Media vilifies black teenagers to justify murder

Reflections in the wake of the Jacob Blake shooting.

Media vilifies black teenagers to justify murder

Late this summer, yet another young Black man became the victim of a high-profile case of police brutality. Jacob Blake, 29, was shot seven times in the back by police officers on Aug. 23 in Kenosha, Wisconsin, suffering paralyzation from the waist down. He has three children. However, much of the news coverage doesn’t focus on the able-bodied future that Blake was robbed of but instead speculates on a crime he may have once committed.
Every time a Black man is killed, the police manufacture a way for the public to excuse the murder—allowing or even encouraging the media to depict the Black victims as the bad guys. For example, Christian Walker—himself the Black son of an NFL player—described Blake as a “crazy, violent criminal” who got the “consequences” for his actions. Conservatives on social media have accused Blake of sexually assaulting a fourteen-year-old girl. However, fact-checker Ali Swenson of the AP News dispelled this claim: Blake was charged with sexually assaulting his ex-girlfriend, but he was not convicted. The crime Blake allegedly committed was wrong in so many ways, but it had little to do with his shooting.
To explore this media bias, I chose to interview teacher Anthony Clark, a well-known local political activist. “Stuff like this has been happening for centuries: Native Americans were called ‘savages’, and that gave a reason to take their land; Africans were called ‘ruthless’ and ‘barbarians’, and that gave a reason to enslave them. Now is no different,” said Clark. This provided insight into the connection between the language used to describe him and the public’s perception of Jacob Blake. Members of the public and even politicians labeled Blake as a rapist and a sex offender without giving a thought to the validity of these claims—and in their minds, his character gave cops a reason to shoot him seven times in the back. America has been suppressing the crimes of the police like this for a long time, by portraying law enforcement as morally infallible, and as the Blake shooting demonstrated, this tactic will continue.
Unarmed children and young adults are killed by police officers relatively often. Victims of this violence include Timothy Stansbury, 19 and shot because he allegedly startled a cop; Oscar Grant, 22 and shot while he was lying face down with his hands behind his back; and Tamir Rice, 12 and shot for holding a toy gun. The police had been backed up for all of these cases, by the public, the press, and the government. Republicans said Stansbury should’ve announced his presence to the officer before approaching, so as not to startle him. Fox News and New York police departments dug into his past to find that he was a part of a gang when he was 14 years old, and this led to the officer being found not guilty. For the case against Oscar Grant, the district attorney, Tom Orloff, decided that the cops were innocent because Oscar had participated in gang-related crimes in the past. Tamir Rice, on the other hand, had committed no crimes in the past, yet he didn’t even get a pass. By not giving Rice justice, society, abetted by the media, deemed the murder of an innocent, young Black teenager as unimportant. Though Rice was robbed of a future, I saw little media attention given to the tragedy of his lost life. Yet somehow, the future of a guilty, older white teenager is treated as more important.
Kyle Rittenhouse was responsible for 2 deaths during a police brutality protest. He went up to Kenosha, where Blake was shot, with an assault rifle owned by his parents. At 17 years old, 5 years older than Rice, he claimed that he wanted to and was capable of helping the cops defend themselves against the protesters. Late the night of August 24, he was confronted by a group of protesters and they allegedly knocked him on his back. He quickly raised his rifle and shot 3 people, 2 of whom have died. The local and federal government and the right-wing press are trying to argue that the killings were in self-defense; that Rittenhouse only had one option, which was to shoot. I believe that the Rittenhouse had gone over to Kenosha with malicious intent the whole time, and falling down gave him the opportunity to inflict harm onto those who believe that black lives matter. The protesters were all unarmed and most ran after the first bullet was fired, meaning that Rittenhouse’s actions were no longer in self-defense. The day after the incident, the New York Post published an article about the good things Rittenhouse did earlier that day—such as cleaning off graffiti. Donald Trump Jr. paid special attention to the potential future Kyle Rittenhouse has.“We all do stupid things at 17,” Trump Jr. said. It’s incredibly ironic that Rittenhouse’s future is anybody’s concern. Rittenhouse is 5 years older than Tamir Rice was, and he’s a murderer, while Tamir Rice is a victim. What has given Rittenhouse a pass is his skin color —because if Tamir Rice was white, then he’d still be alive, building his own future.
Now, don’t get me wrong, there are still a lot of good officers out there. There are still cops who go out and risk their lives daily to make the world a better place. But there still is a problem with a lot of those officers, and that problem is corruption. Anthony Clark has struggled with negative police interaction. “One bad apple ruins the bunch. The police force is a corrupt system, and cops always stand up for each other even when they know they’re wrong,” said Clark. The police force is considered a gang by most activists in the “ACAB” circle, and that’s because of the similar characteristics that they share to a gang. The main difference, they think, is that police have a badge to back up their actions. The phrase “ACAB”—All cops are bastards—doesn’t mean that every cop is a murderer who kills just because they can; it means that police officers are complicit in their colleagues’ wrongdoings. The police are always going to be backed up by other police officers, the media, and a majority of the public, no matter what they do.
It’s my belief that this is why phrases like “Blue Lives Matter” and “All Lives Matter” exist. They exist purely to defend the police against the movement of Black Lives Matter. That’s why you see Blue Lives Matter and All Lives Matter supporters clash with “Black Lives Matter” believers, but they never scuffle with each other. If more officers stood up for what’s morally right, then pro-Black activism in law enforcement wouldn’t need to exist.
As you move ahead, remember that your black friend could be just as likely to get killed by an officer as Tamir Rice was. One of the major struggles of an African American is knowing that any encounter with an officer could be your last. If the victim is not a perfect human being, then the right-wing media will weaponize their wrongdoings to justify their murder. I’ll never stop wondering how people can justify giving somebody as reckless and malicious as Kyle Rittenhouse a pass, while victim-blaming someone as harmless as Oscar Grant just because he was in a gang years ago. The American justice system isn’t here for young black kids, and it never was.

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