Woman Crush(ing the Patriarchy) Wednesday: Rosa Flores

Photo courtesy of CNN

This week’s #WCW is Rosa Flores, a CNN correspondent who has covered the Rio Olympics in Brazil and the 43 missing students in Mexico.

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Most recently, she has released a three-part series documentary called Beneath the Skin. The documentary is about the year-long investigation around the shooting death of Roshad McIntosh, a 19-year-old who was shot and killed by a Chicago police officer in 2014.

However, the Mexican-American reporter wasn’t always interested in journalism. Her professional career actually started in accounting. She says, “When I was really young in my career I thought my life was set." It all started when she had to pass her Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam, a 16-hour exam split into two days that only 11% of people in the U.S. pass. Rosa prayed to La Virgen de Guadalupe that if she passed her exam she promised to go back to the Rio Grande Valley in Mexico to deliver food and toys to those in need and fortunately a month later she learned that she did pass.

Rosa stuck to her word and traveled with her family to deliver food, clothing, and toys in a little town called Nuevo Progreso but little did she know that this deed would change the course of her life. "The moment that I had an epiphany was when I was delivering the food and the clothing to the women and I was giving toys to the kids and there was this little boy who comes up and says, ‘Can I please have the food and not the toys because my mom can’t come and get the food because she’s sick,’ and it absolutely tore my heart to shreds. It made me reflect on what I was embarking on and how I thought my life had been set but I was so moved by the stories that I had heard from so many people. They were people from South America who were hoping to come to the United States and were dreaming about the American Dream," she shares.

Flores kept doing community service and was even awarded for her volunteer work at her accounting job but she reveals, “It dawned on me that it was the stories of those people that moved me so much and I couldn’t ignore it. I quit my job in accounting and that’s why I’m here. I feel such a huge responsibility to do that, to tell the real stories of people, to tell the real-life stories that impact people's lives just like it impacted mine. That's why I do what I do. That's why my passion for seeking the truth such as in Cynthia Lane's case, Roshad's mother, in Beneath the Skin is so important to me. A lot of people told me, 'You're crazy. Journalists don't make any money. You're going to be covering food stamps stories and then you're also going to be on those food stamps',” but she says she didn’t listen.

When Cynthia Lane contacted Flores and asked her to examine her son’s death it was important for Flores to speak to other mothers who had gone through similar situations and let their voices be heard.

The case of Roshad was like “the peeling of an onion.” It started from looking at shocking postmortem incisions that were done on Roshad’s body. After consulting experts and looking deeper into it, one of the things that we learn from the documentary is that when a police officer is involved in a shooting the mother is not able to see their deceased child until the funeral because their body is considered “part of the crime scene.”

 
 

What’s happening right now is that women are finally getting some of the credit they've deserved all along. In journalism, I’m grateful to all the women who have come before me because they made it possible for me to hold government accountable today.

 

After speaking to other mothers who had lost their child in a police shooting she found that the grieving moms were unable to see their loved ones in the hospital, something she describes as a “extremely painful part of reality that we never see in any part of coverage.” Flores adds, “this is what we don't hear about and that is why it was important for me to keep digging.” She also found that there were a lot of discrepancies between the accounts of the police officers in their depositions and the video footage released, which lead to more questions and more peelings of the onion.

 

2017 has been a powerful year for women and Flores thinks 2018 should be about the empowerment of women. "It should be about lifting up women and girls around the country and the globe. Imagine a world where each one of us empowers one young girl to dream, believe and achieve her dreams. And we can’t forget about those who are poor, homeless, incarcerated, oppressed or vulnerable," she says.

We are at a time when all levels of our justice system are being tested. Flores recalls that when she started working on "Beneath The Skin,” Cynthia Lane didn’t believe in the justice system. "She didn’t trust the police. She didn’t trust the city. After she watched all three episodes of “Beneath The Skin” she called me to say that for the first time since her son died she believed justice had a chance. She believed the truth could shine through," she says. Flores would argue that during this tough time, journalism is here to hold our government accountable. "Government accountability is one of our vital roles as journalists – a role that’s protected under the constitution. And Cynthia Lane will tell you that when citizens feel governments can’t be trusted, journalists are there to check the balance of justice," she says.

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Flores has been crushing the patriarchy since she was very young. As a young Latina woman, she remembers, "My father didn’t want to let me go off to college after high school; but getting his blessing was important to me. So, I asked my mom and my dad’s brother to help me convince my father that I should follow my dream. I crushed the patriarchy when I was the first in my family to graduate from college, earning three degrees – including a Master’s degree – from the University of Texas at Austin."

Flores believes that "women have been crushing the patriarchy in the shadows for years." She says, "What’s happening right now is that women are finally getting some of the credit they've deserved all along. In journalism, I’m grateful to all the women who have come before me because they made it possible for me to hold government accountable today. A quote from Eleanor Roosevelt comes to mind: “A woman is like a tea bag; you never know how strong it is until it’s in hot water."