Who’s Being Hurt by Prejudiced Charleston News Coverage?

By Cal Sr from Newport, NC, US (Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Although I haven’t written or posted as much about the racial chaos that has been plaguing our country, I have been paying attention. My mind tends to get overwhelmed, and it takes me a while to get my thoughts in order.

That horrific shooting in Charleston has me thinking about the far reaching damage the act itself has done and the groups constantly hurt by the prejudicial media coverage whenever these events happen.

Mentally Ill
Yes, mental health care in this country needs a lot of work. A LOT. So does health care in general, but when you consistently brush off the acts of terror by white people by saying they’re mentally ill, you’re actually doing two things:

1. Reinforcing systemic racist ideals. White people MUST be held accountable for their actions, just as members of any other race do. If you want a truly equal society, we must hold everyone equally accountable for their actions, and it must be taken on a case by case basis.

2. Reinforcing harmful stigma against people with mental illness. The vast majority of people coping day to day with assorted forms of mental illness would never harm another person. That stigma forces people who are already suffering to hide their problems, further worsening their suffering and driving suicide rates up. That same stigma reinforces violence against the mentally ill, because the abusers are “protecting others from being hurt”, when in reality they’re only hurting innocent, sick people.

In court, the mental illness defense centers around the fact the perpetrator didn’t know what they were doing at the time. In this case, as in most mass shootings, the shooter knew exactly what he was doing. The fact he was asking around at other local businesses for details about how they work make me wonder if he was planning another shooting under the guise of finding a job.

Women
That terrorist spouted nonsense spread by racist ideals that he was shooting those innocent people, because black men were “raping our women”.

I saw red when I heard about that. Men of all races rape women of all races. Women are more likely to suffer sexual violence from people of their own race. To carry out murder in white women’s names? In MY name?

No.

You are not protecting us, regardless of what you believe. You’re dishonoring and belittling all victims of sexual violence and all of us who face that risk every day of our lives. You’re hurting entire families, further traumatizing an already traumatized population and nurturing a culture of hate. You’re also blaming us for your vile behavior.

To all the men out there: If you want to stop sexual violence, examine your personal attitudes, don’t tolerate sexism from your friends, listen to women’s stories without judgement and if you see someone who seems to be unable to get out of a bad situation, step in peacefully or call the police if the situation seems dangerous.

Just like it’s up to white people to change our racist attitudes and behaviors, it’s up to you to change your sexist attitudes and behaviors.

People of All Colors
That particular church is well known for serving the black community. From what little I’ve read, it has a powerful place in history. This crime is a hate crime and an act of terror.

It was not an accident as a certain reprehensible politician tried to say. It’s not “unexplainable” as another spouted.

It. Is. An. Act. Of. Hate.

It’s another violent event in a long line of violent events pointing directly to a culture of racism that we all must act to correct. It falls in line with the long history of police brutality against black people, lynchings of years past, discrimination and white privilege that all white people, me included, have willingly and unwillingly benefited from.

The way it’s covered further divides our various communities. It further hurts the black community, it breeds more hate for the white community and it further erases all of the other racial communities. The only thing it does is create more division in a country that needs unity for any sort of peace.

Once again: It’s an act of hate, and it hurts us all.

Lower Income Groups
I’m not entirely sure if this is the right category to title this section, but it fits with a couple of the things I’ve noticed in the language used in articles addressing this event.

Some news outlets stressed the points that the terrorist is a high school dropout and unemployed. That means he didn’t have a reliable income and didn’t have a high school diploma with which to get a decent job. The majority of people who fit into the “low income” community actually work one or more jobs, even when they have degrees or graduated high school. Yet, people always equate low income with joblessness, desperation, violence, and lack of education.

Those factors are not excuses for this vile act. There’s no reason to include them in news coverage, other than to either vilify people who fall into those categories or build a case for pitying the shooter.

The Victims
You’ll notice I haven’t addressed this particular terrorist by name. That’s because, while his motives must be examined on a broader cultural level, he doesn’t deserve the media attention he’s getting on a personal level. He doesn’t deserve to be named, pitied or famed.

By talking almost exclusively of the perpetrators of these crimes, they’re gaining the notoriety they want. It’s the victims who deserve to me named and honored. So, here’s who they were in this particular crime.

Clementa Pinckney

Sharonda Coleman-Singleton

Cynthia Hurd
Tywanza Sanders
Ethel Lee Lance
Susie Jackson
Daniel Simmons
Myra Thompson
Depayne Middleton-Doctor

I’ve never met any of them, and I may not know much about them as individuals, but the little I do know paints them as wonderful people who were taken from the world way too early. I’d like to add my small voice to the others thanking them for the good they did in life and wishing them peace in the afterlife.

My thoughts are with their families and friends. To them, I wish healing, strength and the support of a friendly stranger.

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