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How media bias and demand for racial narrative ruined one autistic woman’s life: op-ed

An op-ed in The Daily Caller explains what can happen when the media rushes to find a narrative in a news story before gathering all the facts.

The initial story, as writer Hannah Grossman explains, was spun as “a supposedly racially motivated phone call to the police that caught international attention out of hundreds of others.”

Grossman lays out the series of events:

On a midsummer day in July, Darsell Obregon ducked under an apartment building to shelter herself from the rain while waiting for an Uber. Minutes later, the front door swung open and out walked a 19-year-old girl who demanded that Obregon leave the premises immediately. The resident’s name is Arabelle Torres, a 19-year-old student at Brooklyn College who also has autism.

“I came downstairs and a woman was standing as I am right now and wouldn’t leave,” Torres, who was describing the seeds of events that led her life to change, said to me while standing outside of her home in Park Slope. What might have been an unremarkable high-strung incident that occurs hundreds of times a day in New York City, ended up becoming a fake news story that race-baited an incident without credible evidence of bigotry.

Torres asked the woman to leave on multiple occasions, Grossman writes. “As a person with autism, I [was] scared. When somebody is blocking me from leaving … it is a big problem. And I was alone in that situation,” Torres said.

Torres called 911 and Obregon began filming the situation. Afterwards, Obregon posted her account of what happened on Facebook, along with several racially charged hashtags like #whiteprivilege and #thisisamerica. Torres received insults, threats, and other hateful messages:

When hundreds more hate messages poured in and reporters began showing up at Torres’ house, she began to experience enormous paranoia and anxiety that she was not safe. Torres was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) as a child. ASD refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication.

“The reaction to Obregon loitering outside Torres’ residence on that summer day was symptomatic of Autistic paranoia; it was not an example of bigotry as media outlets reported,” Grossman writes.

But major media outlets like The New York Post and Ebony reported the situation as racist, despite the fact that Torres is not white and she specifically told media outlets that it was not a “race issue.”

Torres reportedly became suicidal and cut herself following the incident. And yet major media outlets did not correct their articles to show the situation was not the racist incident it was initially portrayed as. 

Torres’s message for the media? “Just leave me alone.”

Read the full op-ed here.

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