On Photographing Racists as a Photographer of Color

On Photographing Racists as a Photographer of Color

One of the unique aspects of the Black Lives Matter movement in the last year has been how it has spread to even the smallest of communities. It’s made covering the protests as a minority photographer a wholly different and vastly more frightening experience.

I’ve covered quite a few protests in the New York City area, from Occupy Wall Street to Black Lives Matter in 2014. The tone of a protest in a large city is different; there is inherently a plurality of people and large enough numbers of those people to (generally) dissuade racists from coming out. That’s not always the case, clearly, as many of the protests against George Floyd’s death have shown, but in many of those cases, the threats against photographers come from law enforcement.

In Long Island, the Black Lives Matter movement has taken to the streets of the quiet, mostly white residential neighborhoods that have never seen such forms of protest. It’s not been uncommon to see many residents come out of their houses just to hurl insults at Black Lives Matter protesters in these small towns.

In some cases, I’ve seen groups of “counter-protestors” that have heckled and shouted down the largely peaceful Black Lives Matter groups at these rallies. Their behavior worried me enough that I started to wear a body camera to these events just to capture the way these counter-protestors — actually, white supremacists — treated me, a photographer of color.

This past weekend was the “Long Island Unite Against White Supremacy” march in Wantagh, New York. It was a response to the Capitol riots from days before and specifically targeted towards the disparity in policing on display in that insurrection versus Black Lives Matter protestors. That disparity was on display from the start of the protest, where a large group of police officers, all white, stood around the Trump supporters and chatted with them in a friendly manner, while one of the only interactions the police had with the people rallying against white supremacy was to read them a warning off a printed sheet saying that if they blocked pedestrian or vehicular traffic, they would be arrested. It should also be noted that the group organizing the rally, Long Island Peaceful Protest, had been barred from using a megaphone in the past, but that was no problem for the counter-protestors.

Logically, if the march is against white supremacy, if you’re showing up to protest the march, you’re tacitly indicating you support white supremacy. And that’s what these people who were across the street were doing. I approached them to take some photos, and the response showed a gross demonstration of racism and misunderstanding of photographer’s rights to photograph in public spaces.

You can see that their political affiliations are on full display. They were carrying Trump flags throughout the march, and the person in the video who claimed his father owned the private bank property they were on was wearing Donald Trump socks.

Counter protesters at the "LI Unite Against White Supremacy" rally in Wantagh, New York on Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021.

Counter protesters at the "LI Unite Against White Supremacy" rally in Wantagh, New York on Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021.

Right after I kneeled to get this photo, you can see the same organizer about to blast my ears out with a megaphone, only stopping short at the last minute after I put my hand up to block him:

A few minutes after this moment, I tripped over a rock in front of him and his only response was to shout to an officer “I didn’t push him, he tripped” instead of trying to offer a helping hand or ask if I was OK.

It’s this lack of empathy that’s most striking in this crowd. If I was a white photographer, would this group have treated me differently? Would they have immediately told me to go back to the side of the street as the Black Lives Matter folks (in this case, the protest group, Long Island Peaceful Protest)? Would they have threatened me?

It’s an uneasy feeling. I wasn’t wearing any clothing or any markings to show that I was affiliated with either side, though I was still treated like an enemy combatant by one side and embraced with open arms by the other.

It’s telling that the group of Trump supporters wanted to hide their faces from a camera. They didn’t just avoid me, they didn’t talk to TV media that was there as well, unlike the organizers of Long Island Peaceful Protest. They wouldn't share their names for a caption. If your cause is just, you likely won’t be the one hiding from the light of journalists.

Today, I wasn’t physically harmed, but plenty of photographers are harmed on the job. If you’re a photographer of color, those two intersections carry an even greater risk at these kinds of protests.

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146 Comments

ChooChoo Chucklehead's picture

✊ one people

Owain Shaw's picture

Massive respect for your courage and composure throughout. Thanks for sharing your experience and insight.

Eugene Polonsky's picture

With all due respect, Wasim, let's keep politics out of this site.

El Dooderino's picture

Don't like articles about photojournalism? Don't read them.

Problem solved.

Marc Perino's picture

But that is the essence of photojournalism. Like El Dooderino - nice nickname btw - says: you don't have to read it and you don't have to comment on it.

Personally I found his perspective very interesting.

