PARALLEL UNIVERSE: Lack of Racial Identification in Crime Story is Racist

By David M. Kinchen

There's an epidemic of people robbing TV crews and newspaper photographers of their expensive video and video-related hardware and still cameras while the newspeople are covering crime in Oakland,  California. Missing in the long story is  any racial identification of the perps:


Gangs of roving Norwegians, perhaps? Finns on the rampage? Fraternity boys from Stanford looking for the latest in equipment to make their own "Girls Gone Wild" videos? We're talking expensive laptops and video and still cameras ranging in price from $3,000 to $50,000, and more.

Answer: None of the above. I've been in Oakland many times and it's no secret that it's one of the blackest cities in California...and one of the most crime ridden. Blacks are the usual victims of crimes perpetrated by other blacks in the city. In the hills, the demographics change, with the majority of people living on Snake Canyon or Skyline Boulevard white, Asian or upper middle class African-American. By not providing racial identification for the perps, the news story is itself racist.


Here's the beginning of the story:


OAKLAND, Calif. — In recent months, journalists covering crime and other stories here have themselves become victims of crime, robbed of expensive cameras, sometimes at gunpoint.


Laura Oda, the chief photographer for The Oakland Tribune, has been robbed of her photographer equipment while on assignment twice since last August in Oakland.


In less than a year, every major television news station in the Bay Area has been a victim, some more than once. One experienced newspaper photographer has lost five cameras.


In the most brazen episode, a group of men punched a KPIX-TV cameraman last November while he was filming at midday in front of an Oakland high school. The robbers fled with his camera while it was still recording. Viewers saw the reporter sign off and then an inexplicably wobbly image.


Robberies and assaults are changing the way journalists report in Oakland. Armed, plainclothes security guards sometimes accompany news crews on pieces, even mundane ones. Some camera crew members are refusing to take assignments in Oakland at night. And while crime provides the daily drama for much of the local television news, reporters are spending less time on the street and more time at the Oakland police department. Once the police leave a crime scene, television crews depart as well.


“We’re not going to go door to door anymore,” said a television reporter who spoke on the condition of anonymity because his station would not authorize him to speak publicly. The union representing many of the journalists, the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, is calling for safety measures that include security guards, security cameras on news vehicles and GPS devices in cameras. It has also sent a reminder to news stations that crews can “refuse dangerous assignments when appropriate.”


You might ask: "Isn't it racist to identify suspects by race?" Answer: Sometimes it is and sometimes not. I think it's proper and non-racist for victims of crime to give all the characteristics of the people who rob them at gunpoint to the police and for the police to release this information.

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