Reality Ain’t Always Truth
Max Robinson, the first Black news anchor for ABC World News Tonight, once made a statement that destroyed his career. Yet, the gist of his statement remains as true today as it ever was.
As quoted by UPI, “Robinson called the media a crooked mirror through which ‘white America’ views itself and said it is time for Black America to make itself known.”
“Only by talking about racism, by taking a professional risk, will I take myself out of the mean, racist trap all black Americans find themselves in.”
In many ways, every Black American journalist alive and working today owes a debt of gratitude to Mr. Robinson, who died of AIDS in 1988.
It is in the shadow of Mr. Robinson’s legacy that I present to you my most recent undertaking-one that touches upon the centuries old practice of mainstream media exaggerating and altering the truth in order to galvanize, politicize or scapegoat a particular demographic.
Men Lie, Women Lie, But Numbers Don’t
Last year news media outlets in the New York metropolitan area showered us with reports of increased murder rates and shootings in NYC and editorialized ad nauseum regarding the need for increased policing and the failure of the “liberal” mayor’s office to stamp out crime during the pandemic. In fact, the New York Post headline in January read “NYC shootings and homicides soared in 2020, crime data shows”
The numbers and trends, taken out of context, can lead one to some startling conclusions about the overall safety of the average New Yorker.
The number of shootings rose from 777 the year before to 1,531 in 2020 while the number of murders jumped from 319 to 462, according to the NYPD.
I’d like to remind people that there were 2,500 murders in New York City in the early 90s. So, at least for me, alluding to the current trends on murder and shootings as catastrophic is, at best, insincere.
And without a chronologically clear database showing an overall downward trend of ALL violent crime in New York City one could possibly misinterpret those numbers as harbingers of doom.
Compared to June 2020, murders in June 2021 were down 23.3 percent while shootings dropped by 19.5 percent. The NYPD also made 361-gun arrests, which marked a 99.4 percent increase compared to 2020.
Furthermore, murder has decreased 49 percent in July in the Big Apple compared to the same time last year.
Using statistics from NYC.gov helps put things into perspective a bit better.
Last year, $1 billion in funding was moved from the NYPD budget. This was amid calls from activists to defund the police, but then came a marked drop in crimes that hit Black and Brown communities the hardest.
All Information Ain’t Good Information
It’s in that vacuum of facts that misinformation breeds. People like Chief of Department Terence Monahan repeatedly are on record for blaming the increased crime rates during the pandemic on Bail reform initiatives that saw 274 Rykers Island inmates released due to overcrowding and COVID concerns in 2020.
So, it should come as no surprise that there’s very little discussion, let alone celebratory banter, as to the decrease in murder and violent crime in New York City.
The numbers appear to show several social economic phenomena at play. COVID-19 forced most of us into circumstances that we were unfamiliar with; sheltering in place for extended periods of time, relying on unemployment insurance and cohabitation in circumstances that were less than ideal, kids and adults housed in crowded, contentious or plain unsafe situations, and more.
Indeed, while the increases in crimes like rape, grand larceny and auto theft are noticeable, and likely related to these COVID realities, the understated tone carried by the NYPD brass regarding the decrease in murders and shootings in New York City is criminal in and of itself.