Lukas Renk's picture

Well Eugene there‘s no politics in this article just the experience of a photographer covering a protest. But now that you bring up politics I don’t think I need to take a guess about your political opinion.

Ann Quimby's picture

This is a totally legitimate topic for a photo site

Graham Taylor's picture

This is a tricky one. You're assuming your subjects political stances by polarising the debate. You're also shooting a political event with a heavy bias. As a 'journalist' you have a moral obligation to remain neutral and shoot events as you see them, not shoot images which support your preconceptions.

If I'm being brutally honest, as a former combat camera photographer who is used to shooting overseas where I am the minority in terms of my ethnicity, you are playing a very dangerous game and ought to exercise more caution.

El Dooderino's picture

"You're assuming your subjects political stances"

Huh?

Did you even read the article?

Graham Taylor's picture

Yes. In full. But thanks for highlighting one sentence, taking it out of context and asking me a flippant question about it.

Tell me how many people were at those protests and then group all of them into one for me. Summarise all of their lives into one political agenda for me.

El Dooderino's picture

It was hardly taken out of context.

"Tell me how many people were at those protests and then group all of them into one for me."

#1: I wasn't there

#2: Why "group them all into one"? It's obvious they were all protesting together, so no doubt shared the same ideology.

"Summarise all of their lives into one political agenda for me."

This is a ridiculous request. Their "political agenda" seems pretty obvious. And again, they are all protesting together under the same banners. The pictures make that quite obvious.

Graham Taylor's picture

Of course it's a ridiculous request. That's the point.

El Dooderino's picture

I would say that the point is your entire post is ridiculous.

The author was hardly "polarizing the debate", nor was he "shooting a political event with a heavy bias".

Graham Taylor's picture

Yet anyone opposing BLM is branded racist? Repeated references to support of Trump with implied racist undertones. Repeated use of the term 'white supremacist' with no context.

There are lots of reasons why people might align themselves with a cause. Seeing the humanity in that is a principle responsibility of journalism.

While we're conversing, why exactly did you sign up to this site? 176 comments in threads and 0 uploads? Almost like you're not here for the photography at all...

El Dooderino's picture

"Repeated use of the term 'white supremacist' with no context."

Um..."white supremacist" was actually only used once. The term "white supremacy" was used seven times to identify what the protestors were marching against. I thought you said you read the article.

"This past weekend was the “Long Island Unite Against White Supremacy” march in Wantagh, New York. **It was a response to the Capitol riots from days before and specifically targeted towards the disparity in policing on display in that insurrection versus Black Lives Matter protestors**"

It was not just a "BLM" protest. Reading comprehension is fun!

Your trying to say white people who oppose BLM are not racist? lol! Okay! If you say so, I guess.

"Logically, if the march is against white supremacy, if you’re showing up to protest the march, you’re tacitly indicating you support white supremacy." Kinda hard to argue against that. But, go for it!

"I approached them to take some photos, and the response showed a gross demonstration of racism and misunderstanding of photographer’s rights to photograph in public spaces."

The author didn't have to "imply" anything. The subjects proved their true colors on their own. Nor did he ever deny that there might be other reasons why "people might align themselves with a cause", so you can't really say that he doesn't see "the humanity" of his subjects. He was telling us about his experience as a photojournalist, who is a person of color, trying to document an event, and how he is treated because of his skin color.

And, not that it's any of your business, photography is simply a hobby for me, so I come here to learn new things from the articles and sometimes from the comments. I'm not concerned with having a "portfolio". Don't be a creepy stalker.

Graham Taylor's picture

I think it's easier if we just end this dialogue by you assuming I'm racist because I disagree with you. I don't have it in me to keep talking moron for the sake of making you understand.

Also, clicking your name and seeing the openly displayed posting stats is not stalking 🙄

El Dooderino's picture

You seem defensive. I won't assume anything. I don't think I need to.

Besides, it's not my problem if you can't comprehend what the article is *actually* about, instead, trying to make it about your own "ideals" when it comes to photojournalism and how the author, in your opinion, has failed to follow them. (Here's a hint: it's about his *personal* experiences as a photojournalist who happens to be a person of color. "If you’re a photographer of color, those two intersections carry an even greater risk at these kinds of protests.").

BTW, nice ad hominem. lol!

