Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Journalism and ethics

Gini Sikes tries hard to remain impartial as she delves into the extremely violent world of girl gangs. She has to work very hard to maintain her composure, for instance, when a young woman recounts beating up a gang rival which includes a description of raping the other young woman with a pipe. As the narrative continues, the storyteller laughs as she explains how two police officers witnessed the bloody scene and did nothing. Sikes does become more involved with the lives of some of her subjects, including going to court with them and assisting with making phone calls. The phone calls, and other appearances she makes, are requested not because Sikes has any insider information, or knows how to negotiate the system any better than her subjects, but simply because she is white.

When I lived in Tucson my husband and I were involved with the Pima County Interfaith Council and got a taste of what white privilege meant. The Council assisted a group of low-income, Hispanic residents who had had serious damage done to their homes due to a highway construction project nearby. Huge cracks in walls and foundations were evident. However, the construction company refused to pay for the repairs claiming that the statute of limitations had run out. When a large group of us from the Council showed up at a meeting, which now included mostly white members, a deal was finally made.

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