November 4, 2014 by canyoufeelitburning
It seems that the death of young black men has a “shot heard ’round the world” effect. The world stops and listens when news of yet another black teen gunned down reaches the mass media. Ever since the Trayvon Martin incident, the public has collectively decided to care about these innocent lives that have been taken for granted since the formation of this country…
That being said, the attention that these cases get isn’t necessarily positive attention. When Trayvon Martin was murdered, media couldn’t wait to find images of him looking like a stereotype. But why those pictures? The family was able to provide much more neutral pictures that showed him as he really was: an average teenager. Why didn’t the news use those pictures? Why did the public seek to remember him as a trouble maker rather than a victim whose death we should all be mourning? The irony in all of this is the way the media treats young white males who allegedly commit crimes. Even when the suspect boasts about being happy and proud about murder, the media chooses to portray him as a “model student.”
This same phenomenon took place in the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. When he was shot dead by a police officer, the first thing the police department saw fit to do was release video of him allegedly robbing a convenience store. The alleged robbery was unrelated to the reason that the police officer (Darren Wilson) stopped Mike Brown. When Wilson shot and killed Mike Brown, Brown was not being apprehended for a crime. While this case remains open, one thing is for sure; the public was looking for a reason to incriminate Mike Brown when he was killed.
The general perception of what a young black man should be is “criminal.” There is no room in the mind of our society to assume that a young black man who was shot was innocent. The immediate assumption of guilt reflects a fear of black men that has plagued this country for decades. This fear and perception of black men has more implications than how we perceive victims of violence. The most significant implication is that one in every three black men in America will end up in prison in his life time. Our prisons are filling up with black bodies who are alive but forced to live in limbo mainly because we’re all afraid. We have been conditioned by the media and by laws that target the African American community to be afraid. And the result is tragic. We lock up a third of a community, we hide the potential of these black bodies and minds behind bars and then wonder what hinders the success of Black America. We need to change the way we view black bodies and we will be able to change so much more about this country and its criminal justice system.