Graham Taylor's picture

You're assuming what the authors intent was. That's the beauty of subjectivity, remember?

I think the biggest difference between you and me is that I don't need to nut-swing off the nearest POC to prove I'm not racist. This article has some serious and inherent flaws that could put the author in danger. That concerns me at a basic human level. You trying to prove his nobility by clambering over trending issues is laughable. The fact that you're "here to learn" while ignoring those with relevant experience even more so.

I applaud the author for his experience and relating it to us. But I'm advising caution that this may be one of few articles if the chap doesn't take his own person safety seriously. I also think it will be for a lost cause if his intent is to simply prove one side of the narrative.

El Dooderino's picture

"You're assuming what the authors intent was."

No I'm not. You're ignoring it. Or trying to deflect from it.

"I think the biggest difference between you and me is that I don't need to nut-swing off the nearest POC to prove I'm not racist." Wow! You *are* defensive! Where did that come from?

"This article has some serious and inherent flaws that could put the author in danger." By writing about his experiences? Do tell!

"You trying to prove his nobility by clambering over trending issues is laughable." I'm not even sure where you're trying to go with this.

"The fact that you're "here to learn" while ignoring those with relevant experience even more so." I'm here to learn about techniques and equipment and such. As a former combat medic, after what I've seen and experienced, I hardly need a "former combat photographer" to lecture me on danger.

Again, the article is about his *personal* experiences. "I’ve covered quite a few protests". It doesn't sound like it's his first rodeo. It sounds like he knows what he's doing, just that it's more dangerous now because of the negative reactions from *some* people because of his skin color. I see nothing to indicate he play loose with his personal safety, nor is he trying to only portray one side of a protest.

Graham Taylor's picture

So as a former combat medic, please tell us all about your relevant experiences as a photographer in a hostile environment. Especially in large scale riots or protests. You know, given that's the topic and everything.

Perhaps when the OP is injured, you can use your relevant experience to patch him back up?

El Dooderino's picture

Whooooosh!!

That's the sound of the point of my comment going right over your head!

lol!

Wasim Ahmad's picture

It’s not my first rodeo, Graham. And it’s certainly a more dangerous climate than four years ago. Not just for journalists, who have been called “enemy of the people” but also minorities, who have been treated as such by the president and his supporters. That’s not an opinion. It’s observable fact. And I fall into both the “minority” and “journalist” camps.

Graham Taylor's picture

Yet you're placing yourself deliberately in harms way in situations that seem to be so easily avoidable. If you really, genuinely, honestly think that you are such a high value target to these people, then why are you placing your body between this aggressive group of incredible racists/journalist killers and the place they clearly need to be?

I think you need to be taking your personal safety more seriously if you really do think you're in as much danger as you are telling people you are.

I respect you for putting yourself in danger to tell a story you believe to be important (even if I don't agree with the intent on villifying but that's another debate), but I think there are safer ways of achieving what you want and ways that will give your images more impact.

El Dooderino's picture

"intent on villifying"

Facts not in evidence.

Matt Williams's picture

I absolutely love that this dude was like "WHY ARE YOU HERE?? 176 COMMENTS BUT NO PICTURES!!" when a majority of people on here don't upload many or any photos. I do occasionally for fun, but it's not like this is my online portfolio or something.

What a strange thing to come at a person with.

Lukas Renk's picture

Graham here has shown multiple times that he will try to come at people with anything he can, even if it is totally irrelevant. Thats what you do when you‘re wrong but do not want to admit it.

Mike Ditz's picture

The one guy said "you don't know who our families is". I think Tony Soprano lived out on Long Island. Hmmm.

Matt Williams's picture

"As a 'journalist' you have a moral obligation to remain neutral"

This is often said (usually by conservatives) and it's frankly an utterly stupid notion and has never been the case. A person cannot remain "neutral" on issues like "do black people's lives matter? Is white supremacy okay?"

A journalist has an obligation to not distort the truth or ignore context in support of their own beliefs, but they have no obligation to not take a stance on issues.

I suppose if you believe that, though, the entirety of Fox News is not actually news, right?

I agree that there is an obligation to report events as they really happened - again, like I said, you can't ignore context in favor of your own bias.

But that doesn't mean you have to "remain neutral." You can be a supporter of the BLM movement and still fairly document events at a BLM protest or counter-protest.

