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Patricia Carroll, the CNN camerawoman who was assaulted with peanuts and called an animal by two attendees at the Republican National Convention, told Journal-isms on Thursday that "I hate that it happened, but I'm not surprised at all."
Carroll, who agreed to be named for the first time, said she does not want her situation to be used for political advantage. "This situation could happen to me at the Democratic convention or standing on the street corner. Racism is a global issue," she said by telephone from Tampa.
Carroll said no one took the names of the attendees who threw peanuts at her Tuesday on the convention floor and told her, "This is what we feed animals." She alerted fellow camera operators, producers and CNN security. The head of the delegation — she was not certain of the state — told her the perpetrators must have been alternates, not delegates.
But Carroll, 34, said that as an Alabama native, she was not surprised. "This is Florida, and I'm from the Deep South," she said. "You come to places like this, you can count the black people on your hand. They see us doing things they don't think I should do."
Carroll noted of the Republican convention, "There are not that many black women there."
She said she wanted to thank CNN, which "has been behind me 100 percent." Although she was stationed on the floor next to Fox News, she was not operating the camera at the time. The perpetrators "didn't know what I was doing. I happened to be standing there," near one of the delegations.
"I can't change these people's hearts and minds," Carroll added. "No, it doesn't feel good. But I know who I am. I'm a proud black woman. A lot of black people are upset. This should be a wake-up call to black people. . . . People were living in euphoria for a while. People think we're gone further than we have."
Carroll said she had received many requests for interviews and was in meetings most of Wednesday. "I was hoping this story would go away," she said. "I'm not interested in talking to any other media about this."
Everyone's been talking about the horrifying, is-this-seriously-happening-in-2012 incident at the convention, in which two attendees threw nuts and taunts at an African-American CNN camerawoman, telling her, "This is what we feed to the animals at the zoo." Everyone, that is, except the camerawoman herself.
Until recently. Although she still wants to remain anonymous, she spoke to friend and journalist Jamila Bey about what happened. Her story personalizes the humiliating event, which had been recounted only in a tweet and generally confirmed by CNN.
At the Washington Post, Bey recounts her conversation with the victim of the attack, who, like most Americans who heard about it, says, "I know racism when I see it and when it’s being thrown at me."
"I was just about to put on my headset when someone started throwing peanuts at me," she told me. "I didn’t understand what was going on." She recovered enough to ask one man, "Are you out of your damned mind?" A pair of older white men walked to the railing preventing people from falling down into the camera pit. One hurled more peanuts at her and taunted, "Here! Want some more peanuts?"
Then they actually started hitting her with them. "This is what we feed to the animals at the zoo!" he continued. While his partner laughed, the thrower leaned over the railing as if he WAS at the zoo and snorted, "Here’s some more peanuts."
My friend continued, "It was like they were heckling me." It became clear to her these people were enjoying her torment. Two African-American cameramen and a female Caucasian reporter came over to investigate the fracas, but none had clearly heard what the men said. CNN security arrived by coincidence and set off after them.
At this point, I expected my friend to tell me how the RNC apologized profusely, how they genuinely seemed to feel bad and how they themselves became outraged by the whole thing. She didn’t. Rather, she told me that RNC security investigated by asking of the assailants, "Were they black or were they white?"
"Are you kidding me, Jamila?" She asked. "I’m from the Deep South! I know racism when I see it and when it’s being thrown at me. No black person would have done that!"