Discussions in the news media (I’d rather call it the ‘views media’) regarding the use of the word, ‘thug,’ are intriguing to say the least. The mayor of Baltimore, the president, and some in the media used the term during the unrest that followed the killing of Freddie Gray. Less pejorative words, or no description at all, were used for those who committed similar acts of violence in Lexington, Kentucky, after their basketball team lost; those who fought the cops during the May Day riots in Seattle; and now the motorcycle gangs in Waco, Texas, even after nine men were killed in what some ‘views’ people called a “melee.”
Remember post-Katrina New Orleans? The media described Whites as “finding” food in stores; Blacks were said to have “looted” food. It is interesting how media folks use different words to portray groups of people. History is replete with examples of this duplicitous media response to criminal events by Black people versus White people.
A glaring example is the following observation by Frank W. Quillan in 1910: “When a Negro commits a crime the newspapers always emphasize his race connection by such headlines as ‘A Big Black Burly Brute of a Negro’ does such and such, and the whole race gets a share of the blame. While if the crime is committed by a White man, race is not mentioned, and the individual gets the blame.”
Little has changed in over 100 years.
Another more contemporary juxtaposition appeared on CNN during the weekend of May 23. A judge in Cleveland ruled that a police officer who jumped on the hood of the car, in which a Black couple had already been fired upon 122 times by 12 officers, was justified when he fired 15 additional bullets into the car. In the same news show, Poppy Harlow reported on a White female police officer in Omaha, Nebraska, who was shot and killed in the line of duty.
After hearing the relatives of the Black male victim say how great a person he was, how compassionate he was, how he was not carrying a gun and would never do that, and how he helped so many other people in his daily walk, Harlow never said a positive word about him in her response.
On the contrary, when she interviewed the friends of the female officer, after they described her in much the same manner as the Black man was described, one person even saying she was an “angel,” Harlow responded by saying, “She even looks angelic.” First of all, Harlow literally described how an “angel” looks (I don’t know how she knows that), and then she ascribed her characterization to the White female.
This is no surprise to anyone who watches any of the ‘views’ shows, but it also speaks to the pervasive disregard and lack of even a modicum of compassion for Black victims—even when they were fired upon 137 times by 12 police officers. It didn’t matter to Harlow what the Black victim’s relatives said. He was certainly not described as looking “angelic.”
Now, let’s take a closer look at Cleveland. Having recently written about the Tamir Rice case and the mayor of Cleveland saying Rice “caused his own death,” my outrage has been heightened by the judge’s conclusion in the killing of the two Black victims. He said the cop was justified in firing 15 more shots into the victims because it was “reasonable” to believe the threat had not been abated by the previous 122 shots. He also agreed that the cop was justified in believing his life was still in danger.
One officer involved in the car chase got on the radio and told the pursuing cops that the victims had no gun. Yet, the officer on trial said he was “scared to death,” in fear for his life. Does it make sense that his extreme level of fear would cause him to expose himself to persons he thought were trying to kill him? He should have taken cover rather than jump on the hood of the victims’ car.
It’s that ‘Gorillas in the mist,’ scenario, that ‘super human strength’ contention, and that ‘running from the police’ thing again. These two victims were doomed from the start of that car chase. Unlike the numerous “angelic-looking” Whites that police pursue for miles, only to arrest them when they finally pull over, this Black couple gets 122 bullets fired at them and then 15 more for good measure.
Duplicitous utterances by folks in the media and the courts suggest that they think we are the stupidest people on earth. One last thought: Why do we chant “No Justice, No Peace,” and then brag about how “peaceful” the march was, despite not having received justice?
(Jim Clingman, founder of the Greater Cincinnati African American Chamber of Commerce, is the nation’s most prolific writer on economic empowerment for Black people. He can be reached through his website, www.blackonomics.com. He is the author of Black Dollars Matter: Teach Your Dollars How to Make More Sense, which is available through his website: <professionalpublishinghouse.com> and Amazon Kindle eBooks).