This entire of idea of "we have to be fair to both sides" has been one of the biggest problems across all media (except Fox News) for the past five years. When one side is a bunch of seditionist, white supremacist terrorists storming the home of our Congress.... there's no being fair about that.

Some things are simply wrong. Dancing around it is a huge problem.

Graham Taylor's picture

So I'm a Conservative and I love fox news? Brilliant. Thanks Matt. I've been doing this job for around 20 years now but what I really needed was someone I didn't know to skim read a post I made online to really sum up my life.

I don't suppose with that same clairvoyance you can figure out what's wrong with my car at the moment too?

Matt Williams's picture

Where did I say you were a conservative or that you love Fox News? Ironic thing to say when claiming it is I who skimmed a comment.

I said "USUALLY by conservatives" and I asked if, given your argument, whether you would agree that Fox News is not actually news or journalism.

But, the fact that you assumed I was talking about you pretty much answers that question, which was never actually asked.

You also previously downvoted Max's comment - now I see you have changed it after I pointed out how insane it is that anyone would dislike such a comment. That's actually extremely funny.

Above you also said "Yet anyone opposing BLM is branded racist? Repeated references to support of Trump with implied racist undertones."

So I think it's pretty clear where you stand on this. People who oppose BLM are, indeed, racists, and people who support Trump are also, indeed, racists. I'm sorry, I know it makes you uncomfortable to think about how you're racist, but you could always stop being that.

White people care more about being called racist than they do about actual racism. So you're not alone.

Graham Taylor's picture

If your understanding of such an incredibly complex and sensitive subject is as binary as support = good and oppose = racist then I'm not really sure I have the capability to or reason to make you understand how quite incredibly naive you are.

To cover off some of your points:

- I didn't down vote that comment or change my opinion on it.

- I do think it's strange that someone who is such a common poster on a photography page clearly isn't here for the photography. If you're so desperate to push your political opinions on people that you sign up to a niche community and only contribute political polarisation with aggressive lines of inquiry then that tells me a lot about that person.

- Again, you're assuming a lot about me based on very little content. Laughable that you say the fact I assume the comment is about me...its in direct response to my comment and lists the things I've talked about. I've simply advised the author caution and not offered my stance on any of the topics either way. I've suggested there are many reasons why people align themselves to a cause. Opposing the BLM movement doesn't necessarily make people racist. Supporting Trump doesn't necessarily make someone racist.

The problem with all of this is that people like you cannot see the wood for the trees. You're so intent on proving yourself right that you're not actually listening to anything that is said.

El Dooderino's picture

"You're so intent on proving yourself right that you're not actually listening to anything that is said."

lol!

Pot, meet kettle!

Wasim Ahmad's picture

When one remains "neutral" in the name of "objective journalism," the question becomes - Whose objectivity are we holding above others?

Graham Taylor's picture

I think you're over playing your hand here. Objectivity is by its very nature, objective. If one group is doing something inherently wrong, then you will capture that. Looking for them to do something inherently wrong is something different entirely.

Afterall, the closest you have to come to legitimate danger is by putting yourself in the line of an aggressive crowd and almost had them use a loud speaker on you. An easily avoidable situation, regardless of politics.

Marc Perino's picture

But isn't that the essence of photojournalism? To put yourself in harm's way in order to document an event. Regardless of your political opinion - which you can still have and I guess it is probably impossible to not have an opinion on something.

By your logic Wasim should not have been there and do his job because of the color of his skin which makes him more vulnerable to violence from the people he is reporting on.

If that is what you imply - which I don't know - then it would be very problematic and the essence of the problem he is reporting about.

Graham Taylor's picture

How is that even remotely what is implied? Honestly, how do you extract that from me cautioning him to be more careful? It's got nothing to do with the colour of his skin 🤦‍♂️

Marc Perino's picture

First of all I said: "if that is what you imply - which I don't know..." in order to get to know your reasoning behind your statements. I did not say that you implied this. I just stated IF you imply this.

Secondly you uttered those statements above:

"Yet you're placing yourself deliberately in harms way in situations that seem to be so easily avoidable. If you really, genuinely, honestly think that you are such a high value target to these people, then why are you placing your body between this aggressive group of incredible racists/journalist killers and the place they clearly need to be?"

