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Sun Aug 30, 2020, 11:22 AM

Questioning the objectivity of Black people and Black journalists is part of the problem...

Objectivity Is a Privilege Afforded to White Journalists
Under the banner of diversity, racialized people are told to bring ourselves and our perspectives. But, if we bring too much of them, we get held back

Updated 11:24, Aug. 21, 2020 | Published 9:58, Aug. 21, 2020

IN APRIL 2015, Baltimore was burning. A twenty-five-year-old Black man named Freddie Gray had died after a week-long coma following his violent arrest and “rough ride” in the back of a Baltimore Police Department van. Anger at police brutality had spilled out onto the streets.

I flew to Baltimore to cover the city’s history with police brutality for a documentary I was making for CBC Radio. I arrived the day after Baltimore state attorney Marilyn Mosby announced charges against the six police officers involved in Gray’s arrest. (They were never convicted.) The charges were considered so rare a sign of accountability that they prompted celebration in Gray’s West Baltimore neighbourhood, the first place I headed with my recorder and notebook. It was a partly cloudy day, and a block party was alive with music blaring from massive speakers. DJs, parents, and youth held signs in honour of Gray. This past May and June, I watched more sombre versions of this scene play out with crushing familiarity as, in all fifty US states, crowds of protesters took to the streets with signs commemorating more victims of police brutality.

I stayed till night fell, keeping my eye on my watch. The city was under a 10 p.m. curfew, and helicopters were beginning to circle overhead. Just as I was heading into the subway station to go to my hotel, a young man stopped to ask me what news organization I was with. He seemed keen to talk. I turned my mic on, asked him what his name was—Lonnie Moore, I jotted down in my notebook—and asked him about his own experiences of police encounters in Baltimore.

As we talked, another man walked up and, without missing a beat, joined the conversation. I asked him his name and spelled it out loud to him as I put it in my notebook: J-A-R-E—“No,” he corrected me, “J-A-R-R-O-D Jones.” These two men were strangers to each other, but as they shared stories, they were soon completing each other’s sentences, saying words in unison, and mirroring each other’s accounts, including incidents of being called the n-word by various officers. Jarrod Jones recounted unwarranted personal searches. “The police will grab you, make you pull your pants down in front of people,” he said. “You know? They tell you, ‘Lift your sack up.’” He also said something prescient, though I wouldn’t know it until I returned home: “I think that people think we’re making this stuff up.”


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