Developing Voices of Leadership in Rural America

Do Black Voices Matter?

Photo showing protest marchers
Every time there is a social justice issue steeped in racism, news outlets like WLOS, the Asheville Citizen-Times and other local mainstream media outlets send only white representatives to cover the story–if they cover the issue at all. I’m not sure if the local gatekeepers are operating on the outdated notion that we, in the black community, can’t articulate our own stories, or if upholding the white power structure is more important. Whatever the reason, it is limiting and just plain tacky.

Over the weekend I spent some time participating in the Charlotte protests, and I noticed that WLOS sent two white reporters. The first reporter, Jerrika Insco, reported on the State of Emergency, the 44 arrests, and the presence of the National Guard. She used her privileged eyes and ears to craft a one-sided narrative that went out as objective news to thousands of people. Even Insco’s Facebook live post from the Unity March failed to capture the spirit of the protest and point out the issues at hand. Next they sent in Kim King. One of her headlines read “2 Locals Travel to Protests.” In reality, there were actually quite a few Asheville social justice organizers and advocates present for the protests. I stopped counting after 10, but Asheville organizers played a large role in supporting the Charlotteans.

The Asheville-Citizen Times’ lackluster reporting is just as frustrating. The article “NC Politicians React to Charlotte Shooting and Protest,” continues the whitewashing of the issues at hand. Where is the balance? Politicians have their own platforms and their opinions and empty rhetoric almost always gain national attention. What about the citizens? I mean it is supposed to be the Citizen-Times.

To be fair, I realize that these institutions are working with their pool of employees, but when do these institutions plan to hire more voices of color to ensure they are reporting more dynamic perspectives? Although all of my examples reference the Charlotte protest, this is a consistent issue and there are countless examples. There is a wealth of seasoned writers of color in this city who would love to be a partner and a voice. Stop marginalizing our voices to guest editorials and viewpoints. We live here too.

When will these large influencers begin to blend the narratives and analyses to include the people they are reporting on? While shooting a black man down in the street is bad and wrong, keep in mind that racism is not just one bad act; rather, it is systems of power that permeate every institution in this state, including our media outlets. I am ready to see knowledge and information intersect with diverse voices. After all, this is the premise of good journalism.

* This post appeared in ashevillegrit.com.

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