"I think you need to be taking your personal safety more seriously if you really do think you're in as much danger as you are telling people you are."

"Afterall, the closest you have to come to legitimate danger is by putting yourself in the line of an aggressive crowd and almost had them use a loud speaker on you. An easily avoidable situation, regardless of politics."

So I am asking you - as an ex former combat camera photographer yourself and in order to have an honest discussion - what Wasim should have done differently as a POC when photographing those guys. Not be there? Trying to take photographs from a mile away with a 600mm lens? Have a security team around him at all times? I honestly don't know.

And as he stated in his article:
"I wasn’t wearing any clothing or any markings to show that I was affiliated with either side..."

From the information he gave us I drew the conclusion that the color of his skin had an impact on the ways he was able to take his photographs.
A white photographer maybe could have put on some "Maga-gear" and dissolve into the crowd in order to stay invisible. But he cannot do it because of the color of his skin.

So does that mean he should not be able to report about it? What is your proposal? I honestly want to know...

You yourself said:
"If I'm being brutally honest, as a former combat camera photographer who is used to shooting overseas where I am the minority in terms of my ethnicity, you are playing a very dangerous game and ought to exercise more caution."

So I draw from your experience that the color of your skin ar at least the appearance being from another ethnicity must have played a great deal as how you were able to perform your duty.

And let's be honest about the people that wear "Fuck Antifa" shirts and hoodies. I live in Germany and we have our history with facism which killed millions of people and we still have to deal with right wing extremism up to this very day.
Anyone who wears a "Fuck Antifa" T-Shirt - which is his right to do in the US - is in my opinion racist. Because all that "Antifa" means is to be anti-facist. If you wear such a shirt you make a statement that you don't like or even hate people that are against facism. I myself am against facism. So probably I might be Antifa too in their world view. Although I don't go to rallies or demonstrations. I just don't like fascism.

And BTW. I really like your images and saw them many times discussed by the Fstoppers guys.
We might have totally different point of views on political issues I still like them. ;)
Even though you downvoted me a couple of times.

Graham Taylor's picture

Alright, well if we can both remain level-headed about this then I am absolutely willing to explain what I meant. What I want to avoid (as has happened above) is that any idea against the narrative cannot be discussed because there is an assumption of racism, which is absurd.

When you're in a hostile environment, you don't antagonise people and you certainly don't place yourself between an emotional crowd and their objective. Personal safety comes first and there is a lot you can do to mitigate the risks without hiring SEAL team six - we can talk reasonably without polarising or hyperbolising.

The video shows him approach a crowd of young, fighting-age males alone. Rather than greet them or talk to them as he might do his peers, he immediately talks about his legal right to be there and that he can do whatever he wants. They clearly don't want to be photographed (and whatever your belief might be as to their reasons why, we will never actually know) and he continues to do so anyway. The crowd is clearly antagonised by his presence and his actions, but he carries on. Regardless of the political alignment of the group, regardless of the photographers skin colour or his intent, this is an incredibly stupid thing to do. I am not surprised he has had enough run-ins to warrant wearing a bodycam and I dare say it probably stopped him from taking a kicking here. A simple conversation could have avoided that entire mess.

The images themselves are clearly shot at a wider focal length, which means he's close. They're marching towards him which means he's in their way. Another incredibly careless way to antagonise a crowd. Regardless of the political circumstances of the event and regardless of his skin colour, this is a ridiculously bad example of how to conduct yourself in an environment like this. Placing yourself out of their route and shooting slightly longer would have put him completely out of harms way.

I mentioned my ethnicity as a minority overseas to try and avoid the inevitable shout of 'white privilege' which comes so commonly and easily to a discussion like this. In hostile environments it is important to operate with respect for the dangers of your surroundings. That includes the people.

If you were to shoot in this way in a genuinely hostile environment you would be lucky to come away with your life, let alone any images.

Also I appreciate you like my work, I checked your page out and I've got to say I'm a fan too. Hopefully we can maintain a mutual respect even if we disagree.

Wasim Ahmad's picture

So what you are saying is that a public street in what is essentially my hometown is a "hostile environment" because I'm a person of color. That my standing in a public street antagonizes people. I didn't get the chance to greet them. Before opening my mouth, they told me to go across the street.

