Sunday, May 11, 2008

White Privilege At Its Finest

I was enraged to hear so much news coverage about the murder of Chris Wootton, a white fraternity student at UC Berkeley. Why? Because last fall, a dark-skinned Latino student, Rod Rodriguez, was confused for a gang member and murdered. He too was a UC Berkeley student. He and Chris were high achievers in school. Chris, however, was killed in a Saturday night drunken brawl, whereas Rod was visiting home and had been closing up at the barbershop where he worked. He often provided free haircuts to locals because they could not afford hair-cuts. He also was heavily involved in the Berkeley community, advancing racial justice through volunteer work.

Not only did the Chancellor of the university write a detailed email to all of the students about Chris Wootton's tragic murder, my mother called me all the way from San Diego saying she heard about it in the news. It was also significantly covered on the internet. Rod, however, was virtually unnoticed except by members of the ethnic communities on campus and in his hometown.

As enraged as I was, I only made a few comments to fellow students in my classes. Adrienne Johnson, however, wrote a piece to the main campus newspaper--The Daily Californian--who heavily covered the Chris Wootton murder in several detailed articles, and who had only given Rod a passing glance.

Adrienne succinctly puts it all into perspective:

Like many students, I was shocked and saddened by Chris Wootton's tragic death.

However, may I comment on the articles devoted solely to Wootton's death? I have counted no fewer than five full-length, prominently placed articles detailing this tragedy. I attended the forum on Sproul Plaza and found myself sandwiched between NBC reporters, TV crews and photographers.

May I also comment on your coverage of another, very tragic death of a graduating senior killed in very similar circumstances-Rodrigo Rodriguez Jr.? This past September, he was killed by a gunman who mistook him for another person. This story received little coverage; there was no community outpouring. I remember only one of very few articles, from Sept. 19, "Student Gunned Down in Hometown." Why, do you suppose, this is? Why would the Daily Cal cover Wootton's death-involved in a fight on frat row -and ignore Rodriguez's tragic victimhood? Could it have something to do with favoring a white frat boy over a child of immigrants? Favoring a science student over an American Studies major?

"Student Gunned Down in Hometown" is an inappropriate, insulting title in comparison with Wootton's article "Community Mourns Shocking Loss of Senior."

It is the Daily Cal's responsibility to inform the community when something of this measure occurs with fairness and equality. Just because Chris may have been more popular should not be reflected in his death's coverage. I feel that this is a grave error on part of the Daily Cal and this letter or a formal apology should be published apologizing to Rodriguez's friends and family.


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