Charleston: The Media’s Race to Bury the Topic of Race.

Don’t roll your just eyes yet.

I know, i’m just another kid voicing his opinion on the internet about the events that happened in Charleston, South Carolina. I get it. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, please crawl out from that rock you’ve been living underneath. Or do a google search. I’d provide a link, but that’d mean choosing a single news source, and in a minute you’ll hopefully understand why I will not do that.  This has been written a hundred times over at this point, by tons of otherwise more qualified or experienced writers, but let me be clear: this isn’t really an opinion article. Aside from all of my snark, I hope this helps you focus on the facts of the case.  Please do not let the media sway your attention towards politically driven content. Basically (and, chances are you’ve seen articles touch on this already), the news is taking steps that do not need to be taken.  What could I possibly mean?  Well, let me start from the beginning.

People who refuse to understand that racism still exists and can’t see that it exists at a fucking institutional and structural level are costing black people their lives.

-A passionate, potty-mouthed friend of mine

Two major news sources have been leading the Charleston coverage-race: CNN and Fox News.  If you choose to follow one, chances are you ignore the other . If you kept up with both, you could not have failed to notice the completely unparalleled reports being published. You might have caught yourself thinking: Wow, there really are two sides to every story.

Which is exactly what you would think after trying to connect the news-channel dots. But you’re wrong, and I’ll tell you why in a second. (I’m an awful writer. No one likes to be told they’re wrong and here I am pointing my finger at you, screaming, yes, you’re wrong. Trust me I’m not trying to be cocky or omnipresent, I’m just out here trying to get people to realize some truth here).

Side 1: Fox News, my favorite, reported the “Charelston Church Massacre” (“massacre” often, spoken by their anchors with a stutter or bit of confusion, while the word “church” is always given a little more oompf) as an attack on christianity.  I couldn’t believe it either.  After an entire day of filed reports, statements made by the Justice Department, and strong pieces of evidence coming from the mouth of the killer, Fox News refused to include any mention of race as motive in the case.  Unsurprisingly, Fox News instead moved the conversation straight to (excuse me while I swallow this one) gun control. Their news coverage got real star-spangled-angsty, suggesting that we need guns should be made more available to promote safety. In an interview with Pastor Steve Doocy (I included the link to this interview already), one of the anchors asks: “Do you think that would fly inside a church? To have a pastor with a gun?” Doocy replies “Here’s the reality. I have an absolute obligation to defend [the members of his church], to protect them.” How noble. Further into the segment, he is referred to as a “Shepherd” and a continues to bring up the topic of guns in churches.  So now, Fox’s loyal following is presented with the most incredibly American image ever: priests packing heat. Sounds like a movie pitch to me. By the end of the day, Fox has managed to completely disregard the actual events of June 17th, not to mention, they mispronounce the last name of the murderer quite a bit. It’s spelt “Roof,” which is exactly how they say it most of the time; however, it’s actually pronounced more like “Ruff.” This is a minute detail, but shouldn’t news sources be paying that kind of attention? They’ve made a political campaign for revisions to gun control; revisions that would make guns more readily available… yet the fact that a 21 year old boy in Charleston, SC had access to a gun wasn’t proof enough that guns are already easily attainable. (Sorry for the sarcasm.)

As a quick cut to comic relief, I need to include a handful of comments my friends made about Fox News Channel:

Screen Shot 2015-06-19 at 10.20.58 AM

Screen Shot 2015-06-19 at 10.21.08 AM

I don’t know if this is the exact article Sara is talking about, but I did find this.

Side 2: Probably more important, CNN: While they do a pretty solid job of keeping their reports focused on the story, they divert to the topic of mental illness a little quickly.  Let’s remember that mental illnesses are real, and by categorizing Dylann Roof as someone with a mental illness, we could be stigmatizing the term. This is so important because it is another excuse to avoid the real problem! Dylann Roof did not “lose his marbles.” CNN hinting at this possibility is as much of a surprise as Fox’s gun show; none at all. You might be thinking, hold up really, who in his or her “right-mind” would kill nine people of any race?  I’m kind of bullying you, and really I should be thanking you for reading this far into the post. However, if you’ve thought similarly to this, please visit the “stigmatizing mental illness” link. Racism is not a mental illness. Yeah, it’s sickening. His actions are immoral and irrational. No one is born hating another race- that is an emotion conditioned over time. Oddly enough, there is a term for that: racism. According to his roommate, Roof had the mindset of “starting a race war.”  People are desperately looking for an explanation to why he would kill, but the explanation is already there: racism. Racism. Excuse me, but it’s RACISM.

