As a reporter, I’ve talked to immigration activists for the better part of a decade. They don’t often cry, at least not in front of me.
But all day on Sunday, the day after the shooting in El Paso, hardened advocates became emotional while explaining what it’s like to live in the United States after a killer drove 10 hours to kill Mexicans, Latinos and immigrants. The next day I still felt restless after a conversation with a friend. She had been crying because her husband overheard white men at the community pool remarking that while they didn’t agree with the killings — how magnanimous — they, too, didn’t want white people to be “wiped out” and for Hispanics to “take over.”
Where was this said? The deeply Republican city of Los Angeles, of course.
“He openly was discussing this like it was sports talk,” she told me, furious. “After 20 people are dead.”
The news media’s approach to its coverage of the El Paso shooting has obscured what made it uniquely horrifying for the Latino community. From the moment the shots were fired, this was a trend story: Another mass shooting, so let’s restart our debates about gun control and mental illness, maybe pull up some video game b-roll. And after so many shootings in recent years, journalists have decided it’s wrong to give too much attention to the shooter, so we downplayed his name and face, his bizarre and hateful manifesto.
But the media’s desire to erase the shooter and his ideology ended up erasing his victims and their community, too. While the news media successfully portrayed this shooting as part of a national epidemic of mass killings, we failed to accurately convey how this one was different. The visceral emotions of the Latinos I spoke with should have been—and should still be—front and center. [Continue reading…]