings that viewers have of abusive or corrupt police. But this wasn’t good enough. Instead of continuing to raise their fists in protest, they want to hide behind their words because of fear of the way they will be perceived by the public.
In an effort to start a campaign against the Corsair, individuals from the Black Lives Matter group as well as their friends have sent a chain of e-mails to Santa Monica College President Chui L. Tsang to rebuke the article.
In one e-mail, a Monique Danser stated, “Please remove the article in question to preserve the safety and honor the vulnerability of your black students.”
Sophiana Kandell wrote, “This utterly disrespects the needs of black individuals.”
The most blatant attempt at questioning the Corsair’s integrity came from Mark Anthony Johnson who was in the performance piece. He claims that Alci Rengifo, Editor-in-Chief was “very disconnected and approached the issues from a misinformed place. He could not hold or honor our request to place the trauma of Black people and their safety as a priority.”
He even cited that our school is 9 percent African American saying that the group is looking to Tsang’s leadership to make sure that black voices are heard and valued.
The problem is that they are making this a black issue instead of looking at it for what it is. They gave a public performance because they wanted their voices heard, but when the story was printed in a way they didn’t imagine, they wanted to back out.
Their attempt at image control would have been successful if, according to their wishes, we ran a feature on Cullors or made inflammatory statements against the police.
This is not an issue of black, blue, or yellow, this is an issue of censorship.
Cullors has demanded that the article be taken down or the names and quotes edited, and that the changes should be addressed as to why they were made, basically trying to force an apology.
This infringes upon the First Amendment rights that I or any other journalist has to report on public forum.
They’ve even gone as far as to say that we are not respecting black issues, as if negating my own blackness. The struggles that black people go through everyday is not lost upon me a biracial 20-year-old male who’s grown up in Los Angeles, my Latino editor-in-chief, or any other staff member, most of whom are non-white.
Any insinuation that we are an insensitive paper doubts the free will and integrity of everyone on staff. It doubts the autonomy and independent thought that each and every one of us has.
The fight we make everyday to cover universal issues is being undermined by a group who have no agenda in this matter but to accuse.
The most telling part of all is when Communications and Media Department Chair Nancy Grass-Hemmert received an anonymous call from someone identifying themselves as a part of the group who admitted that she was told not to read the article. This is the kind of cultish behavior that we’ve seen from past political leaders whose movements just fell apart.
Instead of directing their anger at the Corsair, they should really think and redirect their anger towards the very person who put them in this situation, their leader Cullors. Cullors, who encouraged press at the dress rehearsal and performances. Better yet, they should continue to focus their anger on “the powers that be” that basically force movements like #BlackLivesMatter to exist, or that trigger emotional dialogue about race over and over again.
But these are just the absurdities of everyday life, for what would journalism be without threats of lawsuits or campaigns?