Voices: On Orlando and Other Stories, Let's Not Erase Latino Victims

Image: Orlando Continues To Mourn The Mass Shooting At Gay Club That Killed 49
People gather at a memorial service on June 19, 2016 in Orlando, Florida.Spencer Platt / Getty Images

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By Mekahlo Medina

It's been eight days since it happened. Eight days of hearing the horrible story of the last few moments of 49 beautiful lives in Orlando.

It’s been seven days since it happened again. Seven days of wondering why a bright light was taken so viciously in a suburb outside of Dallas.

Both stories involved Latinos, yet if you watch most news reports, read most news stories or listen to radio reports, being Latino is almost erased from the story.

Please don't erase who we are.

I write this to my fellow journalists who are working so hard to tell such horrible stories. Yes, we know why the gunman seemed to choose that bar. His hate for the LGBTQ community appears clear. But why that night, Latin night, to carry out his horrible act? Why did he let others live yet continue to massacre even more Latinos?

RELATED: Latino Groups Mobilize to Provide Long-Term Services After Orlando Shooting

In all, 90 percent of the victims were Latino and half were Puerto Rican. In Dallas, we do know a Latino journalist was found murdered with a single gunshot wound to the chest.

A group of young men grieve at a memorial site for the victims of the Pulse Nightclub shooting, June 15, 2016 in Orlando, Florida.Drew Angerer / Getty Images

What we don’t know is why. We don’t know if his journalism, often about drug cartels and immigration, might have been a factor. We can't discount it.

In Dallas, most of the news media discounted Jay Torres' murder or delivered it under 30 seconds. There were only a few news outlets, mostly Spanish-language and one English language affiliate, that treated the story with the importance and respect it required. These stories were mostly done by Latino journalists who not only understood the potential gravity of a journalist gunned down on U.S. soil, but the intricacies of being a Latino journalist covering the stories Jay covered.

In Orlando, only a handful of journalists, mostly of color, did not forget the victims' ethnicity, communities and family -- the family that stretches beyond blood and beyond marriage. This Latino family that manages to feel the pain of so much loss just by seeing those faces that look like us, with names that sound Iike ours.

RELATED: Latino Community Hit Hard in Orlando Shooting, Most Victims Were Hispanic

Being the first openly LGBTQ president of this Latino journalism association, the deaths paralyzed my soul, weakened my faith and frightened me like never before.

In Orlando, these victims were me. They were like so many of my friends.

Just a year ago, some of my association members were in the same night club. We were celebrating amid our annual convention in Orlando.

In Dallas, Jay was one of us. He worked hard to dig up stories that impacted the community that we came from. We've all covered the cartel stories and have wondered quietly, "Should I be worried?"

RELATED: Dallas Medical Examiner Rules Homicide in Death of La Estrella Reporter

I don't know why someone killed Jay. I don't know why the gunman chose Latin night. I do know that we, my fellow journalists, work so hard to search for the truth and tell the stories of all people.

I know that you can’t forget who the victims were, the identities that so shaped their lives, their loves and what might have been part of their deaths. I beg of you, please don’t erase who we are.

Mekahlo Medina is the president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, (NAHJ).

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