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Do Racial Issues Still Push Some Over the Edge?

The suspect slain after a chase from the White House to the U.S. Capitol Thursday wasn't identified by race, unlike the Washington Navy Yard killer who left 12 others dead less than three weeks earlier. Miriam Carey wasn't at large, as was Aaron Alexis of Fort Worth, Texas, whose race was broadcast when reporters had little else to go on by way of description.

The public also saw photos of Christopher Jordan Dorner, "a linebacker-sized ex-cop with a multitude of firearms, military training and a seemingly bottomless grudge born when the LAPD fired him in 2009," in the words of the Los Angeles Times, describing him during a manhunt in February. He was believed to have killed three police officers.

All three had mental health issues, and all were African American. Is there a connection?

Amy Alexander, who co-authored the 2000 book "Lay My Burden Down: Unraveling Suicide and the Mental Health Crisis Among African-Americans" with Dr. Alvin F. Poussaint, thinks so.

"Today a woman allegedly attempted to ram her car into gates near the White House, " Alexander wrote Thursday on the Medium website. "She reportedly attempted to flee, and was shot by local law enforcement officials near the U.S. Capitol Building. Two weeks ago, a gunman who was apparently suffering from mental illness that led him to believe that unseen forces were out to get him shot and killed 12 workers at the Navy Yard in the District of Columbia before officers shot him dead.

"The gunman in the Navy Yard tragedy was black, and early reports of today's incident indicate that the driver of the car that seemed to be trying to [breach] security at the White House may have been black. Were their respective mental states affected by race in America? Scoff if you like. I consider this a legitimate area of inquiry.

"The race of these two individuals who caused these violent outbursts is both important and possibly not so important — what matters to me is that violence appeared to be their court of last resort. The motivations of their respective choices are worth examining, once we learn more about their lives.

"What's obvious right now, though, is this: We're trapped in an endless loop of denial when it comes to race and violence in America.

"We are living a weird mash-up of the Dickensian cliche — 'the best of times, the worst of times' — and 'Groundhog Day.' America sits atop the list of developed nations in terms of GDP, military might, and at least several cultural and intellectual sectors.

"We have twice elected a Black American man as President. We do not live — as was the case in my childhood — under the constant fear of a nuclear attack. We haven't had a major race-related urban disturbance since 1992.

"And yet, our Original Sin — racism — continues to haunt America, including blacks and whites. Several years ago, I had the pleasure of working with one of the world's most prominent psychiatrists, Alvin F. Poussaint, of the Harvard Medical School. We wrote a nonfiction book examining people of color in America and mental health. Dr. Poussaint joins other black clinical mental health experts in exploring a theory that gets little coverage in the press: Black people in America are experiencing something known as Post-traumatic Slave Syndrome (PTSS). The syndrome affects whites, too.

"As Dr. P. lays it out, the symptoms are highly detrimental to Blacks, foremost, though they are debilitating for whites too if in less acute forms and at fewer points that are immediately life-shortening. For Blacks, the symptoms and expressions of PTSS include fatalistic outlook, self-destructive behavior, and hopelessness; risky-behaviors including putting oneself in danger of violence, behaving violently toward others; over-eating, smoking, drinking to excess, and drug abuse. For whites, holding racist beliefs and bigoted [ideas] is a form of mental illness that can lead to symptomatic physical health risks such as heart disease. . . ."

After the Alexis rampage, some writers called for more attention to mental illness among African American men. "Misdiagnosing mental illness among black men has long been an acute problem — with consequences that extend beyond the Navy Yard killings to the daily gun violence throughout urban America," Courtland Milloy wrote in the Washington Post. Among Alexis' issues, a friend said, "He felt a lot of discrimination and racism with white people especially," NBC News reported.

The Los Angeles Times wrote about a manifesto that Dorner issued: "Dorner felt isolated growing up as one of the few African American children in the neighborhoods where he lived and was the victim of racism, according to the manifesto. 'My first recollection of racism was in the first grade,' Dorner allegedly wrote, recalling a fellow student at Norwalk Christian School who called him a racial slur. Dorner said he responded 'fast and hard,' punching and kicking the student."

