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If It Weren't For Univision How Much Dominican Suffering Would We See?

If one does not have access to Univision they have been getting a very incomplete picture of the victims of the tragic American Airlines Flight 587 crash. Sadly, if one were to take an uncritical glance through the coverage of the aftermath of the plane crash courtesy of such programs as The Today Show, they may think that the only victims worthy of coverage were those on the ground in the borough of Queens, where the plane exploded. And if that were not enough the early hours after the crash were so focused on whether or not what had happened was a terrorist attack that they displayed gross insensitivity to the families of the victims by quickly displaying the flight number of the plane but not showing the 1-800 number through which family members could call to inquire about whether or not there loved one(s) was on the flight and if they were deceased or possibly alive. We went through all of the major cable channels - MSNBC, Fox, CNN, CNBC and none of them provided the information we described.

But that was not the case on Univision. The Spanish-network had the 1-800 number for family members and friends to call to get more information over what happened. And they had pictures of grieving family members, at the airports - JFK and in the Dominican Republic - who had just learned of the worse. They weren't uncritically biased toward people from the Dominican Republic - Univision even had pictures live from the crash scene in Queens that the major networks did not have. We noticed a similar scenario on September 11th when Univision had video tape footage of the first plane going into the World Trade Center - footage that we did not see on American mainstream media until several days later.

Yesterday, we waited and watched and were open but had no other choice but to come to the conclusion that there is obviously a bias toward White-skinned victims in this country, as over and over again we were provided pictures and stories of the loss of the neighborhood in Queens where the plane landed and virtually nothing of the 255 passengers bound for the Dominican Republic. Certainly the plane was partially filled by Dominican-Americans or people that feel just as proud to be recognized as American citizens as any person whose family came to this country from Europe. Don't they qualify for the same coverage as those who were unfortunate enough to live in that Queens neighborhood, we wondered? Why is the life of the pilot of Flight number 587, Sten Molin, more sacred than any of the other 250-plus passengers, in the eyes of the mainstream media? It all goes back to our thesis on the devaluation of non-White life.

This may seem like a minor, trivial or even irritating focus for some. But when Whites want to understand why others in this country feel that they are not respected or valued as much as they (Whites) are, they could pay a little more attention to events like the tragedy of Flight 587,and even the coverage of the victims of the WTC and Pentagon attacks. We received several e-mails and did in fact see a few articles written about the lack of media coverage of the Black firefighters and police officers - two professions that at least for the time being are respected on par with soldiers in the U.S. military. People were hurt by the sleight that they feel Blacks and Latinos receive on a daily basis when they have served and in many cases suffered more than their White counterparts. We also notice this phenomenon every year when one has to squint to find coverage honoring Black veterans of all of America's wars. When Blacks and Latinos complain of discrimination they are told that they are focusing too much on race, but when tragedies occur that hit Americans of all races the image of the White-skinned victim is the one that is plastered across television and print media. Is that not race-consciousness?

That New York Governor George Pataki and New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani had to make a special reference to the suffering of the "Dominican" community is only a sign of the problem. No matter how much Whites who are in establishment positions attempt to state otherwise, a special distinction is made when Americans that are non-White go through similar experiences as other citizens. On a bit of tangent, we find it very hard to imagine the vast immigration measures being taken against immigrants from European nations had the terrorist attacks been orchestrated by Irish, German, and Italian nationals. And we can't dream of a scenario whereby over 1,000 White-skinned persons in this country would be "detained", indefinitely as a result of the criminal actions of other White-skinned individuals. Just look at the lack of profiling activity that accompanied the White-skinned, crew-cut wearing, militia-honoring male, Timothy McVeigh's arrest and conviction. Certainly an official or unofficial APB could have been put out for all similar-looking individuals suspiciously hanging around federal buildings. And what about an all-out effort in civil society to stop or report any pale young White males who look like Timothy McVeigh, wandering near any government facility, something like how "swarthy, Arab-looking" individuals give people the creeps at airports and on board planes.

So, if you want to learn more of what Americans of another complexion are feeling, check out Univision and maybe even Al-Jazeera. You don't even need to know Spanish or Arabic - it is amazing how the language of human suffering is the same, across ethnic, geographical and color lines, even within this country. Too bad the Today Show and others ignore that phenomenon while they style themselves as advocates of a color-blind American society.

Cedric Muhammad

Thursday, November 15, 2001

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The views and opinions expressed herein by the author do not necessarily represent the opinions or position of or Black Electorate Communications.

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