The March for Our Lives events last weekend drew more than 1 million people. The biggest event happened in DC, where hundreds of thousands of people of all ages rallied in support of gun control. It was epic.
It’s got to be the biggest youth-created rally I can ever recall seeing, and I’m here for it. It’s heartening to see young people gathering and organizing in support of such a worthy cause. But I have beef with how the mainstream media covered it.
Let me rephrase that. My issue is how quickly and handily the mainstream media helped to galvanize support for this movement, in comparison to how the same media outlets have covered other instances of gun violence since 2012 when Trayvon Martin’s death kicked off the Black Lives Matter movement. The Parkland organizers got a lot more love than their darker peers, and mainstream media needs to do better.
Now, I know a lot the old-fashioned journalism notions I was taught at the University of Missouri-Columbia aren’t really popular anymore. The rise of blogging, social media and video has completely changed the dynamic between reader and news/media. The tone of content produced, the sheer volume and speed with which it must be pumped out, all of it has altered how we create, consume and share information. I get it.
But I believe that some of the more established news outlets have held on to at least a little bit of that journalistic integrity that Mizzou drummed into us. The need to get a complete story, to see both sides of an issue, things like that are not completely dead. But when it comes to race, that integrity conspicuously breaks down. Rather, it disappears as if it never was.
Race is like this slightly stinky elephant in the middle of a room. People just walk around the issue with their faces frowned up in distaste and say nothing. It’s crazy.
And sadly, I get that too. Racism is a big problem in America, and it always has been. It colors everything – pun intended – from media coverage to behavior to advertising to healthcare. And people are tired of talking about it. It’s called diversity fatigue. They’re tired of having to face their unconscious bias, of having to defend themselves or discuss an issue they’re not sure they understand, believe, or want to be associated with.
But I say this, if you’re tired of it, think how black people feel. I’m know I’m tired. But think collectively. How exhausting must it be to be constantly marginalized, constantly ignored, constantly questioned, constantly appropriated from and given little to no credit, constantly shown contempt or constantly corrected when you exhibit the exact same behavior as a non-white peer who goes unchallenged?
Well, I’m gonna use my tiny little piece of platform to call a spade a spade. If those Parkland kids had been black, this huge, widely publicized, extremely supported march never would have happened. And if it did, the media would not have covered it the same way.
Now, to be fair, the issues are not exactly the same. One is centered on gun control. The other focuses on extreme police brutality. The setting is different. One is centered on a school. The other has no one location, though there have been black lives lost on playgrounds where students dwell.
But these issues are related, and they’re connected by guns, by the senseless and unnecessary loss of life. They’re connected by outraged and heartbroken mothers, students, families and bystanders left shell shocked and wondering, who’s next?
Please understand. In no way am I trying to minimize the tragedy that occurred at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Nor am I trying to redirect attention away from the incredibly important debate and legislative change that we need to embrace around gun control.
But geez. What do black people have to do to get some reciprocity? When we march, when we use hashtags, when we organize, the first questions the media asks are not around the issue. There is rarely an outpouring of unwaveringly strong support, and we’re not always given the floor to make an emotional appeal.
Instead, the media questions the efficacy of our cause. They ask questions that query the value of the victims, about whether or not they deserved to die, and whether or not it is or is not okay to carelessly take black life. And the overarching message is, yes. It is okay. Black lives don’t matter – not as much as white ones.
The mainstream media perpetuates this idea with one-sided, biased, unequal coverage. Not all outlets, but many. It’s left to social media to pick up the dialogue and run with it, to add some sort of perspective from the minority voice that too many media outlets blunt or dismiss. I thank God for Twitter and Instagram because otherwise the intersectionality of issues around race and gender would languish in the dust.
And these celebrities are just as dodgy. It was like a who’s who at the March in DC. Amal and George Clooney, Kanye and Kim, Demi Lovato and others. Selena Gomez tendered her support via the ‘Gram, was promptly clowned for it, and rightly so. See, social media remembers how she questioned the value of the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag, but then had no problem throwing up #notjustahashtag in a post.
Amal Clooney is a high powered, global human rights attorney – and I could be wrong here – but I don’t recall seeing her hand in hand with George at any BLM events. What’s different here? You see my point?
I understand that I can’t pick which issues that people support. I don’t want to. People have the right to do what they want, to ignore what they want, to uplift what they want. But the mainstream media does not. In my opinion, it has a responsibility not unlike the Hippocratic oath. However dusty or dated the idea may be, the media should report the news in an objective, unbiased way. That’s not always possible, I know, but when it comes to national issues where the primary differentiators for coverage center on the skin color of the participants, do better.