Alexander's thoughts are worthy of follow-up by other journalists. "Main point is that there's a direct through line in our US history that links violence, racism," she told Journal-isms by email. "Add mental health and you've a perfect storm of disaster!"

Freddie Allen, National Newspaper Publishers Association: Black Women Murdered by Men Three Times Rate of White Females

Wayne Bennett, the Field Negro: Shut down and shot down in Washington.

Jarvis DeBerry, NOLA.com | the Times-Picayune: Could Brandajah Smith, 5, have contemplated suicide?

 

Matthew Kauffman,  Dave Altimari and Edmund H. Mahony, Hartford Courant: Woman Killed In Washington, D.C., Was Obsessed With Obama

Mary Sanchez, Kansas City Star: Tragedy is awful, no matter where it occurs

Daniel Tepfer, Stamford (Conn.) Advocate: Fragile mental health cited in Capitol shooting

Richard Weinblatt, CNN: Did D.C. cops have to shoot to kill?

"I saw these guys on last night's broadcast," Craig Calcaterra wrote Thursday for NBC Sports. "Hat tip to Ted Berg of USA Today for getting the screen cap:

"We wouldn't accept it if these guys showed up at a party in blackface," Calcaterra continued. "We wouldn't cite 'tradition' or 'enthusiasm' and act as if it wasn't racist for them to do so. If they wore blackface at a ballpark I am pretty confident that security would have them removed, for their safety among other reasons.

"But to pull Indian redface in Cleveland? Hey, no worries. Go Tribe. Quit your complaining, Calcaterra. Indeed, I'm assuming that for even mentioning this I will be accused of being an overly-sensitive P.C. liberal who doesn't understand that no one finds this offensive and, hey, my Native American father-in-law has no problem with it. If they decided not to go the ad hominem route they'd probably offer something like, 'hey, he's on the caps. So obviously it's about team spirit, not racism. It's just a cartoon character, so it's not offensive.' . . ."

Meanwhile, "The Oneida Indian Nation is taking its 'Change the Mascot' campaign a step further," the Indian Country Today Media Network reported on Thursday.

"On Monday, October 7th, the Nation plans to convene in Washington, D.C. to hold a public conference calling on the NFL and its teams to end the use of the slur, Redskins.

"The conference, which will be held in the Ritz Carlton, in the same hotel as the NFL's Fall Meeting, is open to the public and press.

"This conference comes just weeks after the Nation broadcast its 'Change the Mascot' radio advertisements, and months after students at Cooperstown Central School District in Cooperstown, New York, made national news by voting to change their teams' name from 'Redskins' to the 'Hawkeyes.’ . . ."

Phillip Morris, Plain Dealer, Cleveland: Cleveland reach out and touch the dream that is the 2013 Indians

"I've identified five points that the press, for the most part, failed to adequately cover" in reporting on the debate over President Obama's Affordable Care Act, Trudy Lieberman wrote Wednesday for Columbia Journalism Review. "These are threads that would have helped people understand what the law is all about, as well as comprehend the ongoing backlash.

"1. The press did not make clear enough to the public what the law would do. . . .

"2. Reporters did not adequately explain how Obamacare was financed, and why — why the modest wealth redistribution the ACA calls for is necessary to bring health insurance to more Americans. . . .

"3. Another tough topic the press has avoided is the individual mandate and why it is necessary. . . .

"4. The media failed their audiences by passing along the spin from the law's supporters. . . .

"5. Reporters failed to truly explain Obamacare's Republican roots — and the irony of the Republican backlash against the law. . . ."

She also wrote, "Going forward, Obamacare becomes three distinct stories: the consumer story that helps people buy a very complicated product; the business story that comes with myriad questions about how the law will actually work; and, the ongoing political story . . . about wealth redistribution and who will support those who cannot pay for their medical care. But to tell all these stories well, to better explain to the public what Obamacare does and does not do (and why, and how), reporters must to go beyond what the politicians and other stakeholders are talking about. Every time."