I have every right to get as close as I want to photograph on a public street, just as they have every right to not be there if they don't want to get photographed. You're looking at this from a position of privilege, Graham.

Graham Taylor's picture

Is that what I've said? 🤦‍♂️

- You yourself have described it as a hostile environment. In fact you've gone to great length to tell us how hostile and even more so that it had got worse over the last few years.

- The only person repeatedly bringing up your skin colour as having potentially negative connotations is you. I've gone to great lengths to make the points I have as being regardless of skin colour. Lengths I really shouldn't need to if this were a reasonable conversation.

- You were approaching a group of people with a camera who were on private property. You made absolutely no effort to empathise with them or ask their permission to photograph. You're right, legally you don't need to. But morally? Do you honestly, hand on heart, think that exchange would have gone down differently if you were white, or they weren't?

Also based on the complete lack of information you know about me please tell me more about my privilege. I certainly wouldn't assume to tell you about yours.

Marc Perino's picture

Hi Graham. First of all thank you for liking my work.

And I also hope we can have a level-headed discussion. I am all for it. I find it generally hard to do that because emotions get really high at a very fast pace in social media these days.

I read your tips for acting in a hostile environment carefully and in general I find them pretty reasonable. Regardless of skin color considerations. More to that below.

Although I am not doing this kind of work at all I guess I would have approached this kind of coverage similarly as you described it. Even though I am white (red in summer) I generally always try to be aware of my surroundings, so I don't know if I would have embedded myself as deep as Wasim did. But then again I am not a photo journalist.

Still I have to disagree on certain points you made:
When you talk of a "hostile environment" - which it clearly was according to Wasim's account and the videos and images he took and also by your description of the situation - the hostility towards him was in my opinion rooted in racism which in fact is mostly about skin color, ethnicity and/or religious beliefs.

The white "counter-protesters" seemed to have been there because of Black Lives Matter protesters which were there because of the Capitol riots which were mostly wearing Mega-gear and confederation flags. The latter is widely acknowledged as a symbol of oppression against black people in US history. Even though supporters of this symbol continue to argue otherwise.

But anyone who condemns equality for all POC or "fights" against racism has at least the burden of proof to show that he is NOT a racist. I am being very sensitive in my wording here and I specifically don't mean you but the guys Wasim had to deal with.

So in my opinion the color of Wasim's skin seemed to HAVE an importance and an impact on those people he was dealing with and how they interacted with him.

Now you could make the argument - and you actually did - that he could try not to antagonize them and "greet" them. And that probably would have been my approach too.

BUT I would bet on it that this kind of conversation might have a different outcome when you are a WHITE person trying to do that rather than a POC.

I don't know if you agree with me on this but this my actual belief. We will never know regarding THIS situation but I am sure Wasim has more experience concerning these kind of situations.

I have a white privilege and I know that because I lived a few years with a black flat mate and he really stood out in the crowd here where I live because of his dark skin color. And he regularly told me about his experiences with racism. If he wanted to hail a cab here in Berlin no car would stop for him at 3am in the morning (and he worked in clubs so that was a regular occurence). If I want to hail a cab at this time - no problem. But I digress.

So of course Wasim could have been standing at the side of the street. He could have used longer lenses. But I doubt that these precautions would have been necessary for a white guy. At least the greeting part and the attempt to talk to "fighting age males" might have a different outcome.

But if the very fact that you have another skin color can be the reason for unnecessary aggression against you I would argue that the color of his skin plays a major role in how you conduct yourself in the midst of a hostile group. Again hostile because they probably don't like the color of your skin.

If those guys were protesting against nuclear weapons or against a war in a foreign country his skin color might not have any relevance. Might have. But in THIS case where skin color is part of what they protesting against (?) I think it is reasonable to assume that he has a different experience than I guess you might have.

What I find distressing as well is that he is NOT in a foreign country in a war zone. He is in HIS homeland. And he is essentially in HIS hometown. On public grounds. Doing what is HIS right to do.

Let me be clear:
I think of you personally by no means of being racist. I just want to have a discussion. But I just think that YOU would have a different experience than Wasim had in dealing with those guys - only based on the color of your skin. Probably also because you would approach them differently - but this is not my point.

So even if you are trying NOT to bring up the color of his skin - it is a major part in this story. If we want it to be or not.

