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Writing About Explosive Issues

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In light of the many current events that have people talking, I decided it would be good to discuss how to write about what I call explosive issues. I call them explosive because people care very deeply about things like gun control, abortion, racism and same-sex marriage. It’s often hard for even seasoned journalist to remain objective and not take sides. As a writer, you may be called upon to write an article or a book about a topic that you may have a very strong opinion for or against. I’d like to share with you some ways in which you can write about it in a way that is responsible and informative to your reader.

Believe it or not you don’t have to agree with an argument in order to write about it.  The only thing that is required is for you to be able to understand the point of view and any facts regarding the topic. For instance, I can personally be against abortion, but write an article from the point of view of the abortion clinics and their clients that will be affected by the new legislation passed in Texas last week.

When it comes to the issue that inspired this blog, the George Zimmerman verdict. I must admit that I struggled for a day as to what to say about it officially as a writer. My initial reaction was, “I’m not surprised he was found not guilty.” I was also a little disappointed, that in 2013, it is still O.K. to kill a young, black man.

As an African-American, I have no other lens to view this issue through except race, even though there were repeated attempts to not make this case about race. However, when the defense’s argument was that Martin looked scary and so Zimmerman was well within his rights to stop the teen for questioning. I have to wonder, what made him so scary.  Why did Zimmerman assume that Martin was out of place in a neighborhood where his family was living? Wish he could have taken the stand and explained his thought process to us. When Martin resisted and decided to fight this man who was not a police officer, his death became justified. Martin was suppose to explain who he was, that he was visiting his father, and state his address to a random man who stopped him on the street. Again I have to ask myself, why?

As a member of the African-American community  I can say that we are at a loss now as to what to tell our young black men. We teach them to never run away from or talk back a police officer. Just cooperate and it will be alright. But this verdict sends the message, especially in the state of Florida, that a young black man can be stopped by an average citizen.  He doesn’t have the right to fight back or stand his ground. If he runs, he looks guilty and can be shot. If he fights, the assailant becomes the victim and can claim self-defense.

People all over the country held rallies and marched Saturday night because they are disappointed in our legal system. Some are worried that a similar incident could happen to them. I have always thought our legal system to be a little unfair to minorities and the poor. For me, this issue is important because it seems to imply that young black men don’t have the same rights as other people in society. History seems to be repeating itself and this generation will have to learn the lessons presented in order to move forward.

A Few Rules to Write By

  • Present the facts
  • Clearly state the argument
  • Draw a conclusion
  • Leave the reader to make their own conclusion

There is no need to call names, use profanity, or hate speech in your writing.  Remember there are always two sides to every story and everyone has a right to their opinion. In situations like this, your job is not so much to persuade as it is to plant a seed in the mind of the reader.  Your goal is to cause the reader to think about the topic and open a dialogue with them.

Please feel free to comment on any of my advise or one of the topics mentioned in this blog.

Until Next Week,

Nicole D.P. McLaughlin

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