Charles M. Blow, New York Times: Minority Rules

Ta-Nehisi Coates blog, the Atlantic: 'Immorality' and Obamacare

Ta-Nehisi Coates blog, the Atlantic: Obamacare and the Conscience of a Radical

Ta-Nehisi Coates blog, the Atlantic: A Rising Tide Lifts All Yachts

Peniel E. Joseph, The Root: Obamacare Isn't Big Enough

Roland S. Martin, Creators Syndicate: Obama Can't Bow Down to Pathetic GOP Antics

Askia Muhammad, Washington Informer: House Tea Party Caucus like a Ghetto High School Gang

Ruben Navarrette Jr., Washington Post Writers Group: Playing the blame game

Charlene Obernauer, Huffington Post: 'Obamacare' vs. 'Affordable Care Act': Why Words Matter

Eugene Robinson, Washington Post: John Boehner's turn to give in

Elinor Tatum, New York Amsterdam News: We know the real reason for the shutdown

Sabrina Tavernise and Robert Gebeloff, New York Times: Millions of Poor Are Left Uncovered by Health Law

Armstrong Williams blog: Government shutdown

"Barack Obama is heading toward a horrid milestone," Juan Gonzalez wrote Friday in his column for the Daily News in New York.

"In a few weeks, the number of undocumented immigrants deported since the President took office will surpass 2 million.

"That's right. Two million people thrown out of our country in less than five years. That's more than under any other President. And the staggering number includes tens of thousands of undocumented parents separated from their U.S.-born children.

"No wonder immigrant advocates and labor unions plan to stage protests in more than 150 cities Saturday, to be followed by a march in Washington on Tuesday.

"They keep asking: Whatever happened to immigration reform? . . ."

Meanwhile, Mark Hugo Lopez and Ana Gonzalez-Barrera of the Pew Research Center reported Thursday, "Hispanics' views of the impact of unauthorized immigration on the U.S. Hispanic community have grown more positive since 2010, according to a new nationwide survey of 5,103 Hispanic adults by the Pew Research Center.

"Today, 45% of Hispanic adults say the impact of unauthorized immigration on Hispanics already living in the U.S. is positive, up 16 percentage points from 2010 when 29% said the same. . . ."

Esther Cepeda, Washington Post Writers Group: Wanted: sense and sanity (Sept. 29)

Ruben Navarrette Jr., Washington Post Writers Group: On immigration, too much denial (Sept. 29)

David Steinberg, newly elected president of the Unity: Journalists for Diversity alliance, confirmed Friday that the troubled coalition has suspended its search for an executive director.

"Will that position remain unfilled, what's next?" Tracie Powell asked Steinberg in a question-and-answer session posted on alldigitocracy.org.

"That's all part of the discussions that will be taking place over the next couple of weeks," Steinberg replied.

"The main complaint is why hire an executive director at a six figure salary when their main job, putting on a convention, happens only every four years. UNITY may hire someone with a slightly different title or we might change the scope of that person's responsibility. One idea that has been offered is that we hire someone to run the day-to-day duties in the office — writing grants, reports, and conducting audits and maybe ramp it up two years into the four year cycle by bringing in a consultant or meeting planner to help put together the convention. That way we're not paying for that work for four years when you really only need it for two years."

The National Association of Black Journalists, and more recently the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, complained that the Unity organization spends too much money at the expense of its member associations. NABJ pulled out in 2011, and NAHJ is contemplating doing so. Remaining are the Asian American Journalists Association, the Native American Journalists Association and the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, which joined after NABJ left.

Walt Swanston, interim executive director, has a contract that expires on Dec. 31.

Powell asked Steinberg, who as a representative of NLGJA will become Unity's first white president, "How can a white guy be the best person to run an organization founded for journalists of color?"

