Everyone’s been talking about the horrifying, is-this-seriously-happening-in-2012 incident at the convention, in which two attendees threw nuts and taunts at an African-American CNN camerawoman, telling her, “This is what we feed to the animals at the zoo.” Everyone, that is, except the camerawoman herself.
Until recently. Although she still wants to remain anonymous, she spoke to friend and journalist Jamila Bey about what happened. Her story personalizes the humiliating event, which had been recounted only in a tweet and generally confirmed by CNN.
At the Washington Post, Bey recounts her conversation with the victim of the attack, who, like most Americans who heard about it, says, “I know racism when I see it and when it’s being thrown at me.”
“I was just about to put on my headset when someone started throwing peanuts at me,” she told me. “I didn’t understand what was going on.” She recovered enough to ask one man, “Are you out of your damned mind?” A pair of older white men walked to the railing preventing people from falling down into the camera pit. One hurled more peanuts at her and taunted, “Here! Want some more peanuts?”
Then they actually started hitting her with them. “This is what we feed to the animals at the zoo!” he continued. While his partner laughed, the thrower leaned over the railing as if he WAS at the zoo and snorted, “Here’s some more peanuts.”
My friend continued, “It was like they were heckling me.” It became clear to her these people were enjoying her torment. Two African-American cameramen and a female Caucasian reporter came over to investigate the fracas, but none had clearly heard what the men said. CNN security arrived by coincidence and set off after them.
At this point, I expected my friend to tell me how the RNC apologized profusely, how they genuinely seemed to feel bad and how they themselves became outraged by the whole thing. She didn’t. Rather, she told me that RNC security investigated by asking of the assailants, “Were they black or were they white?”
“Are you kidding me, Jamila?” She asked. “I’m from the Deep South! I know racism when I see it and when it’s being thrown at me. No black person would have done that!”