And I assume that those guys he talked with were not in on a civilized discussion like we have. ;)
And if you disagree with me on those points above. I can live with that.

Graham Taylor's picture

That's a really well reasoned and insightful post, so thanks for taking the time to write it. Respectfully though, I do have some points for you to consider when judging whether his skin colour is important in the matter.

If you believe that had the protests been of a different nature (as you say, let's go with nuclear disarmament) that the clash with the protestors could have gone the same way (I stress could, again as you say we could never prove this) then is it really racist? If you believe his actions could still antagonise a group of strangers based solely on the act of those actions themselves, then is it really fair to consider race a factor? Afterall, the only real reason we are considering race is because we assume that the protestors are bigots based on their alignment with an anti-BLM cause and that's because we are polarising the cause itself. Obviously, anyone who opposes the freedom and rights of someone based on their skin colour is abhorrent, but that's not what we saw with BLM, certainly not in the UK. The BLM movement here in places was incredibly violent, destroying livelihoods, culture. Now I'm not here whether to argue the rights and wrongs of their form of protest (as is well documented, violent forms of protest are often the most effective) but objectively speaking you must be able to see how those people negatively affected by that violence might align themselves against the cause that provided it. Certainly anti-BLM protestors here were of all colours and races.

Now if I wanted to paint the narrative that there were only white anti-BLM protestors, I certainly could. I live in a country that is still majority white in many areas and there are going to be smaller elements who are using the legitimacy of it to fuel their own potentially genuinely racist agendas. But that's not what I see here. I see a group of people actually quite respectfully tell him not to come onto their property. I guess race could be a factor, but then for arguments sake so could the colour of his shoes or the brand of his t-shirt. Perhaps they know its a sensitive issue and want to show support for it anonymously? Perhaps they simply don't want a photographer with them? Perhaps it's as simple as they don't know the guy? We talk about race here because we assume the OP has been the subject of racism in his life (ironically a decision we base solely on his race) and that the protestors haven't. It fits into some very niche and ambiguous categories that make race an option and we think its irrelevant that the situation could have played out in entirely the same way if race couldn't be a factor at all.

I also find the term white privilege a particularly bizarre term, but that's for another conversation. But if I had a term I could use that, based on your race, could render any argument you made completely dissolved without any real counter to the points you made, it would be considered racist.

Max Wiltshire's picture

Wasim, thank you for this article and sharing your experiences of documenting protests. I despair of humanity when I see how some people treat their fellow humans and countrymen.

Matt Williams's picture

So far two people have downvoted this - the most balanced and least political comment you could imagine. All you said was "wow it sucks when people are hateful" and two people so far thought "nope, I dislike that statement."

Kinda proves the point, doesn't it.

Billy Paul's picture

I down voted because his comment is supporting this crap article and the popular lie that America is full of racists and white supremacists.

We have just had the idiot Lemonhead on CNN tell us 75 million Trump voters are all KKK members for example.

There are about enough white supremacists in America to fill a couple of Joe Biden rallies, no more.

Jan Holler's picture

Indeed your country is full of racists, don't you see it? About half of the voters are not. The other half is. Anyone supporting a person like Trump is either a racist or at least dump. And if I take a look at the congress, I see a lot if people there who still support a racist, soon to be former, president.

El Dooderino's picture

"There are about enough white supremacists in America to fill a couple of Joe Biden rallies, no more"

lol!

They were all at the Trump rallies! "Jews will not replace us! " "Blood and soil!!"

C'mon! You can do it Billy! Say it out proud and loud! You know you want to!

Graham Taylor's picture

There is one down vote. Regardless of you accusing me of down voting the comment, I support the presence of the article because it represents a trending issue and it provides some interesting perspective on what it's like to be on the ground. I don't agree with the intent of the article and I think the OP lacks a potentially fatal sense of self awareness in a hazardous environment, but that's the ability to see both sides of something. You'll pick that up as you get older 🙄

El Dooderino's picture

"I wasn’t wearing any clothing or any markings to show that I was affiliated with either side, though I was still treated like an enemy combatant by one side and embraced with open arms by the other."

You didn't need any identifying clothing. Obviously, your skin color was enough of a trigger for hate for one side, as opposed to the other.

Photojournalism is important work. Be safe!

Billy Paul's picture

Just another race grifter doing their thing.

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