Steinberg replied, "The basic idea is that we all care about diversity and the best person to carry the message is literally the best person to carry the message. I know that might sound a bit simplistic, but I think the best messenger is the person who can effectively deliver the message and I think that I can do that." A longer version of the interview is scheduled for Columbia Journalism Review.

Vincent Thomas, named editor-in-chief of the new TheShadowLeague.com in May 2012, will be leaving the sports-and-culture website founded by entrepreneur Keith Clinkscales, Yussuf Khan, the site's general manager and senior vice president of national sales, announced on Thursday.

Asked what he'd like to do next, Thomas told Journal-isms, "Nothing is final, but I am weighing several opportunities. But it must be said that I am still under contract with the Shadow League and, for the duration, plan to contribute and help as much as possible with the transition."

Thomas "will remain with TSL through February as emeritus editor, writing columns and helping with the transition, while he pursues other ventures," according to a news release.

The site recorded 158,000 unique visitors during August, according to the comScore, Inc., research firm. Grantland.com, a comparable site but for the general audience, logged 2,632,000 that month, according to comScore. Other African American-oriented sites are reported here.

Sean "Diddy" Combs' upstart cable network Revolt TV hired Clinkscales as its CEO over the summer. Clinkscales told Journal-isms that network would launch Oct. 21.

"With more than 3,700 members, AEJMC is the largest association of journalism and communication educators, students and professionals in the world.

"A member of AEJMC since graduate school, Poindexter has held a variety of elected positions and received several AEJMC awards, including the Inaugural Lionel C. Barrow Jr. Award for Distinguished Achievement in Diversity Research and Education and a First Place Award in the 'Excellence in Teaching Paper Competition,' sponsored by AEJMC's Teaching Standards Committee. While chair of AEJMC's Standing Committee on Research, Poindexter proposed the Tankard Book Award which has become a premiere AEJMC award. Plus, she oversaw the development of AEJMC's Recommended Ethical Research Guidelines. . . ."

"In New York, the city's three largest papers — which each happen to also be among the nation's top 10 in circulation — suffered huge collective whiffs in recent weeks," Blake Zeff, politics editor of Salon, wrote Wednesday. "For the office of mayor, the entire trifecta of the New York Times, Daily News and Post, all endorsed Christine Quinn in the Democratic primary over Bill de Blasio. This was notable because the papers rarely agree on much (though all supported Michael Bloomberg). And the editorial consensus was viewed as a significant, possible turning point in the campaign for Quinn.

"In reality, of course, the papers' candidate was trounced, failing to make it into a runoff and trailing the winning primary candidate, Bill de Blasio, by nearly 25 points. . . ."

Zeff, a political operative in his pre-journalism days, also wrote, "the papers chose the candidates more successful with white moderate voters than those who won with voters of color, delivered liberal messages and relied on the support of unions," and added, "Like New York, the country is more diverse (and progressive) than it was just a decade ago. If editorial pages can't adapt to these demographic shifts and the subsequent new reality, they’ll have a serious relevancy problem."

"Timidity marked anniversary coverage of the 1963 march" on Washington, Janine Jackson wrote Tuesday for the Extra! publication of Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting. Jackson listed stories that would have been more appropriate for the 50th anniversary and said, "media coverage of racism detects only incident after anecdotal incident, with no pattern to be made from the pieces. . . ."

"California Governor Jerry Brown signed a law on Thursday to give journalists in the state five days' notice before government agencies serve subpoenas on their records held by third parties, such as phone companies and internet service providers," Reuters reported. "The law, which was approved by unanimous votes in the California Assembly and Senate, expands on the state's existing shield law for journalists and will apply to subpoenas sought in state courts. . . ."

Portia Scott, retired managing editor of the Atlanta Daily World, died Wednesday, Maria Odum-Hinmon wrote Friday for the newspaper. Scott, who suffered cardiac arrest at home following a brief bout with ovarian cancer, was 70. The daughter of C.A. Scott, who ran the paper for 63 years, Portia Scott worked for the publication for 40 years, taking "a couple of brief breaks from the newspaper to seek political office in the Republican Party, where she was active in state party politics. She ran against John Lewis of the fifth district in Congress, and she ran for a state Senate seat. . . ."

