...and why his mother's so scared: The New York Times has broken a very big story.
The report involves Nicholas Bils, a 36-year-old man who was mentally ill. He was shot in the back, in broad daylight, while running away from a sheriff's deputy in downtown San Diego.
Bils was shot in the back and killed. Initially, he'd been confronted by park rangers because they saw him practicing his putting in a park which was supposed to be closed.
Bils was shot in the back and killed. This very day, the New York Times has fearlessly broken the story.
Except wait! Bils was shot in the back and killed all the way back on May 1! You haven't heard a word about this, in the New York Times or anywhere else, for a reason which is blindingly obvious and quite significant, but is also perhaps a bit sensitive, mandated storyline-wise.
You haven't heard about this shooting death because the late Nicholas Bils was socially defined as "white." Yes, these "racial" categories—these journalistic groupings—are indeed part of "the world the slaveholders made." But especially in matters involving police shootings, one elementary fact has long been clear:
If the shooting victim is "black," the incident will be covered wall to wall. Routinely, journalists will be so upset about what has occurred that they will start inventing and disappearing facts to make the incident seem more heinous than it would otherwise seem.
By way of contrast, if the victim is "white" (or even, perhaps, Hispanic or Muslim), months will go by before you hear a word about it. Indeed, the chances are good you will never hear about the incident at all.
(This incident is being reported today because the deputy who shot Bils in the back has been charged with murder. News orgs didn't think this matter was worth reporting until this criminal charge came down.)
The basic journalistic practice here is inexcusable. That said, the examples of this selective journalistic treatment are legion. It's part of a pattern which has been especially pronounced even since the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in 2012.
(National coverage of that incident began with a glaring factual error by the New York Times.)
The journalism involved in the practice is inexcusable. For today, we want you to think about the way this journalistic behavior has perhaps affected the life of a certain 7-year-old boy.
As we noted yesterday, that child is "terrified" because of the things his mother has told him. We'll assume his mother has told him those things because she herself is very scared.
Increasingly, news orgs are involved in printing material which heightens the sense that black men are being wantonly hunted down by police. This impression is vastly enhanced when the many incidents in which "white" people are shot and killed by police get swept down the memory hole at orgs like the New York Times.
In part, that 7-year-old is terrified, and his mother is very scared, because they hear only one thing. When the PBS NewsHour discusses the death of Breonna Taylor, all they see is John Yang, and then Judy Woodruff, willingly swallowing this:
YANG (6/16/20): Louisville has banned—in reaction to this, banned no-knock warrants. They called it Breonna's Law. How effective do you think that will be?No larger context was offered. When people like Woodruff and Yang are prepared to enable a gong-show like that, they're creating a world in which 7-year-olds end up terrified, and their mothers may be suffering under a type of misapprehension.
RITCHIE: I think it's good that we're stepping back to look at how those police officers came to be at her door and looking to interrupt one of the mechanisms that has resulted in her death and also in the death of—I can name five other black women killed by no-knock warrants, Tarika Wilson, Kathryn Johnston, Alberta Spruill, Aiyana Stanley-Jones.
So, there's many—this is not the first time. And so I think that stopping no-knock warrants is important, and that we need to recognize that increasing the time that folks have to respond to 15 or 30 seconds or a minute, imagine someone backing on your door in the middle of the night. That's not enough time to understand what's going on either.
So, we need to maybe step further back and ask ourselves, why are people showing up at—police officers, armed police officers, showing up on people's doors to serve no-knock or short-knock warrants?
And I think then we need to look at the war on drugs, which is where those warrants came from and what brought those officers to Breonna's door that night.
When we first reported that appalling NewsHour presentation, we also quoted something Jelani Cobb had recently said. Cobb had appeared on MSNBC's The Beat. This is what he'd said:
COBB (6/10/20): One other point that I have been making a lot, I have been making all the time, is that one of the reasons that this problem has been allowed to persist is that people have the perception that this is a black and brown problem.Cobb said lots of white people get shot and killed by police officers too! Almost no one ever says that. Under current rules of the road, we'd say it's barely allowed.
But if you were to discard all of the incidents involving black and brown people, what you would find is, there are a heck of a lot of white people, unarmed white people, who are killed by police each year.
We have a fundamental problem with policing in this country, whose most extreme violent forms are witnessed in how we see black and brown people treated by law enforcement.
Not long ago, Wesley Lowery got a snootful and The Atlantic let him rip. He focused on police shootings in Minnesota, and on George Floyd's death.
His essay focused on Miski Noor, a Minneapolis activist, who was pictured in a pandemic mask which said, STOP SHOOTING BLACK PEOPLE. Along the way, he quoted Noor saying this:
“These systems were created to hunt, to maim, and to kill black people, and the police have always been an uncontrollable source of violence that terrorizes our communities without accountability,” Noor added. “Black communities have been and are living in persistent fear of being killed by state authorities.”A certain picture was perhaps created in this way. When we checked at the Fatal Force site, the numbers we found were these:
People shot and killed by police officers in Minnesota, 2015 to present:Lowery didn't mention those numbers, even in a long essay.
White people: 37
Black people: 10
In an ideal world, that would be 47 people too many. But that 7-year-old boy is terrified because he only hears about the ten, often in ways which substantially distort the circumstances in which they lost their lives.
That child is terrified because of revolutionary figures like Chairman Wes. Also, because of the very brave people at The Atlantic and at the New York Times.