Beyond mirroring the mainstream emphasis on gun control and mental health, ethnic community media also reflect perspectives that are more prevalent in newcomer communities. Some are shared among them - especially the perception that this was a hate crime - while others are specific to certain communities.
On Valentine's Day, MIREMS’ home state of Florida became the site of one of the world's deadliest school massacres, with 17 fatalities and 15 victims hospitalized.
While mainstream media focused on the course of events, the perpetrator's mental health, the FBI failure to follow up on a related tip and renewed calls for gun control, particularly from student survivors, MIREMS reviewed ethnic media’s response to the incident. MIREMS focused on the opinion, feature and editorial stories — amidst the flood of news stories — that shed light on how unique ethnic groups might experience the tragedy differently.
In the week after the shooting, we compiled 50 articles and broadcasts from the African American, Arabic, Caribbean, Chinese, French, Haitian, Italian, Jewish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Ukrainian media in Miami, Chicago, New York, Washington (DC), Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco.
Opinion stories from all these ethnic communities advocated better gun control regulations. Frustration with prolonged government failure to act, making the government complicit with perpetrators, and the influence of the National Rifle Association (NRA) over politicians are especially palpable in Hispanic, Italian and African American media. Spanish dailies in Miami wondered: "How many times do we have to live through this nightmare? What is failing in the system so that we already have a total of 1,827 deaths and 3,142 wounded from gun shots at this point in the year?" (Diario las Americas, Miami, 16 Feb. 2018). "Once again, a terrible lethal weapon has fallen into the hands of someone who shouldn't have it" (El Nuevo Herald, Miami, 14 Feb. 2018). The Nuevo Herald also ran several articles criticizing NRA donations to politicians.
The sense of outrage with the lack of control on firearms was also felt in an Italian daily paper, La Voce di New York: "How did a 19-year-old orphan expelled from school with known mental problems get an assault rifle and keep it at home?" (15 Feb. 2018). The Afro-American Chicago Crusader pointed out it is "easier to buy a weapon of war in Florida than it is for a woman to get an abortion" and reported that "the NRA is actually investing money in teaching young people how to shoot" (16 Feb. 2018). Afro-American The Miami Times quoted Broward County Vice Mayor Mark Bogen reflecting on how "absurd" and hypocritical President Trump's visit to the victims is because his regulatory changes allow "allow mentally ill people to purchase guns" (16 Feb. 2018). Notably, not a single ethnic media source advocated against gun control or for arming school personnel.
The other common preoccupation in the ethnic media, like the mainstream, was with the perpetrator's mental health. A Spanish daily paper in New York spoke of the Department for Children and Families in Florida releasing a document about Nikolas Cruz showing that he suffered from depression, autism and ADHD, which they considered key to understanding the boy (El Diario, NY, 19 Feb. 2018). One of the national Chinese weekly papers reported that Cruz was an "outcast" who was "crazy about guns" (The Epoch Times, Los Angeles, 15 Feb. 2018). An Arabic weekly paper in New York reflected that "the most bizarre thing in the Parkland crime is that it was expected. The murderer had shown obvious signs of a disrupted psychological, social and family life." The article mused that America's emphasis on "individual freedom" allows everyone to carry guns and to choose their health insurance, which "has deprived millions of Americans of health insurance" and propagates the idea of arming good people to fight armed bad people despite its "obvious foolishness" (Al Hayat Newspaper, NY, 16 Feb. 2018). The national Spanish TV station Univision reports that the shooter's peers "were concerned about the comments he would make" and that Cruz "had been expelled from the school for bad behavior" (Univision, NY, 14 Feb. 2018).
While ethnic media shared concerns with the mainstream American media, they also reflect perspectives that are more prevalent in immigrant communities. Some are shared across communities, especially the perception that this was a hate crime. A Russian weekly paper notes that Cruz was a racist: " Despite his Hispanic roots, he hurled slurs at African Americans and Muslims and had ties to white supremacists" (Chicago News, Chicago, 16 Feb. 2018). One of the Spanish daily papers in New York ran multiple articles on how "Nikolas Cruz hated "Jews, Afro-Americans and immigrants" (Diario de Mexico USA, NY, 17 Feb. 2018) and "was member of a chat room where he expressed a desire to eliminate members of the Jewish, immigrant, gay and Afro-American communities" (Diario de Mexico USA, NY, 20 Feb. 2018). The New York based and nationally influential Jewish daily JTA also reported at length on how "Nikolas Cruz made anti-Semitic and racists comments in a private chat group" (18 Feb. 2018).
Other concerns are unique to one ethnic group. The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, served an area that was 30 to 40 percent Jewish, forming a tight-knit local community. Five of the victims were Jewish. Jewish media focused on the vigils and funeral services in the community, as well as responses from community leaders including the sheriff and local rabbis. The national website Chabad.org reported: "Even after the bullets stopped—and the students and adults who were murdered were identified—Chabad rabbis in Parkland, Fla., say the tragedy in their community is just beginning to unfold. 'This is a small community, where nearly half of the population is Jewish, so everyone has been touched by what has happened,' Rabbi Shuey Biston told Chabad.org (15 Feb. 2018). JTA featured Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, the county’s first Jewish sheriff, who led the police response to the school shooting (15 Feb. 2018).
The Ukrainian media also presented a unique angle. In addition to calls for tighter arms control, Voice of America Ukrainian reported that Russian bots had "intensified propaganda" for gun control. " Two days after the tragic shooting at a Florida high school, a large amount of material in support of weapons ownership appeared on Twitter pages. These pages are linked to Russian accounts" (VOA, Washington, 16 Feb. 2018). This contrasts with mainstream reports like those in The New York Times that the bots spread messaging both for and against gun control in order to inflame divisions in the country.
An overview of diverse ethnic media shows that minority communities, who are so often painted as perpetrators but who also bear the brunt of violence in the US, tend to support stricter gun control as well as attention to mental health issues. In addition, they can offer unique perspectives, depending on location and ethnicity, which add value to social, political and economic analysis.
Theses perspectives are made available by careful curation and translation by MIREMS consultants who use their knowledge of both linguistic and cultural differences to perform cross-cultural translation.
Written by Silke Reichrath