"Emilio Romano, the president of NBCUniversal's Spanish-language Telemundo operations, is leaving the company," Brian Steinberg reported Thursday for Variety. "Joe Uva, chairman of Hispanic enterprises and content and Telemundo at NBCU, announced the departure to staff in an internal memo that was issued Friday. . . . "

"With its launch expected in mere weeks, Fusion, the news-and-lifestyle cable outlet backed by both Univision and Walt Disney's ABC News, named Isaac Lee as its new chief executive," Brian Steinberg reported Friday for Variety. "Lee will retain his duties as president of Univision's news division. Lee assumes duties from interim chief and Univision exec Beau Ferrari. Fusion, which is expected to launch digitally October 21 and on TV October 28, aims to cater to the Hispanic millennial. . . ."

Gautham Nagesh, who covers media technology issues for GQ Roll Call, is joining the Washington bureau of the Wall Street Journal to cover the FCC and technology policy. Nagesh is also national treasurer of the Asian American Journalists Association.

"I've always believed your passion has to come first, then all of the other possibilities will follow," Michelle Singletary, the Washington Post's syndicated "Color of Money" columnist, told Janelle Harris of MediaBistro Wednesday in a question-and-answer session. "People found me, and I became this thing I never envisioned. I'm an accidental brand. It was not accidental in the sense that I didn't do anything to make it a brand. I follow my passion, which is to teach in a simplistic way how to handle your money and I speak my mind. I speak the truth. That's who I am. A lot of personal finance experts write about it but they don't actually work with individuals. They're writing about it in theory. I actually know it's not about money when people can't handle money. It's about their issues. . . ."

"This week marks the 76th anniversary of the Dominican Republic's Parsley Massacre," Alicia Anabel Santos wrote Friday for Latina. "It was October 1937 when dictator Rafael Trujillo ordered the killing of an estimated 30,000 Haitians living in the country. Many who were black or suspected of being from the neighboring country, and those who were unable to pronounce the word 'perejil' (parsley in Spanish) without an accent, were executed. Many of the murdered had been born in the Dominican Republic. This was Trujillo's attempt at mass ethnic cleansing. The notoriously racist Trujillo wanted to blanquear la raza — 'whiten' the race. . . ."

In Chicago, "Brandis Friedman, who's been a part-time news anchor and reporter for all-news WBBM AM 780/WCFS FM 105.9 for two years, has been hired as a full-time correspondent for 'Chicago Tonight,' the flagship nightly news program on WTTW-Channel 11," Robert Feder reported Thursday on his blog.

The National Association of Black Journalists is accepting nominations until Oct. 11 for the Ida B. Wells Award, given by NABJ and the Medill School at Northwestern University "to an individual who has made outstanding efforts to make newsrooms and news coverage more accurately reflect the diversity of the communities they serve." This columnist won the award for 2013. Nominate here.

Chris Powell, managing editor of the Journal Inquirer in Manchester, Conn., who was denounced for writing that nontraditional families don't make good newspaper customers, told media blogger Jim Romenesko Friday, "If my opinion is so wacky, why bother with it? Hell, the federal government has just been incapacitated. Aren't there a few more important things to upset commentators? . . ."

In the wake of police attacks on working journalists, the Media Institute of Southern Africa-Swaziland and the Swaziland Editors Forum met  the national police commissioner, Isaac Magagula, on Monday. "It was heartening to hear the National Police Commissioner condemning the unprofessional conduct of the police towards the media," the group reported on Thursday.

The Committee to Protect Journalists called on Gambian authorities to immediately release Fatou Camara, a journalist who has been held incommunicado since Sept. 17. "The government has not disclosed Camara's whereabouts or any charges against her, according to news reports. . . ."

Journal-isms is published on the site of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education (mije.org). Reprinted on The Root by permission.

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Journal-isms is published on the site of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education (mije.org). Reprinted on The Root by permission.