I honestly have nothing other than just sadness, once again. That we have to peer into the abyss of the depraved violence that we do to each other in the nexus of a just, gaping racial wound that will not heal, yet we pretend doesn’t exist.

-Jon Stewart, The Daily Show

Remember when I said you were wrong for thinking there are two sides to every story? Or did I ramble so much that this has lost all continuity? Either way, let’s come back to that point. There aren’t two sides to this story. There isn’t a Side 1, nor a side 2, there is simply the story itself. Sadly, the story has been buried by talk of gun control, threats against Christianity, and mental illness. These different sides really serve no fundamental relevance in this discussion. And that’s the problem. People are misled to believe (and therefore, truly do believe) that the future of America will be bright again, if only we revise some of our legal systems! Hooray for progressive thought! Until, that is, the media abuses that energy, that engagement, and twists it to fit a political agenda. Racism is real. And we need it not to be.

Big Picture in Fewer Words:

  • Almost biweekly for the past year, major-scale race-related crimes and riots have happened in our own country. Let me list some trigger words:
    • Trayvon Martin
    • Michael Brown
    • Racist Fraternity Chants
    • Freddie Gray and the Baltimore Riots
  • As of June 2015, Nine Americans are dead because of their race.
  • America’s media sources do everything in their power to keep people talking about Gun control and Mental Illness
  • Americans are distracted by other topics now because media is restless
  • Racial inequality persists
  • AMERICAN lives continue to dwindle
  • Internal. Terrorism.

If it doesn’t scare the shit out of you that major news corporations are willing to risk all integrity and shape the stories in ways that push political agendas, it should. I cannot say this enough: the story published by CNN is entirely different from the one published by Fox. Admittedly, I was so shocked by the differences in content that I needed to make sure they were following the same story. These media outlets are JUST extensions of intuitions in power, and it’s amazing how much money being poured into twisting the information.

The fate of millions of people—indeed the future of the black community itself—may depend on the willingness of those who care about racial justice to re-examine their basic assumptions about the role of the criminal justice system in our society.

-Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow

But of course the news corporations are twisting the stories! This is a reality most American high school students study in their government classes. Sorry for spending a lot of time on that, it just REALLY shocked me how the stories varied.

As for the racism: You might be thinking “but I swear I’m not racist I have black friends and do everything right all the time always!”

Well, I guess I can kind of relate. I feel as though I’m a relatively educated human, blessed to have gone through experiences that have led me to be a pretty decent human, followed in the footsteps of some pretty impressive role models, you get the idea. But even I, the well-rounded white kid in the Midwest, can feel and recognize a disconnect. I’ve only read a little bit into this, but it’s a pretty simple concept to understand: privilege means inherent ignorance. As a white, able-bodied, middle-class man in America, I am the epitome of privileged. I, nor any white man or woman, has ever thought about what it might feel like to live in a world where I am outnumbered. I thought by tweeting and posting and writing all of this, I could help; but still, we need to do more.

I reached out to a friend of mine who is passionate about working to resolve and educate throughout these types of occurrences.  Racial Inequality (and inequality to any scale, really) is something she cares deeply about changing. Knowing that my social media rants aren’t exactly the best for social change, I texted her: “how do I do something.” Real blunt. Real demanding. But hey, we’re swimming in the deep-end here. If that is a question you have asked yourself, here is her response  (It’s a pretty good one, even if it’s jam packed with curse words):

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Excuse her french, but she’s right.  Educate others, educate yourself, and do not stand for any of this.

Maybe start here:  Michelle Alexander, a highly acclaimed civil rights lawyer, advocate, and legal scholar, visited my university this past spring.  She delivered a message so relevant to all of this, it hurts.  And it’s the basics.  In her book, The New Jim Crow, Alexander outlines how the United States Government has taken racism and institutionalized it over time. It’s a nice starting place for those who are under the impression we are a jolly melting pot, fully accepting of all kinds of people and races.

To conclude:

BE aware. Until we have a news station hosted by Will McAvoy and the team at ACN, continue to (or start to) fact check.  Stand up against this. This is racism turned terrorism.  Nine Americans are dead because of this single event of hate. What are we going to do about it? What are YOU going to do about it? Jon Stewart predicts, quite hopelessly, that nothing is going to change. Unfortunately, for now, he’s probably right. Spread awareness. Read. Learn. Keep up.

Thanks for reading! Share your own thoughts in the comments below, and please share this if you feel it really gets the message home.

One thought on “Charleston: The Media’s Race to Bury the Topic of Race.

  1. You are everything I ever imagined you would be, do your damn thing David. This article is so god damn politically and realistically up front, I couldn’t have worded it any better. You rock! You will be famous one day for speaking the words that nobody knows how to put together and act upon! Love ya!!

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