As a journalist with over two decades in the game, there have been hundreds of stories that I have written that I didn’t really want to write.
At the start of my career in the late ’90s, back when Diddy was wildin’ with J-Lo and Jay Z was allegedly stabbing people in clubs, I would have to be prodded by editors to fall in line with all of the other digital journalists to write something about those incidents knowing full well they didn’t matter to me.
Very early on I realized, though these stories were selling newspapers and magazines like gangbusters, the overarching narrative would be crafted to make hip-hop culture and black men running amok the problem, rather than placing the onus on the individuals who were responsible for some of these actions.
However, at the end of the day, I didn’t have the level of seniority or clout to be able to kick these stories down the line to the next person. I had to do what I had to do.
Indeed, “if it bleeds, it leads” is an adage that is as old as the profession itself. However, this line of thinking is also viewed as part of the reason more substantive stories are often placed on the back burner or edited to the point of being useless propaganda.
Readers who have been reading The Shadow League since its inception in 2012 are aware that we have written a plethora of editorials excoriating the American democratic experiment for its historic treatment of people of African descent, the mainstream’s faux ambiguous response to cries of racism, as well as our society’s tradition of using law enforcement and false white victimhood to criminalize black skin.
The times are unfolding before our very eyes. America has long been the media capital of the world. Ever since the invention of Morse code by Samuel Morse in 1835, the ability to transmit ideas over great distances has shaped the nation.
Hearkening to the examples set by Frederick Douglas, Ida B. Wells and William M. Trotter, many of those editorials admonished the mainstream status quo unimpeded by gentility, decorum and “white” feelings. Those pieces were fiery, they were factual, they were “me” at my most unencumbered.
In addition, writing about and covering two and sometimes three incidents per summer about police culpability in the deaths of unarmed black folks was heavy on the mind for myself and many of my contemporaries. Many of us felt powerless because life had already shown us how the criminal justice system would absolve white folks of just about anything as long as it “only” injured or killed a black person. But duty and truth dictate our actions in this sphere more often than not. They are what drive us.
As the nation pivoted at the slow realization that an ostensible madman was elected into the White House by playing to the hopes and fears of white Americans, black people were exasperated at the very idea of how the mainstream acts so surprised that those same people who voted Donald Trump into office are now revealing themselves to be proud white supremacists.
Why are these mainstream realizations emotionally exhausting for black folks? Because many so-called liberal or progressive politicians who garnered the majority of the black vote in local, state and federal elections, consistently will advise black folks to let them fight our battles, that we should have faith in the system and that being a part of their “coalition” is our best bet to redress centuries old dilemmas of race, economy and justice in America.
However, when the opposition’s constituents literally want to violently eliminate or expel those of African ancestry from this country, liberal calls for patience, apathy and “reaching across the aisle” fall on deaf ears and apathetic hearts.
I once heard a teacher say that the perspective of who is a terrorist and who is a soldier depends upon who wrote the historic account. In the contemporary global war on terrorism, the United States has been at the very tip of the spear at fighting those enemies that America’s foreign policy has played a major part in creating decades earlier.
Left-leaning individuals are expected to forgive and compromise with people who are literally incorrigible. However, black journalists, in particular, are consistently bombarded by the need for balance in their own coverage while vast companies like Fox News peddle “fake news” as fact in an attempt to purposely fool their viewers. Even news publications and outlets that are a bit more centrist-oriented engage in these practices.
With the death of Nia Wilson at the hands of a deranged white supremacist, we find that even those publications that claim to be representative of objective journalism have fallen into the same old troupes that humanize the attacker while dehumanizing the victim.
Fox Bay Area affiliate KTVU used a very misleading photo of the victim appearing to hold a pistol to her face gleaned from a social media post. But, as is often the case, the photo was purposefully misleading.
She was actually holding a phone case. Though they’d likely say otherwise, this was not an accident. Who shows the victim of a brutal murder’s compromising photo unless they’re trying to lead the viewer to believe Nia was in some way responsible for her own death?
The assailant has an arrest record dating back to 2009 and was recently released after serving a two-year sentence for second-degree robbery. He is the very definition of institutionalization, but from a white male perspective.
It isn’t much of a speculatory leap to suppose that his disdain for black people was exacerbated and perhaps inspired by the white supremacist ideology that is rife in Northern California prisons.
When Colin Kaepernick first made the brave, unprecedented decision to protest against police brutality and institutional racism during the national anthem of NFL games, history and legacy locked horns in a battle over fact and perception. What is it to be technically free, yet still forced to live in a state of hyper-alertness and fear in America?
According to the Anti-Defamation League, murders committed by white supremacists more than doubled in the US last year, accounting for the majority of extremist killings. Far-right radicals were responsible for 20 of the 34 extremist murders in 2017.
Eighteen of those were carried out by white supremacists.
However, despite the savage, targeted, apparent racist and premeditated nature of these attacks, Oakland law enforcement and politicians were direct in announcing that he could not be tied to any white supremacy group.
Had he been black and was wearing blue from head to toe, you bet your last Dutch that the words “CRIP” would have been prominently displayed in most mainstream offerings, covering the affair with little to no effort to corroborate it.
This isn’t the most egregious example of this phenomenon that I’ve ever witnessed, it is still very apparent. Secondly, from the time I was around 10 years old, I was already aware that encountering law enforcement for any reason could result in an obligatory ass-kicking.
That would be made worse if the accused tried to avoid capture or if the crime was heinous enough. This dude both avoided capture and committed a terrible crime but, like Dylann Roof and Dimitrios Pagourtzis, was apprehended without so much as a scratch.
27-year-old John Lee Cowell was taken into custody without a bruise on his face or even a smudge of dirt on his shirt. Nia Wilson’s memory wasn’t even worth a club upside the head of the accused, yet Stephon Clark gets shot in the back while standing on family property and holding a cellphone.
Two separate incidents of black murder; one in which two young black girls were stalked and brutally attacked, another in which practices of racial profiling and poor training resulted in the death of an innocent black man by law enforcement.
On the surface, they appear unrelated, but they are indeed kindred. White privilege, black marginalization are both threads that strengthen white supremacy.
According to the first law of thermodynamics, the total energy of an isolated system is constant; energy can be transformed from one form to another but can be neither created nor destroyed.
Similarly, the racist energies that carved society into its present shape still exist. Though appearing unfamiliar if taken for face value, these “energies” all have the same origin.
As the current President’s administration has shown, those same energies are being used to continually shape society in the image of white slave owners of yesteryear while claiming ambiguity to its detriment to black and brown folks.