Baltimore news coverage misses the point

Katherine Middleton, Opinion Editor

On Saturday, April 25, thousands of protesters marched in the streets of Baltimore, Maryland to oppose the wrongful death of Freddie Gray. Gray was arrested and put in the back of a police car, but when he emerged he was suffering from severe spine damage, eventually leading to his death a week later. In the video of his arrest it is obvious that he already had some difficulty walking before getting in the van, but his injuries mysteriously increased between the time of his arrest and the time that he emerged from the police van.

Last summer, the world watched as the citizens of Ferguson, Missouri protested against the wrongful death of Michael Brown, who was shot multiple times with his hands in the air. Between then and Saturday, there have been an unacceptable amount of unarmed black men and women wrongfully killed by policemen. Not every case has received major media attention, but people, especially black people, have felt the aftermath of these situations.

However, police brutality isn’t anything new, especially brutality against blacks. I’ve been alive for 22 years and I can recall some of the most infamous cases of anti-black police brutality that have happened in that short time, including Amadou Diallo, Sean Bell and Oscar Grant.

The TV shows that I grew up watching, such as The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, A Different World and Martin have all addressed the difference in treatment of black and white lives. The message has always been that if you’re white you’re more likely to get away with things than if you’re a person of color.

After the non-indictment of the police officer who killed Eric Garner, Twitter users participated in the hashtag #CrimingWhileWhite, providing evidence that even when white people have committed crimes, they’re still treated far better than people of color who haven’t.

Instead of focusing on the issue at hand, which is that, for some reason, police officers use excessive and often deadly force in situations regarding black citizens, the news media chose to focus on the riots that took place and not the peaceful protesting or the mysterious circumstances that lead to Gray’s death.

Additionally, the coverage of black victims and non-black victims of crimes are often very different.

Black victims are still criminalized, even after their deaths, and white victims, even white criminals, are usually presented as good people who lived good lives.

I’m not saying that all media missed the point in cases of police brutality, but the important and most-influential and accessible media, such as FOX News and CNN, are often on the wrong side of the issue.

Before the rioting, there were peaceful protests in the streets of Baltimore. During these peaceful protests, everyone came together, even rival gang members, for one common cause. Sure, riots make for good television, but portraying groups of black people as angry and irrational without mentioning the catalyst discredits the point of these movements, which is to end police brutality against people of color.

And yes, I know there are cases where white people have been the victims of police brutality, but white victims of police brutality often receive the justice that black victims do not.

According to a study called Mapping Police Violence out of the almost 1,200 people who were killed by police in 2014, a quarter of those victims were black. Out of those black victims, a little less than a third of them were unarmed. Seeing as black people make up only 13.2 percent of the population, those numbers are dangerously high.

U.S. police officers are on the road to topping last year’s numbers. According to an independent study called Killed by Police, there have been 387 killings by police so far this year.

Despite these facts, rioting and looting were the things that the media chose to focus on. What is the value of property in relation to the value of a person’s life? The damage done to the city can be fixed, but Gray will never come back to life.

The media have the power to ignite change, but instead it’s aiding in the nation’s ignorance toward these situations.

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