On March 21, 2013, 13 month old Antonio West was shot in the head at point blank range, allegedly during a robbery gone bad. The two people arrested and charged with the murder are De’Marquis Elkins (17 years old at the time of the murder) and Dominique Lang(15 years old). According to Sherry West, Antonio’s mother, she was out pushing her baby in a stroller when she was stopped by the two young men who attempted to rob her at gunpoint. When she told them she had no money, one of the boys, believed to be Elkins, shot her in the leg and then shot Antonio in the head, killing him instantly.
A 13 month old baby brutally murdered in the streets.
Have you heard about it? I know I hadn’t heard about it until very recently. I also know that a Google search turns up relatively few stories about the case, and it certainly hasn’t drawn national attention like the Zimmerman case, which is odd since it shares so many similar factors. A seemingly senseless shooting, a random act of violence, the tragedy of a young life abruptly terminated unjustly. Of course there is one crucial difference. In this case, the victim was white, while the alleged shooter was black.
Is that why it isn’t news?
Take another case. On January 6, 2007, a young couple were on their way home from a dinner date. They were car jacked, kidnapped, tortured, raped, and murdered. The details are too gruesome for this site but can be found here. Again, we have a case with all the ingredients for a sensational news story yet the national media remained largely silent. And again, the victims were white and the assailants were black.
One more example. In Chicago, during the long July 4th weekend, 67 people were shot and 11 died from their wounds. In all, 30 people have been shot and killed in Chicago during the month of July, and we have almost 2 weeks left to go. Do we know their names? Are we holding candlelight vigils and vowing justice for them? Or do we accept it as a darn shame and a tragedy but not unexpected, because, after all, that’s what ‘those people’ do?
Yes, I meant that to be offensive. Not to ‘those people’ but to those of us who condemn them with the bigotry of soft expectations. After all, why aren’t these horrific crimes newsworthy? Why isn’t the torture/slaying of a young couple enough to ignite our outrage? Why don’t we know about the deliberate murder of a 13 month old baby?
Why aren’t these stories news? Is it for the same reason that ‘dog bites man’ isn’t news? Is it because, somewhere in the dark corners of our hearts, we expect that sort of behavior? Or, at the very least, accept it as the norm?
These aren’t easy questions to answer, and I fully expect the majority of people reading this to dismiss out of hand the idea that prejudice may be the cause of our news media’s indifference to certain categories of homicide. They won’t have a better answer, but they’ll rationalize away the discrepancy in a way that lets them sleep at night without doing any intensive soul searching. (Read this snopes piece for a perfect example. They can’t explain why the case didn’t grab the spotlight, but they’re sure it isn’t because of the race of the perpetrators.) But what other answer is there? And is our media wrong for reaching that conclusion?
The numbers say no, they aren’t. While African Americans and whites each accounted for roughly 50% of all murders in 2011, African Americans make up only 13% of the population which means on average, they are 6 times more likely to commit a murder. The numbers also show that while murders tend to occur within a racial group, African Americans are twice as likely to go outside of their ethnic group when they commit a murder.
But numbers aren’t everything. There are literally hundreds of other factors contributing to violence and I’m pretty sure that the amount of melanin in your skin is not one of them. That being the case, then I have to conclude that no, our media is not justified in ignoring these stories. I do not agree that ‘those people’ are going to act that way. While I do believe that there are bad people in the world, some made and some born that way, it has nothing to do with their race. I believe that every time our media glosses over a horrific story because. for whatever reason, it isn’t news, they are doing a disservice to themselves, to the public they serve, and ultimately, to ‘those people,’ who become an identifiable group to be shunned. In Knoxville, where the carjacking/torture/ and murder took place, the local press covered the story in tremendous detail. As a result, the horror and revulsion the public felt was focused on the people who committed the crime, not some group defined by race or economic status. Yes, there are always die hard idiots looking for the simplest answer, but the majority of people properly ascribed blame where it belonged, on the people, not the race. Contrast that with the stories out of Chicago. We don’t know who did what, and the media doesn’t really care to tell us. A minority youth shot down by another minority youth just isn’t a story, and so instead of focusing our outrage on the guy who pulled the trigger, we group all minority youths together, call them thugs and gangbangers, and are relieved of the work of trying to sort out the good from the bad.
And that’s wrong.
One last link and one last name. Have you heard of Temar Boggs or Chris Garcia? A five year old girl, Jocelyn Rojas was abducted on July 11. During the search, 15 year old Temar and his friend Chris took to the streets on their bicycles. They saw a car with the little girl inside and gave chase. They followed the car for 15-20 minutes until the kidnapper finally panicked and stopped the car, pushing the little girl out, and driving off. Temar and Chris took Jocelyn back to her mother. The kidnapper has been caught and charged with multiple counts including kidnapping and sexual assault charges. I’ve been sharing this story on Facebook and other media sites because it is a part of the story that never seems to make the front page, or the lead story on the 6 o’clock news.
Right now, we need it to be there, to remind us that there are no ‘those people.’ There’s just people.