Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Trayvon Martin Tragedy and the Media's Handling of News Involving Black Victims of Crime

There has been alot of talk about the Trayvon Martin tragedy, and I have my own views, which I will get to in a moment.  But first I want to discuss the media's handling of the case.

It was around late-March I think when the nation was made aware of the incident (around second to the last week in this month). But here's the thing....

I first read about the case when reading this article.  Check out the date of the was March 7, 2012.  The actual incident took place February 26th!

Now think about how long it took the mainstream media to even mention the case, much less broadcast it nationwide.  In fact, you could consider it a miracle that this case even made it that far into public consciousness.

I see it time and time again...if a victim of an attack, murder, or disappearance is not a beautiful white woman or a adorable pretty white girl, then most likely the media won't pay any attention and report on the crime nationwide.  Or drop the story all together for one missing white woman like CNN did in 2009.  Then there's good ole Nancy Grace.  All the disappearances/attacks/murders she has reported have been of white women and girls. Excerpt from the article How the Media Treat Murder:

Ten women have been found slain or have been declared missing in Rocky Mount, N.C., in recent years. But the rest of the country hasn't heard about a possible serial killer stalking the young women in this Southern town of 60,000. The latest victim, Elizabeth Jane Smallwood, was identified on Oct. 12. Why have the Rocky Mount homicides been largely ignored?

"When you think about the famous missing-person cases over the last few years it's Chandra Levy, Natalee Holloway, and Laci Peterson," notes Sam Sommers, associate professor of psychology at Tufts University. All these women had a few things in common—they were white, educated, and came from middle-class families. The victims in Rocky Mount—which residents describe as a "typical Southern town," and is about 40 percent white and more than 50 percent black—were different. They were all African-American, many were poor, and some had criminal histories including drug abuse and prostitution.

"If it was someone of a different race, things would have been dealt with the first time around; it wouldn't have taken the fifth or sixth person to be murdered," says Andre Knight, a city-council member and president of the local NAACP chapter. "All these women knew each other and lived in the same neighborhood; this is the sign of a potential serial killer. When it didn't get the kind of attention it needed, it made the African-American community frustrated."
Police have not officially linked all the murders and disappearances, but community members claim the similarities among the women, their lifestyles, and the location of their bodies make a connection all too obvious. "If you find two bodies in the same location, this could be the work of the same person or people," says Rocky Mount Police Chief John Manley, who would not comment on a connection, but implied the possibility.
"In this Information Age, cases get solved through sheer publicity, whether it's an Amber Alert or America's Most Wanted, anyone could have a tip or be a potential source of information," Sommers says.

But the national media did show some interest in the story after it was revealed that five women were murdered in or around the town. "Nancy Grace called and wanted to have some of us on her show, but before it aired there was a white woman from Georgia that went missing. The Nancy Grace show was canceled," Knight says. HLN network, which broadcasts Nancy Grace, confirmed that Knight was booked for the show, which was ultimately canceled to profile the disappearance of Kristi Cornwell, a white woman from Blairsville, Ga., who went missing during an evening walk. Representatives from Nancy Grace told NEWSWEEK, "The booking was changed due to news that was breaking that day," and emphasized the change had nothing to do with the race of the victim. On Aug. 12, Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees covered the story.
I'll leave you with a podcast and an article:

The Untimely Deaths of Unarmed Black Men

Beyond Trayvon Martin:  Black and Unarmed

There's one more thing I wanted to discuss about this case.

When the topic of the Trayvon Martin case comes up, either someone (usually white) complains how blacks make such a big deal about this case but not about black on black crimes (which do happen too often), or about the lack of black on white crimes publicized in the media.

Let me first say that these two issues are big problems and shouldn't be ignored.  With that being said, there is a reason why Martin's case IS such a big deal.

1)  If Zimmerman was a black adult male and Martin was a white teenage boy, Zimmerman would have been arrested ON THE SPOT.  This is pretty much the case when any crime has been committed, or even suspected of having taken place by a black male.  Not to mention that police tend to be more trigger happy or eager to arrest when it comes to dealing with black men.

As a black woman with an amazing father, uncle, and two intelligent and wonderful male cousins, along with other male relatives, friends, and associates, the truth of the matter is, what happened to Martin can happen to them.  And this frightens me.   

There has been talk in the media how black males are given "the talk" of how to deal with the police or even how to go about engaging in public life.  Something that no other race or ethnicity has to deal with.  Keep in mind that this isn't the same as being taught how to behave or be polite, something all kids have to go through.  This is about how black men (and blacks in general) still have this negative view of them that still follows them to this day.  Yes at times some of the behavior of  blacks do support the negative stereotypes, but should the actions of some represent the entire race....NO. 

2)  As for black on black crime, like I said, it is a big problem.  However, the fact of the matter is, the person who committed the crime is usually arrested immediately.  Zimmerman committed a crime.  And the excuse of defending himself doesn't cut it because he PURSUED Martin after being advised not to.  He was simply part of the neighborhood watch, and no one from neighborhood watch carries armed weapons!  Not even the Stand Your Ground law applies in his case!  And for those who say that Martin was trespassing, he had the right to be there.  He was staying with his father.  The fact that people would come to the unfounded conclusion that he was trespassing (or that he was a thug) is evidence of the negative views surrounding black males that I mentioned earlier.

Lastly, people like to bring up the fact that Zimmerman is Hispanic.  "Hispanic" is not a race but an ethinicityYou can be Hispanic and be white.  Also you don't have to be white to hold racist views.    

So yeah....anyone who says that we live in a "post-racial" time or that racism is no longer an issue obviously has their head in the sand.  

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