My daily routine goes as follows: wake up, open the coffee shop, close the coffee shop, run, eat, and sleep. Seven days a week. I run inside because I can’t breathe when it’s this humid, which means I usually turn on my TV. For the past week, every station on my television has been filled with some sort of “black media.” I call it that, not because I primarily watch ESPN, but because it’s all there is to talk about.
Or is it? See, with all the police brutality, and the ‘Black Lives Matter’ rallies, and state representatives that call out the ones who protect us, am I the only one who thinks that this isn’t news anymore?
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not racist. I’m not here to tell you that this country isn’t one of the most racist countries there is. That should be blatant to you at this point. What I’m telling you is that our media picks and chooses when to push the race card, and that it needs to stop.
When a student at my university died last fall, the news editor for the school’s newspaper told me something that I will never forget, in hopefully what will be a long journalism career. The words she used were simple: suicide contagion. The idea that if a death is worded improperly in print, someone may decide to take it to a different level. The idea that someone might believe that the death being reported on is getting too much attention; perhaps, more attention than they are.
When Eric Garner first died in 2014, almost everyone on TV had an “I can’t breathe” shirt on. Kobe Bryant wore his instead of his warm-up jersey, and Ryan Seacrest swam in his, probably because it was too big. Today, people are using hashtags like #PhilandoStrong to support the live-stream of him getting shot by an officer. Protests emerge. Riots ensue. People die. Innocent protesters, heroic cops, black people, white people, dead. Is that classified as suicide contagion? Ask yourself.
I had to write a story about a student that was killed in a motor vehicle accident. I knew this student, and where he was from, and his family and friends. And it was one of the hardest things I had to do in college to this point. When it was released, my mailbox was full of dumb questions. “Was he drinking?” “Was he speeding?” “WMUR said he was drinking, why didn’t you put that in your story?” And I thought to myself, “these people got into college?” To me, it didn’t make sense. But to an idiot, they wanted to know because it was useless to them. Does anyone really care if Alton Brown, or Eric Garner, or Philando Castile had a criminal record? The honest answer to that, of course, is no. So why is it reported?
Suicide contagion is why. People want to get the attention, even for something they aren’t a part of. Wearing a shirt that says “I Can’t Breathe” isn’t going to stop racism any more than a leaked video of a black man getting shot will. CNN, FOX News, ESPN, ABC, MTV, or CMT will not end racism by showing this stuff weeks after the incident has occurred. People can end racism by simply not being racist anymore, as crazy of a idea as that might be.
White cops have been killing black people for years. It’s awful, and it’s true. Not every cop is a racist pig, and that is also true. The culture and society that us Americans live in does not support or believe in the truth. Don’t believe me? Look at our two presidential candidates. A racist and a liar. The media promotes all of this, because it’s what people want to see. And that’s the truth.