Last summer it felt as though every week the media was covering another story about an unarmed black person being killed by the police. Many of us wondered why the media was paying so much attention to this historic issue now, but found some sense of solace in seeing these tragedies get the coverage they need, since we can’t typically depend on getting the justice that is deserved. The question we are now trying to resolve is why these stories are no longer getting coverage.
By not covering such a serious issue that has not disappeared, media -just like the justice system in cases like that of Alton Sterling and Terrence Crutcher- gives officers a pass on dealing with issues of brutality. All over America, precincts should be working against brutality by emphasizing the need for de-escalation, protecting all citizens, confronting personal biases, diversifying police forces and forming genuine ties with the communities that they serve. Media silence provides a nod to brutality and a posthumous slap in the face and nail in the coffin of the victims whose stories go unheard, which makes justice even more questionable.
In August of 2016, as the presidential conventions took over media coverage and social media timelines, we heard less and less about the bodies egregiously being slain for reasons engrained in an ideology of discrimination, masked as law and order. While the presidential debate should have, and briefly focused in on this major issue, the ridiculousness of a dreadfully childish campaign became more important than the men, women and children who were losing their lives in the shadows of the election.
Fast forward to 2017 and Trump’s first month in office ended with at least 105 people killed by police, the highest numbers since 2015, according to Shaun King of the New York Daily.
The Guardian has established a program called The Counted that keeps an account of the number of people killed by police and law enforcement agencies. According to The Counted:
Unless something changes, these numbers will be surpassed in 2017, given the rate that the year started off with.
We are in a day and age where policies are not always our main line to justice, at least not on a federal level. Media is the impetus for a lot of the changes we see in the political and social arena. There is a certain responsibility that comes with that territory. No, people are not still talking about the 15-year-old boy who lost his life a month ago, but the knowledge of his story left no room for questioning whether the need for changes in law enforcement protocol is necessary. The stories below do the same, although they may not have hit your evening news or social media timelines:
- Pregnant 23-year-old mother of two, Renee Davis was shot by police officers after her boyfriend called them for assistance, saying that she is suicidal, the legal owner of a handgun and he was concerned for her life.
- Some might say that William Spates put his own life in danger on April 21st by allegedly driving into a police car when he was pulled over, but I’m yet to find an article that can explain why he was stopped to begin with or give additional information about this case beyond April 24th.
- Heard about Christopher Wade, the mental health patient who was shot outside of a hospital on April 6th? While experiencing what seemed to be a psychological crisis, he complied with medics to go to the hospital. When Christopher saw the officers who accompanied the medics, as he was exiting the vehicle toward the hospital entrance, he allegedly pulled his bb gun from his bag, refused to comply with officer demands and was shot.
- What about Steve Salgado who was riding in a car that police encountered in an alley and allegedly took off on foot through the
neighborhood on January 29th? The police officer chased him then shots were fired.
These stories may not all be black and white situations where the cops did not fear for their lives or follow what they might believe to be protocol, but the job of media is not to indict, it’s to disseminate the message. We will never know the hard facts or whether an indictment is even in the picture unless these stories receive appropriate coverage and all (living) parties are held accountable to tell TRUTHFUL stories about the encounters. That is where media comes in. So while you’re busy telling me what kind of cake Trump had for dinner or what he tweeted at 3am, don’t forget to #SayTheirNamesOutloud. #BlackLivesStillMatter