Video: Coverage of gun violence must include police violence against black people

Video: Coverage of gun violence must include police violence against black people

Blog ››› ››› DAYANITA RAMESH, MILES LE & SARAH WASKO

Police in America shoot and kill more people than police in other highly developed countries do, and a disproportionately high number of those killed are black Americans. In 2012, black people accounted for 31 percent of police killings, even though they made up just 13 percent of the U.S. population. Research shows that black Americans are more likely to be shot and killed by police than other races.

This is the grim reality. But right-wing media, conservative personalities, and some mainstream media figures criminalize black victims of police violence. Here are some examples:

  • Former CNN “law enforcement analyst” Harry Houck said the officers who killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice acted “properly” when they shot him while he played in a park.

  • After a police officer shot and killed Walter Scott, who was unarmed and merely ran, Fox’s Geraldo Rivera said: “This civilian has dared to have a physical altercation with the officer.” (Rivera has also repeatedly victim-blamed black teenagers.)

  • After Stephon Clark was shot eight times, mostly in the back, Fox News’ William La Jeunesse remarked: “Now, Clark does have a criminal record.”

  • Fox host Sean Hannity called Freddie Gray, who died “days after suffering a severe spinal injury while riding in the back of a police van,” the “lowest scum parasite in the world” and said: “Look at this guy's record, look at his arrest record. … I'm saying that he's obviously not a pillar of the community.”

  • Hannity also said that Terrence Crutcher, who was shot even after following orders by a police officer, “has a long criminal history and appeared to be under the influence.” (More of Hannity's race-baiting remarks can be found here.)

  • CBS’ David Begnaud claimed that Alton Sterling, who was pinned to the ground, tased, and shot, “has a lengthy criminal history.”

  • Fox’s Mark Fuhrman said of Sterling: “Now, this man has to take responsibility that he did have a gun, and he conducted himself in some manner to draw attention to a citizen who called the police.” (Fuhrman has a long history of making racist remarks.)

  • In another instance, Fox News blatantly ignored dashcam footage in its coverage of the fatal shooting of Philando Castile by police officer Jeronimo Yanez. The footage revealed that Castile had alerted the officer that he was armed and had a valid permit for his firearm.

Following the school shooting in Parkland, FL, and the resulting March for Our Lives movement for gun regulation, Parkland students have tried to shift media focus to the widespread gun violence against people of color, which they note has not drawn as much media attention as they have.

The disparity shows a failure by national media to highlight black and brown voices and to recognize the systemic failures and historical context that have led to the unfair targeting of black Americans by law enforcement. State violence against people of color has been part of the fabric of the U.S. since its formation. But you wouldn't know that from some media coverage.

Black Americans are dying at the hands of police officers. Media should hold law enforcement accountable and treat victims of police brutality the same way they treat victims of gun violence.

(Charts and Images via CBS News, Family of Stephon Clark, Fibonacci Blue on Flickr, MSNBC, NBC News, Sun Sentinel, Tiffany Dena Loftin, Vox, Wikimedia Commons, and WLRN. Footage via CBS News, CNN, The Crisis Magazine, Fox News Channel, Tiffany Dena Loftin, and WJLA.)

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